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Associate Professor to Explore PA Diversity through Prestigious Research Fellowship

Associate Professor to Explore PA Diversity through Prestigious Research Fellowship

Christy Hanson, Associate Professor in Bethel’s Physician Assistant Program

The Physician Assistant (PA) profession is relatively young, first inspired by the technique used to quickly train medics for comprehensive service in World War II.

Celebrating 50 years in 2017, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) advocates and educates on behalf of the growing profession and the patients it serves. This year, it launched a partnership with the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) to fund three national research fellowships for the 2017-2018 school year. The goals of the AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship are threefold: to develop PAs who are skilled in education and workforce research, to encourage the utilization of PAEA and AAPA data, and to provide future research mentors for newer faculty to sustain the PA workforce and education pipeline.

While developing her dissertation for her Doctor of Education (Ed.D). in Leadership: Higher Education, Associate PA Professor Christy Hanson considered the lack of diversity among physician assistants and how it might be understood and addressed. At the urging of her Ed.D. advisor, Diane Dahl, she submitted the fitting project proposal for the AAPA-PAEA fellowshipand it was accepted. During her fellowship, she’ll analyze PAEA data detailing how and when learners from underrepresented populations decide to pursue the PA profession, something she hopes will shed light on patterns of prospective student recruitment that could be replicated to lead to a more diverse workforce.

“We still have a lot of racial and ethnic disparities in our profession. My goal is to figure out how and when to best meet prospective students,” she explains. “The research I’m doing is really important. We need to figure out how to increase the diversity of our profession so we can better serve our patients. But the fellowship will also be really helpful in equipping me to equip Bethel PA students to be researchers and understand the process of learning about and furthering our profession.”

Beginning this month and running through October 2018, Hanson will receive a partial release from her Bethel teaching duties to focus on her research, checking in with and serving as a support for the two fellows doing similar research at Augsburg University and the University of Utah.

The teaching release grant, according to the fellowship website, addresses one of the biggest barriers that PA faculty face in the production of research: lack of time. The fellows will utilize their more consistent research time to develop their projects under the guidance of institutional and external mentors, and they’ll also engage in sporadic, on-site experiences at the PAEA and AAPA offices. Through those experiences, Hanson will interact with key leaders in the profession and gain a big-picture perspective on the work she’s doing. And as Bethel’s PA program enters its fifth year as one of only four programs of its kind in the state of Minnesota, it’s a significant accomplishment to have the national presence like this fellowship provides.

"The PA program is blessed to have Professor Christy Hanson on our team. Her attention to detail and quality work is reaffirmed with this exciting research fellowship award,” says PA Program Director Wallace Boeve. “As the first full-time faculty member that I hired in building the new PA program, she connected early with the PA education association, attending seminars and conferences to develop herself as an excellent educator. With the launch of this new fellowship, we are blessed to have one of our own to gain this opportunity. It’s a testimony to the amazing professionals who serve Bethel's students."

Find out more about Bethel’s healthcare and physician assistant programs.