AAPA 2022 Conference Highlights: Inspiring Words from PA, Astronaut, and Cancer Survivor Hayley Arceneaux

Attendees Hear from Arceneaux on her Infallible Spirit, Get Sneak Peek at Brand Unveiling

On Sunday, conference participants attended another round of hands-on CME sessions, heard from PA Hayley Arceneaux about her experiences as a cancer survivor and the first PA in space, and witnessed the unveiling of AAPA’s new brand campaign – PAs Go Beyond.

Learning New Skills to Serve Patients

This morning, PAs had the opportunity to attend a number of skill-based, CME workshops, geared toward both novices and experienced practitioners. An “Advanced Suturing Skills for the ER and Urgent Care Provider” gave attendees the opportunity to practice suturing complex acute traumatic wounds. PAs Anisa Ali and Nancy Reid led a workshop on a related ED skill, surgical knot tying, where PAs learned to tie a one-handed, two-handed, and surgeon’s knot. Similarly, participants in a Joint Injections Workshop worked in small groups to practice proper soft-tissue injection techniques on electronic models.


Practicing Wilderness Medicine

PAs looking to be prepared to practice medicine in extreme environments learned about the “Top 10” common topics in wilderness medicine in a workshop led by J. Randy Howell, DHSC, PA-C. Participants were taught how to identify the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, anaphylaxis, and musculoskeletal emergencies like fractures or dislocations. They practiced wound care and applying tourniquets using resources that may available in a wilderness environment.

“As a student in my clinical year, I was excited to take advantage of the opportunity to attend conference, especially since my coursework conflicts with local offerings of this nature,” said Jessamy Hathaway, a PA student at Bay Path University. Speaking about the Wilderness Workshop, she said, “It was fun to connect with other PAs with an interest in wilderness medicine and outdoor recreation. Workshops like this are so different than sitting in a lecture!”


Tackling the Opioid Epidemic: How PAs Can Transform Addiction Care

PAs are on the front lines of the ongoing opioid epidemic, yet many practice locations aren’t equipped to implement the most up-to-date standards in evidence-based treatment guidelines. This session, led by Arianna Campbell, PA-C, and Josh Luftig, PA-C, mobilized PAs to help bridge the gap between evidence-based addiction care and treatment. Participants learned how to identify opioid use disorder, administer treatment, and prepare to implement a program to treat substance use disorders in the ED and hospital settings.

Campbell spoke on the importance of labels when treating patients who struggle with substance use disorder. “There is evidence to suggest that the way we refer to people changes how we treat them. It changes their outcome. So rather than say addict, abuser, junkie, druggie, all the things we’ve heard, it’s a person who uses drugs, person first always,” she said.


Student Career Fair

In the afternoon, PA students had the opportunity to meet and connect with representatives from top employers at the PA JobSource Career Fair.


PAs Go Beyond: Hayley Arceneaux on Space Flight, Medical Research, and her Infallible Spirit

Sunday’s Main Stage Event featured a conversation between AAPA President Jennifer M. Orozco, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, and PA Hayley Arceneaux, the first PA, youngest American, first pediatric cancer survivor, and first person with a prosthetic body part to visit space. Orozco also offered a preview of AAPA’s new brand campaign, PAs Go Beyond.

“Our goals for the PAs Go Beyond campaign are to elevate the role and relevancy of the profession to ensure that patients, our colleagues in healthcare, policymakers, thought leaders, and the media all understand the unique value of the PA profession,” Orozco said. In introducing the new brand campaign, Orozco also recognized AAPA past presidents Dave Mittman, DMSc (h.c.), PA-C Emeritus, DFAAPA, and Beth Smolko, DMSc, PA-C, for their leadership as AAPA and the profession navigated the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Through her unique experience and passion for the PA profession, Arceneaux embodies PAs “going beyond” to serve patients and communities. After being diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 10, Arceneaux spent a year at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she now works as a PA. “It was the most important year of my life. I looked forward to every day I went to the clinic,” Arceneaux said, speaking to the support she received from staff during her time as a patient. It was this experience – and her mother’s encouragement – that led her to consider becoming a PA.

Arceneaux also said that PA school helped prepare her to expect the unexpected, invaluable preparation for her role as Chief Medical Officer on the SpaceX Inspiration4 civilian space flight. One common task Arceneaux completed as medical officer was giving her crewmembers injections to mitigate their space motion sickness. She said she was proud to represent the PA profession in this high-profile position and pave the way for others who have not traditionally had the opportunity to become an astronaut. “I wanted to show the world what a great profession PA is. I was so excited to show how far PAs can go!” she said.

Her story of hope resonated with many PAs, including PA student Reena Shah, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia at the age of 13 and also received treatment at St. Jude. “There’s a legacy of former patients getting into healthcare and we all have that shared dream of someday going back to serve at St. Jude,” she said. Shah had the opportunity to meet Hayley following the event. “It’s an honor to meet another person just like you who is out in the world thriving,” she said, speaking of Arceneaux’s own experience as a PA and cancer survivor.

In recognizing PAs who “go beyond,” AAPA also presented seven Individual 2022 Excellence Awards – including the PA of the Year, PA Student of the Year, Diversity Award, Military Service Award, Preceptor of the Year, Publishing Award, and Outstanding Student Society – to honor outstanding PAs and PA students. Read more about all the award recipients and their achievements!


Party for a Purpose

Sunday night, PA Foundation (PAF) held their annual Party for a Purpose fundraiser at Howl at the Moon. Attendees enjoyed music, karaoke, and refreshments in supporting the PAF.

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