I have had a wonderful career at Duke. But, there is a time to step back and consider what the future may hold. There are stages and seasons in our lives and most of us have experienced change over the past many COVID-19 months. On January 1 this year, I entered a new stage in my professional career at Duke when I stepped down as chief of the division of PA studies, rejoining the ranks of faculty, and on September 30 I am retiring fully from Duke University.
When I joined the PA program faculty in 1986 as evaluation and research coordinator, I wasn’t anticipating a career in program leadership. But then I became assistant program director in 1987, associate program director in 1989, program director in 2003, and division chief in 2013. In these roles, I was involved in the education of two-thirds of our alumni – what an honor! I owe much to our dear former program director, Reg Carter, who believed in my leadership potential and provided so many opportunities for me in my early years with the PA program. I never doubted his support.
On my first day on the job at Duke in 1986, I fell on the stairs outside Classroom 2002 Duke North and skinned my knees. I was excited and nervous, like many of our new students. I was at Duke, after all! I could not believe how warmly I was welcomed into what was then my third position teaching in a PA program. I felt the pride and high standards of Duke PAs, and I have always tried my best to uphold the educational and practice values associated with Duke PAs. I was fortunate to help many of you celebrate our 25th anniversary, and in 2015 I was privileged to coordinate the 50th anniversary day and gala that was attended by 400 of our alumni and guests. In between, there were periods of curriculum development, preparing for accreditation visits, planning for the future by expanding the program, moving the program to our current home, and hiring many wonderful faculty members who work hard every day to make the Duke PA program what it is – by serving our terrific and diverse student cohorts, many of whom relocate from far away to become Duke PAs.
Along the way, I’ve been blessed to hold a number of positions in PA education leadership in national organizations, including the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), the PA Education Association, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. I’ve worked to establish interprofessional education within Duke, and served on the board of an international interprofessional education and practice organization. I’ve had a career-long interest in training providers to practice primary care in rural and underserved areas, and have received multiple HRSA and private grants supporting those goals. Reg Carter and I worked together to establish one of the few PA teaching fellowships in the country, which endured for a number of years until recently. Just a few months ago, I was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, and I am the first PA to hold this position. I previously served on another health workforce advisory group of HRSA from 2016 to 2020, the Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. I believe none of these opportunities would have occurred were it not for the backing of my long career by Duke.
Every year before a new class starts, I study our class composites and biographical sketches so that I can try to greet students personally. One of my most treasured possessions is a complete collection of class composites from every PA class I have ever taught. It is a very full notebook. I have both pride and excitement now in making this big change in my life. I am so thankful to have come to know many of you in my leadership roles, and I look forward to what my next “act” brings!