2024 Preceptor of the Year Encourages Students to Connect with Patients and Improve Healthcare Outcomes

Patient Care Drives Hardik Thakkar’s Work, Both In and Out of the Classroom

May 16, 2024

Hardik Thakkar, MSPAS, PA-C

By Alex Morse

From a young age, Hardik Thakkar, MSPAS, PA-C, watched his mother valiantly fight against metastatic breast cancer—and it started him down the path to medicine. He accompanied her to her appointments, and was inspired by the empathy and determination her healthcare team showed their patients. Becoming a PA seemed like the best way to advocate for patients like his mother. Now, as a preceptor, he has the privilege of teaching the next generation of PAs and ensures his students are able to connect with their patients and improve healthcare outcomes.

The Preceptor of the Year Award, presented in partnership with PAEA, honors a preceptor who demonstrates exemplary service in the clinical education of PA students as a mentor, role model, and instructor; and furthers the image of PAs by exemplifying the PA profession’s philosophy of providing accessible, quality healthcare.

Thakkar had an extensive journey to get where he is today. From India, to Canada, and finally to the United States, where he has been an oncology PA for the past five years and established two significant initiatives at Moffitt Cancer Center with the goal of filling the healthcare gap.

“PAs are vital and a dependable part of this multidisciplinary healthcare team. Training the next generation of PAs will require keeping empathy at the heart of patient care, and encouraging diversity to continue to gain grounds to close the gap in optimal healthcare outcomes,” Thakkar says. “During clinical rotations, my discussions with students are not only about medicine, but also character, advocacy, professionalism, and community service, which ultimately strengthens the health of the population and improves the PA profession.”

The APP Student Teaching Service Line that Thakkar created, which is first of its kind, precepts more than 15 PA students per year, and Pre-PA students. Due to Thakkar’s efforts, the number of preceptors available to students has increased substantially and led to multiple successful clinical education hires of graduates from the University of South Florida’s PA program. He also serves as co-chair and coordinator of Moffitt’s first APP Fellowship in Internal Hospital Medicine.

“I ensure one of the takeaways my students understand during their clinical rotation is to emphasize the “why” along with “what” and “how” about the patient’s clinical condition,” Thakkar says. “And I feel I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.”

Thakkar, who started his career as the first PA hired in a rural community hospital, understands the challenges that many in the profession face today.  Since then, he has been privileged to work two academic institutions and has served as an adjunct faculty for several different PA programs. He takes pride in helping shape the minds of the future generation of healthcare providers.

“I have had the privilege of precepting more than 50 PA students so far in my 12 years of being a PA and it has been such a rewarding experience,” Thakkar, who has precepted over 20 students in just the last three years, says. “I will continue to be the preceptor I admired the most when I was a student.”

Thakkar believes that PAs are a part of the solution to help improve access to care, as well as making healthcare more equitable. “Patient advocacy, improving healthcare access, reducing healthcare disparity and education are truly the strength of our profession.”

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

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