2024 Outstanding Student Society Empowers PA Students to Advocate for the Profession and Elevate Patient Care

Encouraging Advocacy, Diversity, and Public Service in Future PAs

May 16, 2024

By Alex Morse

CUNY Students at PAs on the Plaza

The PA program at City University of New York (CUNY) School of Medicine has a very important goal: to cultivate an environment where PA students feel supported and are encouraged to advocate for their patients and profession. CUNY is AAPA’s 2024 Outstanding Student Society—and Kelly Gonzalez, President of the CUNY PA Student Academy, says that highlighting PAs is part of the group’s mission.

“Through education, advocacy, and community engagement, we strive to elevate the visibility and understanding of the PA role,” Gonzalez says. “By raising awareness of the PA profession, we can improve healthcare delivery, expand access to care, and enhance patient outcomes worldwide.”

The Outstanding Student Society is recognized for outstanding service to the profession in the areas of public education and advocacy; public service and outreach; promotion of diversity; and professional involvement.

CUNY PA students promote the PA profession whenever they can and offer resources to aid the next generation of students. They conduct outreach to local high schools, hold weekly Zoom sessions for pre-PA students called “PA Club Hours,” and several students joined the crowd at New York City Plaza to advocate for the profession during PAs on the Plaza.

As president of the CUNY Student Academy, some of Gonzalez’s responsibilities include planning and coordinating educational events, community service projects, and networking activities to enhance their professional development. “I strive to empower other PA students to excel academically, clinically, and professionally, preparing them for successful careers as compassionate and competent healthcare providers.”

In 2023, CUNY PA students partnered with UpTown Grand Central, a non-profit community organization, for a community health event. The students also organized a number of public service and outreach events for their community. For Harlem Hospital’s pediatric patients, they created Valentine’s Day cards and participated in the annual student-led toy drive.

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CUNY PA students organized a “Menstrual Product Drive” to collect feminine hygiene products for the local domestic violence shelter, W.A.R.M (We All Really Matter). By providing these essential items to support people in need, their goal was to underscore the connection between health, safety, and well-being.

CUNY students also attend and host events to promote diversity and inclusion, both with their peers and their future patients. In collaboration with the LGBTQ+ Student Center, the PA Student Club organized Transgender Healthcare Week. And in honor of Black History Month, students attended the Health and Human Services’ Black Health Summit, which inspired them to continue to advocate for health equity and social justice in their communities.

“Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the compassion and expertise of healthcare professionals during personal experiences with illness and injury,” Gonzalez says. “This award serves as a powerful symbol of recognition and validation for our contributions within the PA community. It ignites a renewed determination to positively impact our peers and patients, while emphasizing the pivotal role of teamwork, professionalism, and advocacy in shaping the healthcare landscape.”

Alex Morse is AAPA’s Communications Associate. She can be reached at [email protected].

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