A busy week in Nashville for SIU PA team members
May 2023 ended with an exciting and eventful week for the SIU School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) program and the Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) degree program teams. They made their presence known at the recent American Academy of Physicians Associates (AAPA) conference in Nashville, TN, where alums, faculty, and current students from both programs gathered. The AAPA is a nationwide society that advocates and educates on behalf of PAs, working to enhance their professional growth and recognition while improving patient-centered health care.
The week began with Dr. Jennifer Orozco, the current president and chair of AAPA, and a 2022 DMSc inaugural cohort alumna, welcoming nearly 9,000 practicing PAs, students and faculty to the conference (pictured on stage and screen, at top). Dr. Orozco played a crucial role in planning the event and participated in numerous activities throughout the conference. She received a surprise special recognition on the main stage for her hard work and leadership over the past year, from the AAPA organization, with SIU PA program director Dr. Don Diemer assisting on behalf of the AAPA members in honoring her.
The SIU PA master’s students had the opportunity to network, learn about career opportunities, show their academic knowledge, and improve their patient care skills. They connected with alums, faculty and friends from across the U.S., sharing their innovations, accomplishments and experiences. The students participated in various events such as career fairs, wellness workshops, research presentations, and academic competitions.
SIU PA students Paige Hocking, Abby Jolley and Rachel Kitzmann took part in the Challenge Bowl, a thrilling medical game show featuring 89 other teams from around the nation. While SIU’s team made it to the stage as the only Illinois representative in round 1, they were eliminated in round 2 after outperforming 53 other teams. SIU has a remarkable track record in this tournament, having won the state championship five years in a row and even clinching the national championship in 2017.
Liaht Bauer, SIU PA Class of 2023, acted as a student assembly representative for the AAPA Student Academy. She served as a voice of fellow PA students nationwide, including at the pre-conference assembly of representatives’ virtual meet-and-greet. She attended various events throughout the conference to help develop her networking, leadership and clinical practice skills. As an alternate on the Challenge Bowl team, she cheered on her teammates Abby, Rachel and Paige.
Dr. Jacob Ribbing, director of doctoral education for the SIU PA program and acting president of the Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA), represented Illinois PAs at the national level as one of seven Illinois delegates elected to the AAPA House of Delegates (HOD). Among the fellow delegates in the IAPA section was Major Matt Schnieder, an alumnus from the 2022 DMSc inaugural cohort; IAPA Legislative Chair Dr. Janet Furman, chief delegate; Thomas Rosen, a current SIU DMSc student; Susan Fox of Rush University, Don Martinez, immediate past president of IAPA; and Dr. Timothy Kinsey, the incumbent president of the IAPA. In this role, Dr. Ribbing and his fellow delegates informed and guided national policy and procedures. He also hosted a networking dinner event in collaboration with IAPA, which provided an opportunity for engaging conversations and enjoyable interactions among participants.
In addition to his role as an Illinois delegate, Dr. Ribbing actively promoted the new online DMSc program, now in its second year. He highlighted the program’s innovative approaches and the opportunities it provides for PAs to further their education and expertise. He emphasized the recent launch of Scholarly Works, the DMSc program’s newly established online journal. It will serve as a platform for showcasing high-quality research conducted by DMSc students, adding yet another hands-on component to the program. The SIU DMSc booth helped act as a hub for SIU School of Medicine alumni, faculty, and students, to actively engage with each other and fellow attendees. The booth provided an excellent opportunity for networking, introductions, reconnections, and even a way to help SIU to create awareness about its esteemed programs. They shared their pride in the programs and our unique features and benefits to the healthcare industry.
Associate Director Dr. Laurie Ryznyk, faculty founder of SIU’s PA program and a new graduate of its DMSc program, delivered a well-received lecture on human trafficking, “They Never Asked: Human Trafficking.” The presentation aimed to raise awareness about recognizing the red flags of human trafficking, conducting medical evaluations of potential trafficking victims, and employing trauma-informed approaches in their care.
Dr. Stacey Becker, another alumna from the 2022 DMSc inaugural cohort, conducted a session on communications techniques for effective leadership, “Developing PA Leaders; Communication for Success.” Her presentation aimed to improve leadership skills among emerging health care coaches, trainers, mentors and leaders. Stacey emphasized the importance of utilizing similar communication skills employed in patient interactions to successfully engage and manage teams.
Dr. Joeli Diemer, SIU PA faculty member and new graduate of the SIU DMSc program, participated as an instructor in the iScan event. This competitive challenge focused on point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS), where student teams from various institutions competed in scanning topics. Dr. Diemer served as an instructor for the shoulder station, guiding students in scanning specific areas and delivering a short instructional presentation on shoulder ultrasound. She went the extra mile and assisted fellow instructors in the event, offering POCUS tips and providing several pieces of instructional material to help other programs with related curricula. Dr. Diemer plans to help build POCUS-related curriculums for students within the SIU PA program.
Throughout the conference, SIU faculty, students, and friends enjoyed the vibrant Nashville skyline, relished excellent food and experienced top-notch research from their PA peers.
Upon their return, SIU faculty and staff welcomed 29 new online DMSc students to begin a new summer cohort; the PA master’s program welcomed 40 new students. Orientation week provided an opportunity for introductions, tours, and discussions about available resources, emphasizing SIU as a welcoming and supportive academic community.
As 2023 unfolds, both the PA and online DMSc programs at SIU are off to an excellent start, with a strong focus on education, growth and making a positive impact on communities. The attending faculty, staff, students and alums remain proud ambassadors of SIU and eagerly anticipate the challenges and achievements that lie ahead.