Shenandoah University awarded nearly $1 million to diversify, transform physician assistant workforce

Shenandoah University’s Division of Physician Assistant Studies is at the forefront of diversifying the PA workforce and is set to develop a faculty and student-run interprofessional clinic, all thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

shenandoah universityShenandoah is one of 17 institutions across the country to receive a Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry Clinician Educator Career Development Award from HRSA. The university’s award is a five-year, $950,000 grant to support healthcare and the workforce through PA transformation.

“We are so grateful to be selected for this highly competitive federal award,” said PA Program Director Tony Miller, M.Ed., PA-C. “This grant opportunity will strengthen Shenandoah’s partnership with the Free Medical Clinic of Northern Shenandoah Valley, which allows us to help expand health care services for the area’s most needy. We will also place more students for training in underserved communities within the region, and educate students who may not otherwise be able to attend a graduate-level program on a full-time basis.”

The project aims to address three focus areas, including health workforce diversity, social determinants of health, and training for vulnerable populations. It will prepare a diverse body of students for the primary care PA workforce, and through transformative educational experiences, enhance their sensitivity to the socio-economic factors that impact the health and well-being of patients and their families. This will be accomplished through significant student exposure to primary care practices in underserved communities and interprofessional service learning at the Free Medical Clinic of Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies Michelle Salerno, M.P.A.S., PA-C, will serve as project director.

“As a physician assistant educator, I look forward to the multifaceted opportunities presented by this award, one which provides me with the unique ability to integrate my passion for medicine to meet the increased need for primary healthcare in the community,” said Salerno. “Many exceptionally talented people at Shenandoah University have committed their time and skills to this mission and I am humbled to be a part of these new opportunities.”

To expand the diversity of the health workforce, the university will also develop, implement and evaluate a part-time PA education track, which is expected to increase the number and diversity of Shenandoah University graduates who are able to provide culturally competent, high-quality primary care.

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