2024 PA Student of the Year Advocates for Inclusivity and Interprofessional Collaboration

‘Where I am Needed, I Will Serve, and I Will Serve Where I am Needed’

May 16, 2023

By Alex Morse

Jade O. Norman, MHS

Jade O. Norman, MHS, is one of 25 inaugural students in Meharry Medical College’s PA program and is committed to serving the underserved through leadership and philanthropy. Norman, the 2024 PA Student of the Year, serves as the Diversity and Outreach Chair of Meharry’s PA Sciences class of 2025 and a Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Future Educator Fellow.

“To be considered as a nominee for an award of this caliber was such a humbling honor, but to be chosen has added fuel to the already burning flame inside of me to mold a more inclusive healthcare system,” Norman says.

The PA Student of the Year Award honors a PA student who furthers the image of PAs and PA students; gives self-sacrificing time and effort in service to community; demonstrates leadership and professionalism; and exemplifies the PA profession’s philosophy of providing accessible, quality healthcare to all.

In her role as Diversity and Outreach Chair, Norman organized an annual day of service for her program, with the goal of integrating PA students into the Nashville community. She wants her fellow classmates to “meet future patients in their safe spaces—school, assisted living, shelters, and more—before we manage their care in a clinic setting.”

For their first day of service in August of 2023, Norman and her classmates visited Robert Churchwell Elementary. There, they led hands-on activities to expose over 70 students and their families to medicine and health education, while promoting socioemotional awareness which included a girls-only session based on the curriculum in her book, Beyond Beautiful 2: A Girl’s Guide to Studying, Self Care, and Staying Focused During Difficult Times. They educated them on how to partner with their PAs and medical team to take control of their health, and sent each family home with a weekend meal to combat food insecurity. Under Norman’s leadership, the class placed third in the PAEA Project Access Competition — just nine months into the program’s start.

“My efforts aim to introduce students from elementary to undergrad levels to the PA profession and advocate for inclusivity and interprofessional collaboration at various levels—institutional, community, and national,” Norman says.

As one of the 15 PA students selected from across the nation to embark on PAEA’s year-long fellowship, Norman has the opportunity to gain meaningful skills, expert leadership, and mentorship. She is working on a culminating research project and presentation on the importance of a racially diverse mentorship pipeline for underrepresented students in medicine.

“I consider this a unique way to promote health equity, as it upholds the ideals from a macro-level approach centered in the truth that if we can educate, expose, recruit, retain, and help future racially and ethnically diverse clinicians enter and thrive in medicine, we can shape the future of medicine through an equitable model,” Norman says.

Despite the academic demands of her program and her other leadership responsibilities, Norman is currently mentoring more than 15 pre-PA students, all of whom identify as underrepresented in medicine. She is proud to report that all four of her 15 mentees who applied to PA school last cycle have been accepted into programs across the nation.

Norman with one of her mentees

Norman also serves as Director of Community Engagement for the nation’s first medical concierge service for lower socioeconomic families, The Healthcare Plug. “I aim to merge my evidence-based training, cultural humility, and passion for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to ensure that all of the great and necessary work that The Healthcare Plug does is well-oriented to patients.”

As a future PA, Norman looks forward to collaborating with other professionals to foster a future of equitable and personalized patient care. “The blend of adaptability, patient engagement, and teamwork makes the PA profession highly fulfilling and promising in the evolving landscape of healthcare.”

Norman believes that PA school does an excellent job spotlighting all students’ strengths and areas of improvement to help them become the best providers they can be. “PA school is challenging because you’re growing, and with that comes growing pains, but also spurts of development clinically, academically, professionally, and personally; all of which I am hopeful will cultivate me into an excellent clinician, but most importantly, a human being, who I will be proud of.”

Norman’s medical mantra is, “Where I am needed, I will serve, and I will serve where I am needed.” Her passion, innovation, and perseverance are key to her accomplishments so far—and she has only just scratched the surface of her potential.

“Being the 2024 AAPA Student of the Year challenges me to remain innovative, continue challenging narratives, crafting tables, and paving unique paths in the PA profession for those before, beside, and coming up behind me.”

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

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