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Symposium gives PA students insights into underserved populations

The third annual event for Elon University graduate students in the Physician Assistant Studies program helped prepare the future medical professionals for aiding patients who struggle with mental health issues, poverty, a lack of education and other obstacles to healthy living.

Assistant Professor Alexis Moore

A Thursday symposium for students in Elon University’s Physician Assistant Studies program explored historical, economic and public policy shifts in Alamance County and the resulting changes to health care for both medical providers and community members.

The 3rd annual Underserved Populations Symposium on the second floor of Moseley Center included remarks from Elon University faculty and community leaders. Led by Assistant Professor Alexis Moore, students learned of the many ways in which medical professionals can foster better patient health simply by being strong voices in their communities.

“I don’t want you to lose sight of why you got into this profession,” Moore told students in her welcoming remarks.

Tracey Grazer, executive director of Impact Alamance, delivered a morning keynote address focused on the resources that can be of assistance to health care providers outside of their roles in a clinic or hospital.

“Use your voice. Sharpen your knowledge. The only way you can help your patients is if you know what’s available to them in the community,” Grazer said after discussing health and wellness data about Alamance County. “And get involved. Serve. Find something you want to serve on!”

Serving on government or nonprofit boards is a way for medical professionals to educate policymakers about the needs of the community, Grazer said.

Tracey Grazer, executive director of Impact Alamance

‚ÄčStudents also watched a TED Talk by physician and Stanford University Professor Abraham Verghese on the power of human connections in the practice of medicine. Verghese argued in his online talk that physical examinations are rituals that lead to a transformation of the relationship between doctors and patients.

What do those transformations tell a patient? “'I will always, always, always be there,'" Verghese said. "'I will see you through this. I will never abandon you. I will be with you through the end.'”

Other speakers at the Oct. 22, 2015, symposium included:

Professor Jim Bissett, who discussed Burlington and Alamance County history and how changes in industry and social policy have given rise to the social determinants of health recorded within the community;

Nettie Baldwin, who along with Carolyn Jordan as a voice for her elderly mother, provided a historical perspectives of individuals growing up in Burlington and nearby rural Saxapahaw during those historic industry shifts and within the specter of racial and social segregation;

Stanford professor and physician Abraham Verghese's TED Talk

2014-2015 National Health Scholarship winner Marah Czaja, a PA student who shared details of her research with Moore on rural, homeless African-American men and their perceptions of health and illness;

Sarah Nelson, the 2015 North Carolina Academy Of Physician Assistants’ Lanny Parker Award recipient, given to PA students who have professional interest in leadership and advocacy. Nelson presented on her activities at the award sponsored conference;

And Assistant Professor Tonmoy Islam, who discussed how economic models can be used to explain and predict patterns of poverty and health disparity. He displayed how such models when applied data on children in Burlington and Alamance County can make reasonable predictions as to the probability that their poverty and health disparity will remain generational.

The university's 27-month PA program engages students through an innovative systems-based curriculum that in addition to large group discussion utilizes small group discussion, hands-on clinical skills labs, simulated patient experiences, lecture and patient scenario discussions.

The PA program shares facilities with the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the Francis Center on East Haggard Avenue, home to Elon University's School of Health Sciences.



Eric Townsend,
10/22/2015 2:35 PM