Students Living the Duke PA Program Mission by Giving Back to the Community

By Rhiannon Giles


Community service and advocacy for underserved and marginalized communities is the heart of the Duke Physician Assistant (PA) Program’s mission.  

One of the key functions of the program’s student society, the Stead Society, is to organize and further the students’ commitment to important causes and to keep that heart beating.  

Here are some opportunities the Stead Society and other student advocates arranged over the last year.


Class of 2023 

Most service work is done during the pre-clinical year, but the class of 2023 still managed to donate their time and energy to several educational and community initiatives.  

Abby Lau led first and second-year students in Project Access. In Project Access events, PAs and PA students visit middle and high schools to talk to historically marginalized minority students about the PA profession. Lau, along with faculty support Lovest Alexander, Jr., MHS, PA-C, DFAAPA, and Alicia Bolden, DMSc., MPH, PA-C, led events at three local Durham high schools.

Group at Project Access
Faculty and students at a Project Access event

The class of 2023 also pioneered two popular student groups, a Wilderness Medicine PA Special Interest Group and the DPAP POCUS (point-of-care ultrasound) Society. 

The Wilderness Medicine Group was led by students Jenna Turner, Kroger Schwartz, and Annie Tucker. Lorraine Anglin, MHS, PA-C, served as the faculty advisor.   

The DPAP POCUS Society was a student-led initiative to provide opportunities for second-year students to share foundational point-of-care ultrasound knowledge & skills with first-year students. The project was led by Helen Gaynes, Emily McEnerney, and Kat Bullock. Janelle Bludorn, MS, PA-C, served as the faculty advisor.  

Each year the graduating class presents a preceptor appreciation gift in honor of the preceptors' time and dedication to teaching them. For this year's gift, they donated $5,200 to TROSA, a local substance use disorder residential treatment program.


Class of 2024 

For more than 20 years, the Duke PA Program has partnered with Burton Elementary School in Durham. The class of 2024 continued this tradition, presenting a fun health-based, interactive presentation for 4th-grade students.  Student leads were Jamie Schwartz, Megan Mitchell, Katrina Domingo, and Diana Le. Marty Nelson, MHS, PA-C, served as the faculty advisor. 

Student at Burton Elementary
Burton Elementary School event

The Stead Society hosted the first-ever DPAP Formal and raised $2600 for the Carolina Abortion Fund.    

The Stead Society also sold Candygrams to raise more than $700 for NAMI Durham (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Through the Gratitude & Giving campaign, students donated 120 items to Families Moving Forward and 145 items to Durham Crisis Response Center. The donations included clothing for all ages, personal hygiene items, and cleaning supplies. Student leads were Nick Leachman and Maddie Parker, with assistance from Naomi Lanos & the service committee.  

The class of 2024 hosted two blood drives and one Be The Match drive, continuing a strong partnership with the Durham Red Cross. Student leads were Nick Leachman and Maddie Parker.   

Making meals
Making meals for the Ronald McDonald House

Naomi Lanos led a bake sale that raised nearly $1100 for Team Rubicon, an organization working to provide humanitarian assistance to families affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida in 2022.   

In partnership with NCAPA CEO Emily Adams, Tina Hillman organized the first-ever Duke PA Student Day at the NC General Assembly, where students advocated for the modernization of PA practice laws in NC. Hillman is the NCAPA Student Representative and is actively engaged in the state organization.

Students volunteered at Ronald McDonald House four times (a DPAP record!) to make dinner for families receiving treatment at Duke Hospital. They also held a bake sale to fundraise for groceries and supplies. 

Reflecting on the past year of service, Associate Program Director April Stouder, MHS, PA-C, who serves as the faculty advisor of the Stead Society, said, “Our students blew us away this year with their giving spirits, creativity, and tenacity to bring new endeavors to fruition. There were many 'first-ever' events this year, and it was a joy to help the students navigate bumps in the road and achieve their goals. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the DPAP mission come to life as our students engage with the community and care for others!” 



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