Getting the word out

UF College of Medicine School of Physician Assistant Studies students celebrated National PA Week

UF College of Medicine School of Physician Assistant Studies’ first-year students, Xenia Polorotoff, Mike Sussman and Casey Biggles helped promote the profession during National PA Week. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Oct. 17, 2011 – Saying “Happy PA Week!” to every passerby in the Shands Atrium was a great conversation starter for first-year UF physician assistant student Casey Biggles and her classmates, causing people to stop and ask, “What’s PA?”

National PA Week, which is observed Oct. 6-12 every year, was an opportunity for the UF College of Medicine School of PA Studies’ first-year students to explain what PAs are and their role in as part of a team with physicians.

“Most of the time, people think of something else when they hear PA,” Biggles said. “We wanted to raise awareness and recognize the importance of PAs in health care.”

For three days during National PA Week, UF PA students hosted an informational booth, which was covered in orange and blue décor, candies and prizes.

“More than 100 people stopped by,” said Mike Sussman, another first-year PA student. “I think it helped spark the interest in the PA profession in our community.”

Tannelle Clarke, a first-year UF PA student gives visitor Nichelle Mulkey a blood pressure screening as part of National PA Week. Students also offered free body mass index screenings and information about preventative care. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Students also offered free blood pressure and body mass index screenings to visitors and highlighted the benefits of preventative care.

Hanging next to the booth was a large poster that read “Thank you PAs!” which was signed by the school’s class of 2013.

“We want to recognize the PAs who work at Shands for all they do,” Biggles said. “We also wrote thank you cards to all of the PA faculty this week.”

Aspiring PA students and second-year PA students also participated in promoting National PA Week.

“Celebrating the week is a great representation of the evolution of our profession,” said Lauren Kelley, second-year PA student and class president. “PAs at Shands are our role models and support system.”

Students sold PA Week shirts and raised more than $200, which will go toward the cost to attend the annual American Academy of Physician Assistants conference in January. They plan to host more fundraising events in the coming months.

The UF School of PA Studies is the only state-funded graduate level educational program for physician assistants in Florida. The program received ‘school’ status two years ago, demonstrating the significant role the program serves at the college as well as reflecting the tremendous need and demand for PAs in the health care industry.

“UF has a reputable program with amazing faculty who are invested in their students,” said Xenia Polorotoff, a first-year PA student. “Many PA alumni I know have said they felt prepared because of the best education they received here.”