Expert Insights from Program Leaders
September 27, 2021
Season 1: Episode 13: NCCPA - Dr. Morton-Rias

Dr. Dawn Morton-Rias is the first PA and woman of color to lead one of the four national organizations representing the PA profession. She shares her path to becoming a PA, her clinical journey, her work in PA education and her rise to national leadershi...

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Dr. Dawn Morton-Rias is the first PA and woman of color to lead one of the four national organizations representing the PA profession. She shares her path to becoming a PA, her clinical journey, her work in PA education and her rise to national leadership. We'll learn more about the NCCPA and their role in supporting the profession in certifying PAs across the country.

The purpose of this podcast is to provide news and information on the PA profession and is for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the University of Arizona.


Unknown Speaker  0:08  
Welcome to this episode of the PA path podcast. I'm your host, Kevin Lohenry. We are glad you could join us as we seek to better understand the PA profession

Unknown Speaker  0:19  
that has been more to my existence and my career, my personal life, my professional life. Everything that I do is in recognition of the value that diverse perspectives bring to any decision making.

Unknown Speaker  0:35  
Will Hello and thank you for joining us again. Today we speak with Dr. Don Martin Riaz, who was appointed president and CEO of the National Commission on certification of Physician Assistants in 2014. She is a longtime pa educator and former PA program director. Prior to joining NCCPA she served as a professor in dean at SUNY Downstate Medical Center where she still serves on faculty. Don is practiced in family and addicted medicine, gynecology and acute care for the homeless. She has served as president of the physician assistant Education Association, was an appointee to the HERSA Advisory Committee on training in primary care medicine and dentistry was an appointee to the Federation of State medical boards Education Committee, an advisor to the National Health Service Corps, and a commissioner on the PA Accreditation Commission. She has been the recipient of a Fulbright senior specialist grant award, and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health Leadership Award. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stony Brook University, a Bachelor of Science in PA certificate from Howard University. And she completed a professional diploma in instructional leadership, and earned a doctorate of education from St. John's University. Don, thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to share your story and the story the NCCPA with our listeners, I'd like to start first with you telling us about your personal path to becoming a PA.

Unknown Speaker  2:04  
Well, first of all, Kevin, thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you. I love talking about the profession, I hope that anything that I share can inspire and encourage those coming behind us to pursue this profession. And so I always appreciate the opportunity to talk with folks like you who are interested. You know, I literally bumped into someone when I was an undergraduate student at Stony Brook University in New York. And I literally bumped into someone when I was walking around the Health Science Center back as a freshman, long, long time ago. And I was so busy looking up at the signs that I wasn't watching where I was going. And when I bumped into this man, he asked me if he could help me. And I told him that I was an undergraduate student on the main campus had just started. And I was interested in the health professions and wanted to know what was offered at the Health Science Center, which was a relatively new addition to the University at the time. And as it would be, he was the PA program director. And so he escorted me to his office. Now just imagine I'm a young girl from New York City. And some older man says Come with me. And so of course, I had to look around and say, okay, so really, where are we going? So I stayed a few steps behind him and in fact, followed him to his office where he gave me information about this profession. And it just kind of fit right there. For me built on my interest in medicine, it was appealing because it was something that I could pursue in a relatively short period of time, I didn't come from a family of means. So being in school for four years of college and four years of graduate school in whatever discipline just would be a burden for my family. So the fact that it was a two year program, and at the time, it was a two year upper division undergraduate program. So students could in fact, just complete their prerequisites and then go into PA school within that four year period of time. All of that was very appealing to me. And so that was my introduction to the profession.

Unknown Speaker  4:07  
And when you graduated from Howard University, it looks like you've practiced in a variety of different clinical areas. Can you tell us a little bit about your decisions on those specialties.

Unknown Speaker  4:17  
So I first of all, chose to go to Howard University because I wanted to expose myself to a different learning environment. I had been in a very traditional schools, where I had been the one in the only minorities student in many of my AP classes in high school and in many of the science courses in college. And so I wanted to have a little different experience. While at Howard University, I was introduced to a range of health experiences that provided services for the underserved. And so when people talk about learning experiences influencing decisions, the types of clinical experiences that you have as an undergraduate or as a PA student, helping to shape your career path. I wasn't in fact, affected by that. I did most of my clerkships at Howard University Hospital in DC General Hospital, which were urban centers. And there I really developed a passion for caring for the underserved. So when I came back to New York City, I chose to work in a federally qualified community health center, providing health care for the underserved, being young and unencumbered at the time I took on a couple of per diem jobs, which gave me some other experiences in emergency medicine and addictive medicine and then moved into providing health care for the homeless. A mobile unit that I ran for seven years, providing medical services and soup kitchens and shelters and shopping centers and, and then moved into I wanted to test out working back in the hospital. So then I took a inpatient position in, in GYN, so it was mostly gyn surgery and GYN clinic as well. So I moved around, which I think is a hallmark of our profession. But my passion was sparked because of my interest in providing care for the underserved.

Unknown Speaker  6:13  
Sure, when I read your bio, I was not aware of the homeless connection. And I was really, really pleased to see that and not surprised at all because of our relationship over the years. That's a truly special population to both of us. So at one point in time, you decided to move into PA education, and then ultimately began this path of service and leadership to the VA education roles and beyond. So can you tell us a little bit about that path and why you went that route? And maybe some of the challenges you faced as you were starting to climb up the ladder in terms of that leadership perspective?

Unknown Speaker  6:47  
It's a good question. Thank you. So the people who knew me as a student would have never imagined me in academia, because I was kind of that student, that would get bored very easily. I'm done. Now let's chat and visit teachers trying to lecture and I'm now doing something else, because I finished my work. So I was your most annoying student, as a high school student and undergraduate everything. So for me to move into academia was really a surprise to the people who knew me, who have known me throughout my life. I had been invited to give talks here and there on various clinical topics when I was working at the federally qualified community health center. And so I started to, to lecture and give give talks on various clinical topics, first for patients and then for other clinicians. And with that experience, one thing led to another and a colleague of mine called me and said, you know, they were looking for a faculty member for an inaugural program that was enrolling its first class and would I be interested, I thought I would be interested in giving some lectures. And I think once but many of us, once you, you know, put your toe in the water of academe, you then put your whole foot in. And then next thing you know, you're into, you're up to your eyeballs. And so that's kind of how it started for me. So I, it wasn't something I had planned to do. But it started as give a lecture, give another lecture now teach a course and now be the clinical coordinator, and then be the program director all within two year period of time. So it was a pretty quick ascent into into PA education. And like many of us who have pursued pa education, we've done it, I think, simply because of our commitment to the profession. There was a need, and we felt someone felt that we could fill that need. And we did. And that was the same, you know, scenario for me. leadership was, again, another opportunity, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, I think you would be I think you would be great on this committee or on this workgroup, in this leadership role, or that leadership role. And you know, I very rarely say no. And so I said, Yes, I said yes. And I said yes, again, and, and the rest is history, one thing led to the next. The common denominator in all of my leadership experiences is that I have always gotten more than I've given in terms of new understanding new knowledge, appreciation for diverse perspectives, just tremendous learning and connection with people. And so every leadership experience ended up contributing to this wealth of experiences and tools that I have in my toolbox now. And so I really, truly believe that I have gained more than I've given in any of my leadership roles.

Unknown Speaker  9:47  
So as a reluctant, or at least early on a reluctant educator who similar to me, I thought I'd be bored out of my skull when I was going into education. At one point in time you really kind of dough in full Peterhead when you went to get your doctorate at St. John's University, to tell us about just that kind of decision that you felt that that was going to really equip you to move on, because ultimately it led to you becoming a dean, it seems at SUNY, downstate New York.

Unknown Speaker  10:15  
Well, you know, an older gentleman mentor at downstate. When I was a program director, he shared with me, I was still very young in my career. And he shared with me his perspective that if I intended and he asked me point blank, do you intend to stay in academia? And I said, Yes. And I, you know, and he asked me why. And we talked a little bit about that. And, and he was very candid, matter of fact, in his tone and his approach, older gentleman, he says, Well, you know, you're a young person, you're going to need to pursue a doctorate. And at the time, I just had three little kids, the thought of going back to school was a little daunting, and he just kind of laid it out there, he says, you'll have to figure out how to do that. But if this is the career path that you've chosen, this is this is something that you're going to need, he equated it to a union card, he says, this is something you're going to need. And so I started to look into doctoral programs and learned from others that whatever subject I pursued, I had to be very passionate about it, because I would be spending a lot of time and taking time from family and from clinical work and from teaching and other responsibilities. So it had to be something that was synergistic to what I was doing and what I believed in. And that's why I've pursued a doctorate in education, because I thought it would add value to what I was accomplishing in my day to day, and what I hoped to learn to be better in my day to day. And so it was an easy, easy decision. It wasn't an easy career path or curriculum to complete. But it was an easy decision in terms of the discipline to pursue,

Unknown Speaker  12:01  
and how much beyond the doctrine did this opportunity come for you to get into the dean's office and was that kind of a from program director to Dean did you spend some time in as Associate Dean in some area first.

Unknown Speaker  12:14  
So I became associate dean for primary care at the university while being the program director. And so that enabled me to really push me out of my comfort zone in being very focused primarily on the PA program, to now being much more involved in the university, the college and across colleges. And I was fortunate enough to have a few, I call them sponsors. These are people who are in your life in your career, who speak for you who recommend you who advocate for you, they're maybe not necessarily mentors, but they are our sponsors. And they are around certain tables, and they kind of introduce you or throw you in. And I had was fortunate to have a few sponsors at Downstate Medical Center, who suggested My name for various workgroups, and task forces, and again, rarely saying no, I found myself around many more tables, outside of or beyond the PA profession beyond the PA program. And that really equipped me to move into the Dean's position when the time came. So, you know, being an Associate Dean for primary care really enabled me to hone my interprofessional skills, interdisciplinary skills, and to really appreciate the similarities across disciplines as well as some of the unique features, all of which served me well, as a dean. I'll put in a plug for PA as being Dean's, too, because we work with different physicians by definition, we work with all members of the healthcare team, by definition, you know, and so those experiences from the clinical entree into the profession really equip us to to serve in those kinds of positions where we have leadership over other professions as well. I would encourage people to think about it that way.

Unknown Speaker  14:16  
Yeah, I agree. I think there there's something sociologically about the culture of IPAs, that lends itself well to being part of a team and supporting a team. Right, leading a team. Yeah. So you've had a lot of different leadership roles beyond being the dean, you were the president of AIPAC or, you know, help me remember just PA and a pap, you were part of that leadership team that

Unknown Speaker  14:39  
I was in that leadership team. So I'm proud to say that I was the last president of a PAP and the first president of PA because I was part of this transition task force that helped prepare the business plan for then a paps movement from a Being a part of a PA to being its own free standing organization. And, and it was during my tenure as president that we made that transition. And I'm really proud of that work because it was a very deliberative and thoughtful process that required that we exercise our due diligence. And so I'm really proud of the work that we did to position the organization for that launch, and to be able to address the concerns of people who were cautious, you know, we had been part of a larger organization since the beginning. And here this fledgling or what seem to be a bulging, or organization was now branching out on its own. And there was there were some who were not so supportive of that because of the risk, understandably so. And so yeah, we were proud and continue to be very proud of that word. And I think it positioned PA to be really the leader that it is now in the profession. So that was, it was it was good time.

Unknown Speaker  16:06  
So, you know, looking backwards in 2014, you became the first pa president for the NCCPA, the National Commission on certification FPGAs. And you're also the first person of color to lead any of the major core organizations for the PA profession, as I recall, tell us about that transition,

Unknown Speaker  16:23  
I would love to tell you that I had planned all of this, I would love to tell you that I sat down and looked at all of my experiences and all of my credentials and all of that background work and said, Okay, now this is the next logical step, I would not be telling you the truth. If, if I were to say it that way, the reality is colleagues and friends of mine in the profession reached out to me to let me know that this position was becoming available or had become available and that they thought I had the knowledge skills experience that would be beneficial. And I was reluctant, I was very reluctant. I was in fact, the last person to put my resume CV into the mix, because I was a tenured faculty member, Dean, I wasn't looking for a position. But as I learned more about the opportunity, and where NCCPA was in its growth and its development, I was bold, and I've put that resume to cut that cover letter together. And I said, What do I have to lose. And that's really the way I approached it, that I had nothing to lose, and only something to gain through that experience of meeting people talking to people and seeing where it went. And with each interview, and there were several with each interview, I learned new things about NCCPA. And I was able to share my perspective about as a clinician as a PA as a long standing pa as a pan ri taker for decades. And so it was a give and take kind of experience that went on for several months in the process. And it wasn't until the last interview that I kind of had an epiphany that Oh, my goodness, they may in fact offer this position to me, then what. And I have to tell you that it was the best decision that I've ever made career wise, because of so many things that I'm just so proud to be a part of to have, have led in these last seven years in the transformation of NCCPA, in the revisioning of pantry, and really in pulling the curtain back and helping to increase the transparency of NCCPA. Those are things that I'm incredibly proud of and moving our assessment strategy into this century, to the point where we're really integrating technology and relying on a diverse set of professionals to inform all of our programming. It's just really been the best experience career wise for me. But it was it was a big risk. I'll tell you this last quick story, my last interview, and I kind of got the impression that this might really happen. So instead of going back up to the hotel room to change my clothes and go to the airport, I basically ran out of the hotel and went to the airport and came home suit heels everything. And my husband said to me, like didn't you change your clothes? Like what happened? Why are you still dressed? You know, like you're in the interview right now. And I kind of felt panicky, I said, Derek, they may offer me this position. And then what am I going to do because he's a critical care surgical pa in New York City. And this is a position that's in Atlanta, Georgia. And he just very calmly said, I believe they will offer you this position and I believe we will figure it out. This is what you've been preparing for your entire career and we'll figure it out here. He was so calm. And so matter of fact, I was a bit of a panic. But that that is his reaction, reaffirmed the value of being bold, but being bold, knowing you have support, and others in your corner that are working with you.

Unknown Speaker  20:20  
Yeah, absolutely. So maybe tell us a little bit about the purpose of the NCCP for those who are new to the profession, and you know, what it provides to the profession and to the public.

Unknown Speaker  20:31  
So NCCPA is the certifying body for the profession. And what that means is that NCCPA sets the standard with input from the profession, but sets the standard on what the entry level, Pa should look like. Holding that PAC credential demonstrates that you're acquiring that PAC credential demonstrates that you have achieved and and documented a fund of knowledge at a moment in time you have passed a hurdle. That hurdle is required by each and every state in the United States. For initial licensure, Pa acquire the PAC credential upon completion of their educational program. And by demonstrating that they have successfully documented a fund of knowledge across all disciplines, all settings, all organ systems, if you will. So it's a rigorous process that TAS enter into upon completion of their PA program. And every state requires that credential for initial licensure. So although all states don't require the PAC credential to maintain licensure, most employers require that credential as well. So the NCCPA has a responsibility to ensure that that credential means something. But also that it is not so overly burdensome and overly challenging to acquire that it prohibits CPAs from entering the profession or staying in the profession. So we are obligated to strike a balance to ensure that the credential means something but it's not excessive. And that balance is is not always easy to strike. We rely on a practice analysis that is conducted every three to five years, where we basically obtain from the profession, a wealth of information about what PhDs are doing, how they're practicing the diseases and disorders that they're managing and caring for. We gather a wealth of information and then build an exam blueprint. And the exam blueprint then gives rise to the exam forms. We have the entry level exam, which is pants, and then we have the certification maintenance exam or recertification exam, which is Penry that our PA sit for, it used to be every six years, and now it's every 10 years. And so NCCPA is responsible to assess knowledge and skills at entry to the profession and throughout one's career. And it does require that we remain abreast of the profession, connected to our stakeholders, stakeholders, RPAS, our PA educators, our PA, faculty, employers, payers, but also the public. When the public sees that credential, they expect that that credential means something. And so we are responsible not only to the profession, we are responsive to the profession, but we are responsible to the public. And sometimes people get upset when we say we protect the public's interests. And sometimes they say, Well, are you protecting the public from PDAs? No. PDAs are excellent providers. They are we are top of the line healthcare providers. What we are protecting is that credential and what that credential means. When people see that credential. That's what we're protecting through the processes that we employ.

Unknown Speaker  24:17  
How do you obtain that public perspective, to ensure that that that sense of certification meaning something is still there, we do so in

Unknown Speaker  24:27  
in two primary ways. One is that we have public members on our board, and these are individuals who are not clinicians. They're not educators, they're not members of the profession. But they are volunteers who are representing the public's interests, and so they serve as full voting members on the board of directors and the Board of Directors sets the strategic direction for the organization. And so having those public members included in all of the discussions and all of the activities The the organization of the board is very important. We also conduct a number of surveys and studies, soliciting support or input from a number of organizations to help us gather data from representative samples of the public. So we have relied on the citizens Advocacy Center in the past, and other groups like that, to help develop and disseminate surveys of the public, of a members of the public to ask questions about the profession, about health care, what's important to the members of the public. And so there are a number of any number of surveys that are disseminated on behalf of NCCPA through third parties to help us gather those data, we also rely on a very active social media presence. And it's interactive and that PDAs as well as others, provide feedback to us all the time. And with social media being as vibrant of an opportunity as it is now. It's it's a two way street, people comment on us about us what they see. And they also answer questions. We pose questions through all of our channels to see, you know, what do people think about various things. And so there's, there's lots of ways to solicit input from, from the profession, but also from the public as well. I just wanted to also mention that we have physician members of our board as well. And through their communication channels, we are able to solicit feedback and input from a number of other organizations, in addition to the strategies that we that we employ.

Unknown Speaker  26:46  
So as a certified PA for 25 years, you know, I graduated in 1996. And there are 29,000, certified PDAs, we now have, I believe over 148,000 certified because the one thing I've seen in the last seven years that I just want to give you kudos for you and your team is the marketing of the profession, because the NCCPA has really stepped it up to help the general public understand the great work that PDAs are doing, you have amplified that so well across all the social media platforms that you just talked about. So thank you for all that leadership there.

Unknown Speaker  27:19  
Thank you that has been really purposeful in it. And, you know, as I mentioned early on, one of my priorities was to to make NCCPA more visible, to have NCCPA help the profession become as visible as it can possibly be. You know, I do believe that everyone has a role to play in helping to promote the profession, and promote health and wellness among the patient populations that we serve. And so I think that like a PA and PA and to some extent AICPA, we all have a part to play in helping people to understand our profession, and the important work that PDAs are doing across all disciplines to improve access to health care and health outcomes.

Unknown Speaker  28:11  
The NCCA also has two other organizations that it supports, it falls within his purview in some way, I believe you serve on the board for both organizations as a either an ex officio, or or a guiding member. Can we talk a little bit about the PA History Society and the NCCPA Health Foundation.

Unknown Speaker  28:30  
I love to talk about both of those supporting organizations because they do the work. They do work that the NCCPA values and appreciates, but cannot do. It's outside of the purview of NCCPA to do that important work. And so we rely on these supporting organizations to fulfill these additional roles, if you will, the PA History Society was started more than was coming up on its 20th anniversary actually. And it was started long before it was housed within the NCCPA. And it the purpose of the History Society is really to preserve this beautiful and wonderful history, unique history of our profession, how it started, why it still started, the social conditions that were present when the profession started and to track the history over time to record it and to archive it and make it available for future generations. And so the NCCPA assumed responsibility for the PA History Society several years ago to ensure that it had a permanent home and that it could continue to grow. And and so we're really proud of the work that the History Society does to document this rich and wonderful history from the past as well as the history as it evolves. Currently, every day there's there are new facts and new findings. As the program's continued to increase, and the profession continues to grow, and so it is one of our shining stars, if you will, as part of the NCCPA family. The Health Foundation is another small organization that does wonderful work, they help equip TAs to refine their skills in certain their knowledge and skills and certain content areas. So over the last several years, the Health Foundation has really taken up rather the mantle to promote the oral systemic connection, the importance of oral health, most recently, and I say in the last five years, it's really promoted the importance of mental health and behavioral health, D stigmatizing mental and behavioral health, which has become very timely as we are coming out of what hopefully coming out of a pandemic, and all of the conditions associated with that pen that with the pandemic, they're also moving towards promoting the importance of professional practice, what does it mean to be a professional, what are the responsibilities etc. And because we know PA school is very, it's very intense and very short. And many of us as we're working in all different disciplines, will benefit from some of these reminders, some of these quick tips that are important for wellness in general oral health, mental health, behavioral health, professional practice, those are just three of the areas that the Health Foundation is working hard to help equip PhDs to be the best, or to continue to be the best that they can in those areas. The foundation also has a very small grants program, but it's a very vibrant grants program to help PA students and Pa clinicians, get started in community outreach endeavors, you know, a little seed money to get started in increasing community awareness about certain health conditions. And we're really proud of that, that program, and they have a couple of several grant programs that, that help really equipped small groups of students and clinicians to to do good work.

Unknown Speaker  32:18  
So Don, you've had such an impressive background in leadership for so many years and have had an opportunity to be at the table for so many important decisions for this profession. As you look back, what are some of the issues and decisions that you've been part of it your most products?

Unknown Speaker  32:32  
Wow, that's a good one. Oh. So I going back, I think I'm really proud to have been part of a PAP pa when we made that transition. I'm really proud to have been part of that leadership team that envisioned what that would look like. Fast forward to to this role. I'm really proud of the work that we have done to reimagine Penry to just reimagine what that assessment can be, and should be, to take some of the stress out of that process, and to help it become a more active learning process, as opposed to a very stressful process. I think most of us experience it as a stressful process. And so now it's, and what I'm referring to is the pilot that we launched in 2019, which was an alternative to pan MRI to help you complete that recertification requirement in a little different format. And from that, we've gathered a wealth of data that has helped inform the decisions that are being made right now for what pan MRI should look like going forward. And that, to me is a hallmark experience that I'm very proud of. The third thing, which I feel is overarching for everything that I've been involved in, and that is promoting the value of diversity that has been core to my existence. And my career, my personal life, my professional life. Everything that I do is in recognition of the value that diverse perspectives bring to any decision making. And you know, we live in a country that has a wealth of people with different and complementary as well as conflicting perspectives. And it is through the thoughtful consideration of all of that, that we emerge in whatever industry we're in with the best thinking. And so in my role as a dean and program director and a dean, as an academic, as a clinician, I've always worked hard to ensure that everyone has a voice. And that voice is is heard and respected. And that has been an overarching part of my My career that I'm very, very proud of, and it influences and continues to influence everything that I do.

Unknown Speaker  35:07  
It's such a timely comment that you're bringing this up. Because as a nation, we are going through such strife in some parts of our country, related to the value of conversations about the past, the value about teaching, diversity, equity and inclusion, the the concepts of a level playing field are so threatening to so many people. And yet, from my perspective, and we've had several other podcast guests, we've talked about this, we have to have that diversity around the table to to really find the excellence that we're seeking. So when you think about the challenges we are facing in this country related to Dei, how can pa applicants, students, educators, clinicians, help solve these important challenges?

Unknown Speaker  35:55  
That's an excellent question. And it's a very complex issue. And I don't want to simplify it, I can't simplify it. But I will take a stab at it a few points that I think are important, none of us were alive. When decisions were made centuries ago, regarding the organizational structure of this country, none of us were here. But we are all here now. And so in medicine, we say you can't make the diagnosis you don't know. Or that you didn't think of. So to pretend that the history that preceded us didn't exist, or to sweep it under the rug, or to ignore it is, is first of all disrespectful to the generations of people who have lived it, and who have all contributed to where we are today as a society, the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. So I do feel that we all have an obligation to own up to the past, not take responsibility for things we didn't do, but certainly take responsibility for how we move forward and moving, acknowledge it and move forward with the understanding that there have been decisions made throughout history that have positioned some populations better than others have afforded certain groups, benefits that other groups have not been, you know, received. And so we have to acknowledge those things, and then develop strategies to move forward. But if you don't acknowledge it, you don't want to teach it, you don't want to, you pretend that it doesn't exist, we can never move forward with that. We can't move forward unless we acknowledge the past. And it's contributing factors what it does for you know, what, how it's contributed to where we are today, and then develop strategies to move forward. And it takes all of us doing what we can starting where we are, any one group, any one person is not going to be able to solve this deeply seated dilemma and challenge by ourselves. But we takes the collective acknowledgement of the painful past, and the planning and strategizing on how to move forward to improve things. And it's going to take a long time, but we have to start and continue the work that's being done. And that means, you know, looking at our admissions processes, it means looking at our recruitment and enrollment processes. It means looking at our employment practices, it means looking at our curriculum, it means looking at all of the things that either overtly or covertly position or disadvantage certain populations for success or prevent their success. We have to acknowledge it. And that's that's painful to do. But it still has to be done.

Unknown Speaker  38:53  
And as an organization that oversees the certification of all the PA profession, how do you at the NCCPA kind of frame that conversation around diversity and the health disparities that are we're seeing in the field, especially since the pandemic, and what are the things that you do as an organization to try to contribute to the solutions?

Unknown Speaker  39:14  
Well, I think it's, you know, starting from the inside out, we have we have taken very seriously the importance and the value of diversity and equity and inclusion, and taking a critical look at our employment practices, our policies, our procedures, the staff that we employ to ensure that we are making our employment opportunities is available to all populations to ensure that we're focusing on the right things when we're recruiting staff and that we have the policies and procedures to support diverse perspectives, welcoming people from all different backgrounds and helping them feel and know that they are valued and included their decisions that have been made to operationalize our commitment to diversity and equity and inclusion, we have an idea Council, which is a team of staff members that develop programming for the staff to help heighten awareness and to and to help us find and see our blind spots and address them. And so that's kind of just on a high level, from an internal standpoint, ensuring that all of our subject matter experts, the people who make exams, who write questions who contribute to every aspect of our assessment, programming, are representative of the breadth and depth of our profession. And that means that everyone's sitting around those tables are sitting around the screens in a COVID environment, you know, contributing to our assessment, they represent perspectives that are the profession, they are they belong to the entire profession, it's not just from one corner of the country, or one corner of the of the community are one demographic. And that is a requirement that I take very, very seriously. But also ensuring that we're partners with this profession, and the profession knows that we're here, we're not perfect, no organization is perfect. We hold monthly roundtable discussions when we started this around, you know, last spring when things really became very painful for so many of our RPAS throughout the country who were not only on the front lines of a pandemic, but we're also experiencing the racial and social unrest of our country. And we created this platform, where once a month PHS could just come together and just talk about what they're experiencing in a safe environment. And from that we host monthly roundtables on whatever topic, a variety of topics that will any of these things in isolation, change the world overnight, absolutely not. But each of these activities, and many others that I haven't mentioned, demonstrate that we are part NCCPA is part of this profession, part of its strength, part of its limitations, part of its solutions, part of its opportunities, we apart, and we want to contribute to the continued advancement of the profession, but also to the betterment of healthcare for all patients who CPAs and others. And that means we each have to leverage our resources, whatever those resources are, to keep awareness and to discuss potential solutions. That's our job. We all have a part to play. And that's what we're doing.

Unknown Speaker  42:39  
Right? Well, thank you so much. It's such an honor to have you on. I've been so impressed by your leadership for so many years, and very, very pleased to call your friend and also very thankful that our profession has finally moved into this realm where we have a different kind of leader at the top of our organizations that is has lived experience as a PA in at least three of the four orgs and also provides a perspective of diversity that we have not seen at professional organizations in all the health professionals. So thank you for your willingness to be a reluctant leader and we should read it very best in your future.

Unknown Speaker  43:16  
Thank you so much, Kevin. It's been a pleasure.

Unknown Speaker  43:20  
I'd like to thank our guests Dr. Don Morton Ryan's for sharing her path to becoming a PA, a PA educator, a PA leader, and the first woman of color to lead one of our four major national organizations. Tune in next week as we speak to the team from Stanford University, and learn about their unique transition to becoming a master's program at the School of Medicine. We learned about their commitment to service to leadership to research and their unique curricular model in taking classes with medical students. Until next time, I wish you success with whatever path you are walking in life. And thank you for joining us. The purpose of this podcast is to provide news and information on the PA profession and is for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the University of Southern California.


Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, PA-CProfile Photo

Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, PA-C

President and CEO; Professor and Former Dean

Dawn Morton-Rias was appointed President & CEO of the National Commission on
Certification of Physician Assistants in 2014, and is a non-voting member of the NCCPA
Board of Directors.
She is a long-time PA educator and former PA program director. Prior to joining NCCPA,
she served as a Professor and Dean at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, where she still
serves on faculty. Morton-Rias has practiced in family medicine, addictive medicine,
gynecology and acute care for the homeless.
Morton-Rias has served as President of the Physician Assistant Education Association
(PAEA); appointee to the HRSA Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care
Medicine and Dentistry; appointee to the Federation of State Medical Board’s Education
Committee; Advisor to the National Health Service Corp; and Commissioner on the PA
Accreditation Commission.
She has been the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Specialists grant award and the
recipient of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health’s Leadership Award.
Morton-Rias earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stony Brook University and a
Bachelor of Science and Physician Assistant Certificate from Howard University. She
completed a Professional Diploma in Instructional Leadership and earned a Doctorate of Education from St. John's University.