Duke PA Students Travel to Raleigh to Meet With State Legislators


On April 18, 2023,16 Duke Physician Assistant (PA) students traveled to Raleigh to meet with 31 members of the North Carolina legislature and discuss two bills currently working their way through the NC Senate and House of Representatives.   

The students were joined by three Duke PA faculty members and four representatives from the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (NCAPA). They met with 14 senators and 23 House representatives.  

In an email debriefing, Division Chief and Program Director Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C, said students spoke passionately about both House Bill-75 and Senate Bill-310.  

House Bill-75 creates new guidelines that reduce practice barriers for experienced PAs who practice in team-based settings, while ensuring new PAs have the supervision and support they need as they enter the profession.   

Barnett explained the importance of HB-75, saying it “modernizes PA practice laws to better recognize the reality of how PAs and physicians work together to provide the highest quality care to patients.”  

Senate Bill-310 will create funding to support Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) in researching the current preceptor shortage. AHEC will be required to assess the availability and demand of preceptors, as well as the barriers preceptors and potential preceptors face.  

Barnett said creating more preceptor clinical teaching sites is “vital to PA education programs in the state and gives patients in rural North Carolina the health care treatment they need and deserve.”  

First-year student Tina Hillman began planning this event in February, when she and classmate Nishi Gadiereddy met with program leadership to find a time in the schedule that allowed students to spend part of the day in Raleigh. Hillman then requested meetings with legislators, organized schedules, and thoughtfully separated the students and faculty into groups based on country residence and how they complemented each other.   

When asked why speaking directly to legislature regarding these bills is so important, Hillman said, “The most crucial tool for change that we have is our voice; it is up to us as future health care leaders to speak up and advocate for the patients who will trust and rely on us.”   

The students recruited outside help through NCAPA CEO Emily Adams. “Emily Adams was incredibly helpful,” Hillman said. “She provided the talking points and handouts for legislators and gave two orientation presentations to help prepare first-time advocates for the day. She also recruited NCAPA staff to act as group leaders in addition to our Duke faculty. She gave me so much guidance and advice, and there's no way I would have been able to do this without her!”  

First-year student Lila Lehtola said before the Duke PA Day at the Legislature she felt intimidated about advocating for the issues that are important to her. “It has been something that I had been wanting to do, but felt like I did not know enough about certain bills to talk to legislators about them,” she said.   

Lehtola said she is grateful to Hillman and Adams for offering a crash course in introductions, talking points, and highlighting bills that affect PAs. "Tina also reminded us that we are experts at talking about the PA profession and schooling we go through, and that it is the stories that legislators want to hear,” she said.  

Students spoke with Sen. Mike Woodard from North Carolina’s 22nd District — the district that covers much of Durham County. Woodard, who sponsored SB-310 and has previously visited the Duke PA Program, spoke highly of the students’ efforts. “I always enjoy my interaction with Duke PA students,” he said. “They are always well-informed and prepared to have a meaningful discussion. During our most recent visit, we had a great conversation about SB-310, a bill I sponsored to enhance our preceptor programs. I can’t wait to see the PA students again soon.” 

In agreement with Woodard, Tillman says she hopes the event “turns into a DPAP tradition and inspires others to be a positive force of change for years to come."

Students with Sen. Mike Woodard
Students with Sen. Mike Woodard


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