Army PAs Reunite and Confront the Stigma of Mental Health at the Crossroads of America

AAPA 2022 – Deciding to Go Beyond

June 10, 2022

By Capt. Christina S. Petersen, Maj. Adhana McCarthy, and LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton

Group of people with a PAs Go Beyond sculpture
A gathering of Army PAs after the General Session event.

“How are you doing?” was the question that Emmy Award-winning journalist Jane Pauley asked the audience during her interview with the Simone Biles, the “G.O.A.T.” Olympic champion, on the first night of AAPA 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. How many times have we found ourselves answering, “okay, great, or fine,” but really, we weren’t? “It’s ok to not be ok,” Biles told us. Speaking about mental health in an open and direct way with the help of these two powerhouses – after the past two years away during the COVID-19 pandemic – was the focus of AAPA’s annual conference on May 21-25, 2022.

For Army PAs, this focus could not have come at a better time. With all the changes in the past two years, especially with COVID-19 and our professional title change (to Physician Associates), we were left wondering: Where we go from here? Our new AAPA campaign, #PAsGoBeyond, could not have a more inspiring role model than Hayley Arceneaux, PA-C. The first PA, cancer survivor, and youngest American in space, Arceneaux was an astronaut with the SpaceX Inspiration 4 mission, serving as their Chief Medical Officer. There really is no limit to what we can accomplish as a profession, as individuals, or as caregivers in an ever-changing world.

Three Army PAs
From left to right, LtCol. Sharon Denson, Capt. Ron Duke, and Col. James Jones at the AMEDD Recruiting Station of the Exhibit Hall.

Recruiting Efforts
Army PAs spoke to conference attendees interested in joining the military and gathered information on those who requested follow up with a recruiter. The Army PA attendees shared their personal experiences of being a military provider in varying clinical and austere settings around the world. They also discussed the numerous clinical and operational training opportunities offered to military PAs working in all settings to improve patient care and outcomes. Capt. Ron Duke, PA-C, Officer-in-Charge of the Louisville Army Medical Recruiting Station (9C2L), was on site at the Exhibit Hall working hard to recruit the best healthcare professionals for the future of Army medicine.

[Stay connected to your PA community – join or renew your membership today]

Award recipients on stage
AAPA 2022 Military Service Award recipient Col. Amy L. Jackson (second from left) on stage with her fellow award recipients and President Orozco.

2022 AAPA Military Service PA of the Year Award
Col. Amy L. Jackson, the Commander of the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point, NY was selected as the AAPA 2022 Military Service Award recipient. This will be the sixth year in a row that an Army PA was selected for the award. “I want to thank AAPA for recognizing the contributions of the Armed Forces in the PA profession,” Col. Jackson said. “I am confident military PAs will continue to expand our influence in global healthcare. I am honored to represent Army PAs for such a prestigious award.”

Memorial Ceremony
This year’s Veterans Caucus Memorial Ceremony highlighted the personal mental health journey of a sister and caregiver of a Wounded Warrior. Ms. Jennifer Jenkins, from the Wounded Warriors Project, shared her experience caring for her brother as his legal guardian and unexpected caregiver after he was injured while deployed to Iraq in the U.S. Army. She shared her mental health journey and how working with the Wounded Warriors Project helped her find purpose and joy again. Military PAs represented their services in the color guard for the ceremony and throughout the conference, including Maj. Adrian Donias who represented Army PAs.

Military PAs from all uniformed services.
The Uniformed Services Symposium held a military executive leadership panel facilitated by Col. Amy Jackson and LtCol. Amelia Duran-Stanton that represented each service. From left to right are LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton (USA), LtCdr. Ian Marks (USCG), Cdr. Katherine Demers (USPHS), Col. Melanie “MJ” Ellis (USAF), Col. Amy Jackson (USA), LtCdr. Michael Evans (USN), and Col. Robert S. Heath (USA).

Presentations at General Sessions and the Uniformed Services Symposium
Select Army PAs were also podium presenters this year for multiple lectures. On behalf of the presenting authors, they acknowledged all contributors for their collaboration and support.

General Session: Demystifying Acute Coronary Syndromes, presented by Col. James Jones

General Session: International PAs and PA Comparables: Current and Future Initiatives, presented by Mary Showstark (Yale Online PA Program faculty) and LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton

USS: Gender Incongruence: What Military PAs Need to Know About Current Policies and Procedures, presented by Col. Amy L. Jackson and LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton

USS: Career Management Workshop: Concepts Learned and Shared from Military Service to Help Early Career PAs and Beyond, presented by LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton and Col. Amy L. Jackson

USS: Leadership Panel: Preparing for Executive Leadership: Lessons Learned and Tips for Success, presented by Col. Amy L. Jackson and LtCol. Amelia Duran-Stanton (USA) and panel members: Col. Melanie “MJ” Ellis (USAF)  Col. Robert S. Heath (USA), Cdr. Katherine Demers (USPHS), LtCdr. Michael Evans (USN), and LtCdr. Ian Marks (USCG)

USS: Establishing a Wellness Program for Military Deployment Cycles: Improving Military Readiness by Focusing on Our people, presented by LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton and Ms. Mary Showstark

House of Delegates
The Society of Army PAs (SAPA) is a civilian organization that advocates for Army PAs. SAPA listens to concerns and acts on behalf of their members through their Board of Directors and in the AAPA House of Delegates (HOD). PA Bob Potter, Executive Director of SAPA, and LtCol. (P) Sharon Rosser, SAPA President, represented Army PAs in the multi-day HOD meetings at AAPA 2022. At the meeting, over 50 resolutions were covered, including the pros and cons of master’s degrees as the terminal PA degree, identifying and cultivating core leadership skills for PAs, and the role of EMS PAs in pre-hospital care.

Borden Institute was at the Exhibit Hall to showcase several books, including The Army Physician Assistant Handbook, Second Edition. Pictured from left to right are Mr. Ernest Barner (Borden Institute Public Affairs Officer), LtCol. Amelia M. Duran-Stanton (senior co-editor/author), Col. Amy L. Jackson (senior co-editor/author), and Maj. Adrian Donias (SAPA Active Duty Director).

AAPA 2022 was a much-needed reunion and an opportunity to confront the stigma of mental health and refocus on how to “Go Beyond” as PAs. It provided us with a place to allow our military PAs to share about our unique roles within the profession, broaden our understanding of how we are all connected, and support each other in our physical and mental health journeys. Literally, the sky is no longer the limit. This year brought more of our colleagues together than in years past. We are all looking towards AAPA 2023 in Nashville!

Capt. Christina Petersen is a PA serving as the Commander of the 919th Ground Ambulance Company (USAR) in Aurora, Colorado and as a Federal Supervisory Physician Assistant in the Occupational Health Clinic at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Ft. Hood, Texas.

AAPA President Jennifer M. Orozco, Capt. Kelly Guerra, and Capt. Christina S. Petersen (left to right) enjoying the Exhibit Hall.

Maj. Adhana McCarthy is a PA serving as the Director of Public Health at Irwin Army Community Hospital, Fort Riley, Kansas.

LtCol. Amelia Duran-Stanton is a PA serving as the Commander of the US Army Health Clinic Ansbach in Germany and of the Role I assets at MK/NSTA in Romania/Bulgaria. She is also a Distinguished Fellow of the AAPA.



Army Physician Assistant Handbook, Second Edition Updated and Expanded to 70 Chapters
U.S. Army Physician Assistant Handbook, Second Edition
Interservice Physician Assistant Program
U.S. Army Recruiting Command – Interservice Physician Assistant Program

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