2023 Diversity Award Recipient is a Change Agent Focused on Representation and Health Equity

Daytheon Sturges Measures Every Aspect of His Career Through a DEI Lens

May 19, 2023

By Sarah Blugis

Daytheon Sturges, PhD, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, CHES®

For Daytheon Sturges, PhD, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, CHES®, the 2023 recipient of the AAPA Diversity Award, becoming a healthcare provider was the path he was always destined for. Growing up in rural Louisiana, he and his family didn’t have access to high-quality healthcare – and his mother had health complications that stemmed from a traumatic house fire in her childhood.

“I served as her health advocate, and I was the vessel that absorbed the information to make sure she had adequate care,” Sturges says. “I became a PA to provide accessible healthcare that takes into account the social, political, and commercial determinants of health, while considering health behaviors in order to partner with my patients to achieve positive health outcomes.”

The Diversity Award honors a PA or PA group that serves as a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the PA profession and/or the patient population or community that they serve.

After graduating from PA school, Sturges went on to earn his PhD in health studies, along with additional certifications in health education, informatics, and DEI. Sturges has spent the last eight years focused on DEI within the PA profession, and says that he measures every aspect of his career as both a PA and an educator through the DEI lens.

Now well into his career, Sturges holds two distinct titles. He is a vice chair in the department of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, where his purview is the departmental justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) initiatives. He is also an associate professor at MEDEX Northwest, serving as the associate program director of regional affairs and JEDI. Sturges practices clinically, too, in outpatient family medicine at UW Primary Care.

“I’m proud to prioritize health equity and to celebrate the beauty of diversity, create inclusive spaces, and implement equitable processes at the individual, community, and systemic levels,” he says. “Representation matters and our students, patients, and communities need to see themselves as a part of the healthcare team and the system that sets out to heal.”

Balancing the demands of these three roles, however, is just the beginning of Sturges’ work in the DEI space. He is a former JEDI feature editor for the Journal of PA Education, where he cultivated and disseminated DEI scholarship. He is also in his second term as the chair of PAEA’s Diversity and Inclusion Mission Advancement Commission (DIMAC), which hosts a book club, DEI webinars, and anti-racism town halls for faculty and students. Sturges was the recipient of the 2021 PAEA Rising Star Award, and has been a facilitator for PAEA’s Project Access – a recruitment program that encourages high school students from underrepresented groups to consider the PA profession as a career – since 2015.

On his full list of DEI-related activities are various publications, presentations, speeches, programming, and awards. Sturges has been invited to speak at multiple universities as well as the inaugural NCCPA REPRESENT! Summit last year. He has delivered educational content as a part of AAPA’s DEI CME series, and has also developed a health promotion intervention framework addressing burnout in underrepresented minority PA faculty. Sturges is also a member of the African Heritage PA Caucus and the LBGT PA Caucus.

The most rewarding part of being a PA, Sturges says, is the opportunity to be a change agent and advocate for his patients and his community. “It’s important to recognize and leverage our privileges to aid in our journey toward health equity,” he says. “Being a PA has allowed me to be a part of a profession that provides greater access to care and elevated health outcomes.”

For much of Sturges’ career practicing clinically, he has provided care to indigent, uninsured, or underinsured populations at safety net hospitals. These experiences were formative, he says, and allowed him to both advocate for his patients and connect with them on a more personal, human level. Sturges strives to provide health education to his patients, no matter their circumstances, a process that he strongly believes is worth the journey with every patient.

“There are many people working steadfastly to make the PA profession accessible to those who have been historically excluded, while also providing high-quality, culturally humble clinical care,” Sturges says. “We see you! We welcome you! The profession continues on the journey toward health equity.”

Sarah Blugis is AAPA’s Internal Communications Manager. She can be reached at [email protected].

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