AAPA 2023 Highlights: Brain Health and Overall Wellness

Attendees Hear from Brain Health Experts

May 22, 2023

On Sunday, participants took part in engaging CME sessions followed by a main stage event featuring a panel discussion on the undeniable connection between brain health and overall wellness.

Learning How to Provide Better Health Options to Struggling Patients
PAs and PA students had the opportunity to attend a number of skill-based, CME workshops designed for all stages of their careers and training. Among the 55 CME sessions offered on Sunday, was a session led by PAs Arianna Campbell and Josh Luftig which discussed how PAs across all care settings and specialties are well-positioned to treat substance use disorders, as they would any other chronic medical condition. Other sessions on Sunday focused on chronic disease management, providing age-friendly care, and caring for patients struggling with mental health conditions. PAs in primary care attended a session led by Beth Browning, PA-C, LPC on diagnosing and treating patients with depression, choosing the correct medications, and knowing when it is appropriate to refer.

Read more about Behavior and Mental Health Tools and Resources provided by AAPA.

In her session, “Successful Diabetes Management: A Two Way Street,” Ellen D. Mandel, DMH, MPA, MS, PA-C, RDN, CDCES, EMT discussed Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES). Mandel stressed the importance of healthcare providers guiding patients’ decision-making when it comes to diabetes management, as it is a widespread problem in the United States. For additional information on diabetes, refer to AAPA’s Diabetes Toolkit.

Saving Lives, One Volunteer at a Time
Donors lined up for Blood Assurance’s Blood Drive. For just 30 minutes of their time, volunteers were able to save three lives!

Celebrating PA Program Directors
In a special reception, AAPA celebrated PA program directors and raised a glass to the contribution of PA education to the PA profession. More than 100 programs currently participate in AAPA’s group membership program and coordinate memberships within their cohorts. Thank you to all PA educators across the country who are dedicated to teaching the next generation of PAs.

Connecting Brain to Body
During AAPA23’s second and final Main Stage event, President Jennifer Orozco, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA moderated a panel of esteemed experts as they explored the profound connection between the brain and the body.

The panel consisted of Dr. Dexter Shurney, a board-certified physician in both preventative medicine and lifestyle medicine, and “The Brain Docs,” Drs. Ayesha and Dean Sherzai, wife-and-husband neurologists, scientists, and bestselling authors.

The three experts discussed the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to maintain cognition and stave off diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. “There’s a saying that Alzheimer’s disease is type 3 diabetes,” Dr. Shurney stated. “We’ve known for a long time that ultra-processed food was not good for you. But now we have the science and research to understand the role that the gut microbiome plays in regulating health.”

The session dispelled the narrative that prioritizing brain health should only happen as people age. “The first 5 years are the most important when it comes to brain health. It’s when the brain grows the most and you build up your long-term reserves of connections,” said Dr. Ayesha Sherzai. “It’s important for parents to think about their children’s brain health. Things like nutrition, movement, love, friendship, connection they matter from the start,” she continued. As the session came to a close, Dr. Dean Sherzai reminded the audience that “the more we stay focused on the healthy lifestyle choices and what we are putting in our body, the less we will have to intervene in the future.”

AAPA Announces 2023 Award Winners; Josanne Pagel Becomes 9th PA Honored with Eugene A. Stead Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award
Every year, AAPA acknowledges outstanding PAs, PA students, and PA programs for their exceptional service to their patients, communities, and the PA profession. This year, Josanne K. Pagel, M.Div., MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, EBS received the Eugene A. Stead Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest recognition given by AAPA. This award is granted to individuals who have made a lifetime of remarkable achievements that have greatly impacted the PA profession and has only been awarded to eight other individuals. These leaders have paved the way for future generations and have left a lasting impression on our field. Pagel’s accomplishments are outstanding, but her influence goes beyond her achievements. She has been a mentor to many, sharing her knowledge, experience, and empathy to nurture the next generation of PAs and contribute to the development of skilled and compassionate caregivers.

Josanne was not the only one recognized by AAPA. Seven other individuals were also awarded Excellence Awards for 2023. The ceremony took place during a small gathering on Sunday evening, where they celebrated with their families and loved ones. The 2023 Individual Excellence Award recipients are:

Another successful day at AAPA 2023! Keep an eye out for our next conference recap!

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