Expert Insights from Program Leaders
June 13, 2022
Season 2: Episode 41- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine PA Program

We speak with Dr. Elana Min and Mr. Sam Ritchey who provide their time and valuable insights about the ideal applicant for their hybrid PBL PA program in Chicago. We also speak about PAs in education and Dr. Min's passion for research.

We speak with Dr. Elana Min and Mr. Sam Ritchey who provide their time and valuable insights about the ideal applicant for their hybrid PBL PA program in Chicago. We also speak about PAs in education and Dr. Min's passion for research. 

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.


Season 2: Episode 41 - Northwestern University PA Program


Unknown Speaker  0:00  
We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the autumn and Yockey. committed to diversity and inclusion. The university strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native nations and indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships and community service. Well, hello. So I know that last week we talked about doing our season reflection this week. And in preparing for that we recognize that our episode with Northwestern University did not air and that was an error on my part, I have to admit that my transition from California to Arizona had me leaving my incredibly wonderful colleague, Gil Trinidad, who helped me manage the podcast in LA. And while I was on my own, I had to figure this out without her and that was a difficult proposition. Add to that, a little bit of COVID right before this episode was recorded, and I have all the excuses you need to know why Northwestern did not air until now. That being said, Dr. Lena min and Sam Ricci were incredibly patient and provided such wonderful insights, that I can't think of a better episode to end the season on, except for this one. So we're going to air the northwestern episode this week, and do our season reflection next week. It'll be brief. And then we'll head off into the summer for a little bit of a break. We hope you enjoy.

Unknown Speaker  1:40  
Welcome to this episode of the PA path podcast. I'm your host, Kevin Lohenry. We're glad you could join us as we seek to better understand the PA profession.

Unknown Speaker  2:04  
As opposed to the other way around, right, building my resume to build up to PA school, as opposed to accomplishing things concrete things in the real world. And then having my story, having my vision and my certainty my conviction about wanting to be a physician assistant flowing from that into your application.

Unknown Speaker  2:30  
Sam is good to meet you. I see you're from LA originally. I am yeah. Born and raised. So in fact, I went to Loyola High School, which is just down the road from USC. So I'm familiar with oil. I've had quite a few students from there come to the PA school. So to good school. Yeah, no, I went back out. I'll admit my age, Sharon went back for my 20th reunion a few years ago. And it was great to be back on campus. It's totally transformed from my time there. That's awesome. That's awesome. And Elena, how are you doing? I'm good. I have had four cups of coffee.

Unknown Speaker  3:05  
That's awesome. Thank you both for taking the time to meet with us. I'm delighted to talk to you, Elena. It's been a long time of our professional relationship. And Sam, it's a delight to meet you in your role as the admissions coordinator for Northwestern. And having grown up in Chicago, Northwestern has such an incredible reputation for medicine and for healthcare. So I know our listeners would be really excited to learn about your program. Why don't we start first, Elena, if you could share with us kind of your path to becoming a PA and just let us know how you ended up where you ended up if you could please. Lee and again, just thank you so much, Kevin, for having us. It's been a real joy listening to the podcast. I know your intended audience has been applicants but I've learned a lot and have been fired. I appreciate you. Stephanie's you know, project here. But I guess back to me. So know growing up as money of the PAs have talked about this before when you mentioned science, you know, the only path at that time in the 70s and 80s was physician and you know, being an immigrant of Korean parents, I felt that pressure from day one, and went through college and ended up graduating a semester early and realize that maybe there were other things to do. And so I really enjoyed animals and humans at that time. So decided to use that time to kind of dive into that and volunteered at a veterinarian office and then at a pet store and quickly learn that my fear of spiders in animals was validated those with human and worked in an AI center as an ophthalmology tech and along that timeframe. I met someone that was leaving the practice, go to PA school. So she told me about it. I went to the library because where there was no internet issue. You know, at that time, I pretty much looked it up on microfiche and printed off with these tools. Oh my goodness. You remember I do remember microfiche? Yeah. At that time. It was funny I didn't even know but it only printed off a handful of school.

Unknown Speaker  5:00  

Unknown Speaker  5:01  
bit of applying to those schools that were in the area. And at the same time knew I wanted to wait to pay for school and applied for the National Health Service Corps Scholarship. If I could talk about a little bit more later, ended up getting it. I was in a town of 3600. So I knew that I wanted to work in that underserved area, that into Midwestern which is the same school you graduated from Kevin, I believe you were just a class above me, and really enjoyed my time practice clinically, and then at a primary care practice, and then needed to move back to Chicago for personal reasons. For my husband, it did work out, and then ended up applying for jobs and came across the faculty position. At the time, I knew I wanted to go into education. But I didn't know if I wanted to go in so soon. But again, just kind of took a leap of faith. Pat, not Ross, Frank took a chance on me which to this day, and then it just kind of up. And from that point on, I guess the rest is history. I've spent most of my team most of my time, 18 years, I've been in the clinical educator role. And that's how I met my friend. Now colleague them. Yeah. So Sam, how about you? How did you end up in the PA education world and helping helping applicants navigate the application process for Northwestern? Thanks so much, Kevin. And I just want to echo Elena and say, Thank you, big thank you, to you for having us here. Today. I listened to several episodes of the podcasts. And we're in great company here. And it's just a privilege to be here to share our experiences today and to grow the profession. So I've worked for Northwestern University for a decade now, I started off working in the Undergraduate Chemistry Department and the Evanston campus, which is about Oh 10 or so miles north of downtown Chicago. And there for seven years I worked with undergrads taking those classic chemistry courses, General Chemistry and organic chemistry. So as you might imagine, those students were heavily focused on pre health. And so I got to know their mindset and their objectives, goals, vision, we're working with them over the years, and the faculty that taught those courses. And three years ago, or so I had the opportunity to join the PA program. And I took that opportunity. And I'm glad that I did because it allowed me to meet Elena and work with her. And so I worked directly with Elena for a little over two years, as the clinical year coordinator, the second year coordinator, as our program. And then earlier this year in February or not, this year, now we're in 2020, to about a year ago, I started in the admissions coordinator role, filling those shoes for my great colleague, Jeremiah, who departed for another opportunity. And it's been great to work on this side of the table as well. I think the common thread that connects all three of those roles, both in the undergraduate role in chemistry at Northwestern working with the second year students, and now with prospective applicants, applicants and newly admitted students is that it's helping grow people's professional careers and academic careers. And so I've enjoyed that for over a decade now, the applicants, our students inspire me and to the extent that I can help them achieve their goals, and clarify what they want to achieve with their professional careers. I am just excited, tremendously excited by that, and I look forward to the work each day. So Sam, you're kind of a triple threat, you've worked with the undergrad side of the house, you've worked with the PAs out on the clinical side. And now you're in between helping kind of navigate from point A to point B so to speak. That's exactly right. And I like your framing there. I feel like my experience has allowed me to see the different sides of the equation. And now that I work with our alumni to I'm able to work with them both directly as they participate in the admissions process gives me a vantage point to to see the entire longitudinal experience from undergraduate student that's thinking about PA school through current pa student, and then on to practicing a PA they can then reflect upon their experience in PA school, and bring that their experience as a profession out in the field to bear on our own admissions process in terms of identifying who's a good fit for our program. That's great. So so let's let's pursue that a little bit. When you look at your applicant pool, what are the kinds of things that you're looking for at your program at Northwestern to kind of ensure that the people that are coming, they're going to be well prepared to be successful? That's a great question, Kevin. And I think I will draw upon our mission. that's core to everything that we do. And as I like to say, when you look at any organization, be it academic, corporate, whatever the case may be, you want to look at their mission statement and ask seriously, are they fulfilling that mission? Are they living, are they driven? Are they living up to it? Are they driven by that mission? And for us, I really think there are four components for tenants.

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
thing that we look for, and this informs our admissions process as well. We're looking for applicants that have worked or able to work in interdisciplinary teams to collaborate with others. We're looking for individuals that are invested in everything they do in the growth mindset, continuous learning, viewing their day to day approach their year on year approach to growing themselves professionally, academically and personally throughout the process. In other words, the learning is never over. I also think it's vital that our applicants demonstrate cultural competency, and investment in that across their professional and academic endeavors. And then contributions back to their community be that community, very local, literally, their family or their their direct network, or in the broader sense their city or their region. And so when I counsel applicants, when we talk to applicants, when we hold our information sessions, I like to think that we message to them that these are the most important things that we are looking for. And these are the investments that we are looking for them to make better than their own lives and in terms of their application to the program. And all of that, in some creates a good fit for us someone who can work on a team and collaborate effectively, someone who is has embraced the growth mindset looks to learn each day, someone who is invested in their own community, and the cultural competencies that come along with that. That's awesome. So Elena, I would imagine, Northwestern is well known to have this hybrid problem based learning curriculum as part of your curriculum. And so I would imagine that, especially that team based part, and cultural competency as well are two really key ingredients to success in that model of curriculum.

Unknown Speaker  11:58  
Absolutely, and I would just kind of segue off of what Sam has said, as well, you know, knowledge of the fact that we are a problem based hybrid program is key to, you know, during our interview process, we actually have the candidate goes through a problem based learning session, because I think that that's one of those, you know, concepts that people think that they're, that they want to be a part of, and think would really be conducive to their learning. But sometimes it's not a fit, right. And it's a lot of work. And it's a choice, right to go into a hybrid program. It's definitely unique, you know, opposed to a, you know, a regular kind of or lecture based program. And it takes a lot more time and effort in similar to why candidates pick a three year programs, such as USC or Colorado, ours is one that will, that does require an extra amount of effort, different types of effort, right, in different learning, management styles. I would say that that is one of the biggest pieces for me when I look in interview a candidate is do they fully understand what our curriculum is about and what the mission is, like Pam said? And do they have those skills? Right, those collaborative skills, whether it be like, you know, like Sam said, you serve it, they're working with different types of people or cultures and, and such that they can be a meaningful contributor to the PBL format, because they will be working with a small group of six. And that's something that we always ask, you know, how do you work in teams? You know, sometimes I asked them, Which part of the team are you? Would you be considered, you know, the leader follower, and how do you fit within that team? So when we look at our class, we do look at that as a whole? How would the person fit in, you know, as a collaborator within the team? So as a long term educator with over 20 years of experience, and and somebody who's one of the longest standing directors of clinical education, how does that translate to your rotation experiences for your students?

Unknown Speaker  13:55  
You know, I feel like I always used to joke that I'm really content with mediocrity. But I would say that I've stayed in this role, because, you know, I value the role. And, you know, obviously, as a professional and effect, you pick things that you that you feel like you can contribute. And so from that standpoint, I've really grown over the last 10 years of changing the mindset of that, you know, it's a more Yes, patriarchal type of alignment with, you know, setting up rotation to more of a student invested. And I think that's really changed the way that we've approached rotations, experiences, we have the students really invest in the process does become a much more learner centered process from our end or from my end at Northwestern, regarding the clinical aspects of, you know, how we kind of thread these pieces is that, you know, being a part of a medical center, where we have physicians, we have physical therapists and nursing and a lot of collaborative teams. Again, we have that luxury right of being able to really cater and curate our

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
experiences for our students. And I think I draw from that experience just to kind of the ups and downs right of being in also the shortage of rotations to being able to create kind of some great experiences.

Unknown Speaker  15:14  
And we have such great health systems here. You know, it's really, it's really amazing. I will say, Northwestern being able to have that works in place. Yeah, I haven't grown up in Chicago. I think it's just so wonderful to have an institution with that reputation of their medical school, embracing the PA profession, it's it's good for, for the profession. It's good for the community. That's, that's really wonderful. Sam, let's switch over to you for a second. So in terms of your applicants, what are some of the challenges that you see applicants typically face and navigating your process? I suspect you have a lot of applicants who don't get in on their first try. Maybe even not even a second or third? What are some of those key tips that you're always providing them to help help them navigate your process? Yeah, that's a that's a great question. To Kevin, and I'm sure USC you see this as well. I think, in general, it's difficult for any applicant to navigate the very, there's so many different programs, with so many different requirements. And it takes a lot of effort and energy to keep track of what each program requires where their specific focuses, may lie. And so I know that's one thing very much on our applicants minds. If I can generalize a little bit, though, I think one of the big perceptual disconnects for applicants out there is how to blend their aspiration and their accomplishments. So we get a lot of younger applicants that are heavy on aspiration, and we absolutely want that. And they're almost looking not to bypass but to short circuit, the accomplishment side and, and what I like to encourage, especially these younger applicants to do is to get out there and to start working to get involved in their communities and whatever way they see fit and not to focus so much on resume building, because I think we've inculcated this into our young people's mindset from you know, I certainly my generation and certainly younger generations, this has been the case that they're building a resume from virtually kindergarten, right. And so I think what I like to suggest applicants is to try to step outside of that mindset. Think of yourself as a professional, trying to build the initial stage of your career, growth opportunities, professional advancement opportunities, avail the opportunities to contribute in a greater fashion, more collaborative fashion, and your community will be presented to you, if you make those investments, and you approach them with enthusiasm. And then from those investments will flow the opportunities to attend PA school, as opposed to the other way around, right? building my resume to build up to PA school, as opposed to accomplishing things concrete things in the real world. And then having my story, having my vision, and my certainty, my conviction about wanting to be a physician assistant is flowing from that into your application. And so often my advice is, invest, invest in both yourself in terms of being building a professional career, pre PA school. And then also get, make sure when you apply to either to Northwestern or USC or whatever program you're applying to make sure that you are tailoring your application and you truly have a strong understanding of what the program offers. And that should there be supplemental essays or other components of the application that specifically address fit with the program, that you're taking those absolutely seriously. And you're putting forth your best effort to convey to the program based on your own lived experiences and not merely your aspirations that the fit is right for you, and that you're ready for the opportunity. So basically, they have to walk the walk for a little while to be an authentic applicant. I think so. And I don't want to overplay I don't want to downplay too much the aspirational side of things, because that's important, too. I think a strong applicant has that blend of lived experience, and the drive that comes with knowing that they're not all the way where they want to be, and they're reaching higher. And so those two things can come together, I think, and we're never really done right. And that kind of flows, again, from our mission of continuous learning, that we're never really done building ourselves and working on ourselves. And my number one recommendation to to applicants who don't have substantial clinical experience already is to get out there and start building that because we see many applicants who may have great academic experiences and performance, and yet they have maybe half a year building up towards a year.

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
have clinical experience. And that's great. But I think there's so much more to explore there in terms of what you can achieve professionally before you apply. And you'll just know with so much with such greater certainty that that PA is the right choice for you. And so this question is really for either of you, and when you have an applicant who's kind of met that bar, and now you're kind of shifting gears to help them understand why why Northwestern is a good choice for them? What are the things that you like to highlight about your program that make you unique? I think I'll start and I'll have Elena jump in, I think it has to start for us with PBL, a problem based learning that is central to our culture as a program. As Elena mentioned, we're a hybrid program. So PBL is part of what we do. Our students meet about seven to eight hours per week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the small group sessions, six students with a faculty facilitator. And that in itself, sounds nice. But I think what really what really is important, or what the takeaway here is for the audience, is the idea of the student as a self motivated, self driven, self accountable learner. At the end of the day, if the faculty facilitator is doing your job, if the students are doing a good job, the entire process, from A to Z is driven by the students, they're identifying the gaps in their knowledge base, they're addressing those throughout the week with what we call learning issues, essentially presentations to their classmates, they're relying on their classmates who have different clinical experiences prior to PA school. For example, one might have been a respiratory therapists, another an EMT, another in mental health, they're bringing all that together to solve a problem collaboratively, and not only to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan at the end of the week, but to shore up those gaps that may not be directly relevant to quote unquote, solving the case. If that mindset is truly instilled in our students via PBL. And we hope that it is they will graduate from our program, and be independent learners for the rest of their lives. So they have to bring that that desire and skill set in. And then we, as a program, seek to reinforce that and kind of turbocharged that. So I would say PBL is fundamental for us. What else? Yeah, and also, you know, we're a smaller program, you know, we're 36 students. And we always tell our students that if you want to hide in the back of the classroom, like I did,

Unknown Speaker  22:45  
you can't, because we're all going to, you know, our classes, big clever. So you're always going to be seeing and be a part of it. Right. The other pieces I would add outside of that hybrid curriculum is that we have some really great introductory clinical experiences. So we have something called educated center, medical home centered medical homes, or EICMA, as we call it, where in the first year, the students are tasked to go to a clinic with medical students, and actually get the practice. Of course, it depends on where they are in the curriculum, whether they can do a history of physical, but that gets them into the clinics immediately and introduced to how to present how to do records, you know, document and records and really apply what they're doing. The other pieces that we have a nice distance based curriculum, which has longitudinal courses. So by that, I mean, we have, like one court unit, we have anatomy that traverses the entire year, you know, we have traditional anatomy, cadaver, we have physiology, we have behavioral preventive medicine, which is Kristy Lee, as you know, as fashion project. And they are longitudinal meaning they all follow the same system with pharmacology included along with lab. And it makes for a really nice kind of interplay for learning. We have the repetition that goes into the cases. And I think that that's a great way to learn. And then lastly, I'd say we have some really nice mentorship programs. So the ADP committee at our hospital started last. It's been two years. Is that right? Yeah, that's exactly right. year started ATP mentorship program, that we pair them with an ATP in the hospital, and they serve as their mentor for the first for the two years of the that's been a really big step for us to remain connected with the hospital. And so we're 10 years into this though, we are getting less than less than the comments. No, no, we have a VA program. So again, bringing in our abps and our practicing abps has really helped balance kind of our current, you know, our program and it allowed students to get some insight into professional life as well. What a brilliant idea. I love that idea. That's a fantastic concept. And I remember when I was working in Chicago, Northwestern, you know, they were not pro

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
PA for many, many, many years, and it was probably, I'm probably aging myself, but it's probably 25 years ago, 2020 years ago, when they first hired pas in interventional radiology. And then you started to see that ticked off. In fact, it was a Midwestern grad that they hired has ever call. So how wonderful how many APs are a part of this program? Now?

Unknown Speaker  25:19  
A lot of I don't have an exact number for you, but dozens. We have a huge network of colleagues throughout Northwestern medicine, many of whom work right across the street from our campus at Northwestern Memorial Hospital or Lurie Children's Hospital, but and many of whom are alumni of the program, as well. So we've gotten to see, just in my three years, I've seen our alumni presence at Northwestern medicine blossom quite a bit. Wonderful. Alina, I would imagine the changes of healthcare have been very beneficial to you as a clinical director in the sense that Northwestern maybe a decade ago started to expand all over the Chicagoland region, they bought up the hospital, I caught my teeth as a PA n. And now my parents in that community go to that Northwestern site in Winfield, Illinois. So So I would imagine your rotation opportunities are quite good as well. Yeah, I mean, it's really grown, you know, from when I started in the program six years ago, we have boosted I think our placements within Northwestern central Northwestern are what we call them, the mothership, we're probably at 40%, with about 20%, I would say or 30%, in some of these area hospitals, but the Regional Medical Group we have liked for us, it's been a huge boon, you know, for our site. And as well as the opportunities and we've become really integrated with the medical curriculum, we've been, like I said, so valuable for all of us, and that students are involved in the actual they're enrolled, kind of in the same rotation as the M threes and M four. So there's built in curriculum built in didactics, they're treated the same, you know, equitably, you know, as a, as an equal. And so those are some great kind of boost, you know, with the expansion of Northwestern. And it also has enabled us to get outside of our mothership as well right to get the different population, the bourbon and get more diverse experiences for our students, to let us that flexibility. The fact that we have more electives has been extremely valuable to us, especially during COVID shortages. As you probably remember, you know, electives are always easier to get than our core rotation. And so having those four electives, and be able to place them at our satellite, or our affiliate has been, you know, really well as well as beneficial to our students. And so what we do for those other centers, we try to sprinklin obviously, more inner city underserved areas, we have students go to FQHC, as well as prison, or I'm sorry, the jail and some of our state rotations as well as student initiated, like, again, that balance been, you know, just a huge boon for us. Wow, that's wonderful. And if your location still is down by the Magnificent Mile, it is Streeterville. And that's again, another selling point, I have to say, even though it's zero, what is it damn today? Negative? Yeah, it's just single digits today.

Unknown Speaker  28:20  
I mean, it isn't dry. But I mean, I literally have a blanket on my lap and a heater next to me, but

Unknown Speaker  28:26  
you know, Chicago was beautiful. And we are in Chicago, right, right in the heart of the Magnificent Mile. And again, that's three or four of our medical establishments when we then students are within a block of one.

Unknown Speaker  28:40  
So again, that's a huge draw. So you imagine you have a lot of students who are looking for a city life, they get a chance to live downtown, they're right there in the heart of the city. It's a pretty good recruitment tool for you. Absolutely. No, it's I've lived now in Chicago for 15 years, Los Angeles native. So I know, I know that life as well. And I know the transition, but this city is incredible. The options for entertainment, dining, everything, it's the it's the complete package. Los Angeles is the same, I feel the same way about LA. But this is a great place to be Elena. Let me switch gears a little bit and talk about your background as a educator and other institutions. You know, you came into your at Rosalind Franklin, you're obviously familiar with Midwestern University's curriculum from from 20 plus years ago, but what was it like for you to shift gears to this hybrid problem based learning model? What are some of the pain points for new educator that are thinking about moving into that kind of model? And what are some of the benefits from your perspective? Yeah, you know, it was I was really I'll be honest, a little skeptical of ish, you know, coming from a couple of programs where we did traditional lecture based in kind of courses that were self contained.

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
Um, this is really new to me. And so I, what I did was I went through and I research some of the problem based principles. And it makes so much sense Kevin, you know, when you, when you look at it, I will say that I sat in on a lot of sessions before I came, full time tutor. And it's been really enjoyable. But it is a lot of time for both the student and as well as sometimes in the faculty it because it is seven hours of in class time, right. And so, I was used to being able to go in an hour a week to teach, then you're done, really a commitment. But some of the advantages I will say is what we've already talked about was the way to integrate knowledge and steady growth. One thing that we do, which I really liked is that we start off with a p&l group of ours. And we end with our bite. So we can actually see how things progress over the course. And also build that relationship because we work in groups. And so we have picked by ZZ. And so that has worked out really well. But along with my growth, you know, as a tutor, you know, you sit there in life, and you can bounce back the question, what do you think, right? You don't need to know everything about the case. But you do need to know how to guide the students without helping the students again. And that was the hardest part for me, is I just wanted to throw them a lifeline and say, no, what we see is, you know, but now you have to say, you know, what is this?

Unknown Speaker  31:26  
Can you talk to us about it, and the students go off and they develop whichever topic they want to cover. It's usually a seven minute brief presentation. But they may say, you know, let's explore what is in the CBC, and what it means, right? Or even more specific, like, what are how do you interpret, you know, what is Wolff Parkinson white, you know, or something like that. But again, that was a huge learning curve for me is how does kind of take a step back and let them run the show. The downside, I would say, would just be time commitment, because it does take students time to prepare, they do a Li was what we call it a learning issue, that does take them time outside of the classroom, and they present twice a week. And then one person presents an oral presentation twice a week. So you know, just for grins, this last year, I made myself and Sam did one, two, we both did an ally, and Oh, my Lord, it was tough. You know, it was challenging experiences for a minute, but I'm sure it took him quite some time. And mine, you know, I did was I ran over and the students gave me such grief for that.

Unknown Speaker  32:29  
It was very hard to do. But that would be kind of one of the drawbacks, right. And I would say if we were in a traditional PBL, where we did not have, you know, standard courses, I would say the downside is, you know, are there going to be gaps. But for us, because we're a hybrid, we tend to work around, you know, what we've seen, we've been doing this for 10 years, we know what kind of the traditional gaps are in the cases. And so we're able to couple that with the lecture.

Unknown Speaker  32:53  
time and commitment, I think, again, it can be frustrating for students in the beginning, because it does take time, and they just want the answer. But by the time we get the unit to or you know we're a week, then they start to get the hang up, and they really enjoy it. The other piece that we don't really talk about is kind of the hidden part of it, which is the hidden curricular part, which is getting along with one another. We switch groups every eight weeks. And a big part of that is learning how to manage personalities and workload within a small team. And the benefit again, another benefit of PBL is you can identify those people that are less participatory, and also kind of quell some of the enthusiasm from others that kind of overtake the conversation. Yeah, and to me, that's, that's the one thing, right, you've got some students who are just gunners when it comes to group assignments. And other students maybe feel a little less empowered, or they're more, you know, they're introverted. They're, they're not wanting to step up and speak up. And so that can be a challenge in that group dynamic. But what a great way to prepare them for real life as clinicians. Absolutely. And it's a good Crash Course for newer faculty to have how to manage personalities and manage the team, because they can get comfortable, you know, if you have to tell someone to kind of take a step back. And we also give pointed feedback to our students about it after each session. And so I think that that it's a great learning curve for our learning opportunity for a new faculty as well. Is there a way that you orient faculty to that so that they're, they're trained to be able to navigate that kind of, because in essence, what you're talking about Elena is very similar to managing people as a director, right? You've got a multitude of personalities, everybody, you kind of I like to say that I play the whack a mole game sometimes when you've got one individual that's struggling, and so they need your attention then another individual struggles later on and, and it is the emotional intelligence that's required to be effective at that. It's challenging.

Unknown Speaker  34:57  
Absolutely. I think one thing that we've done it's been really great and

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
Sam has been involved in this as well, just to get to know the candidate is we have before we have someone go in as a tutor, we have them rotate with each of the facilitators, because everyone does something, you know, does it differently. And you know, it should be done differently, we always tell the students that some people are going to focus more on farm, you know, some people focus more on physiology, it's whatever they're drawn to, right. So I think kind of giving everyone a taste of how everyone teaches differently has been key in orienting new faculty to PBL. And then a lot of it honestly, like everything in PA education is just learned right on the job. And it's just kind of kind of learning kind of what works, what doesn't work. And we evaluate ourselves, of course, we have the students evaluate us as tutors, as well. So Lena, one of the things that you've done with your career is you went on to get a PhD. And you've, you've done a fair bit of scholarship in your career as well, which I think for new educators, that can be a little bit frightening at times, and I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your evolution, when it comes to your original work as an educator, and now where you're at now, in terms of your comfort with scholarship, and, and kind of the skills that you picked up with your PhD program?

Unknown Speaker  36:12  
Yeah, you know, I would say that, I would give advice to educators to go with your own timeline, you know, I'm one that really took my time with it. And just different on different levels of of different levels. I got into education, and I knew about four years in that I wanted to do it full time. So I actually am one of the few educators that does not practice clinically at all anymore. And so at that time, I decided to go ahead and explore a doctoral degree. Part of it probably was because I was tired of my parents not knowing what I

Unknown Speaker  36:42  
That's a joke. But but so I did explore it, it took me seven years, like I say, for kids, a dog, six frogs, I think a hedgehog and three guinea pigs is how I call it. So I took my time doing that. And with scholarship, you know, along the way, I would do maybe one or two things. Again, I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the scholarship early on. I didn't do publications as much, you know, early on, I did more presentations, posters, because those were kind of the easiest or lowest hanging fruit, right for new faculty. But I did take my time, you know, finishing my doctorate. And during that time, I really just wanted to do that, and focus on that and the family and things. And so after that completion around, I guess I've completed that in 2015, what I realized was that I did want to do more scholarship, and the timing was right. And so again, it was really a path of me just deciding when I felt confident when I felt comfortable. And at that point, I kind of went all in, you know, the right timing for me. And I would say again, I was much later in my career, when I decided to do more leadership activities, I'd always sprinkled some things here and there. But I think that that was perfect for me was that I found, you know, at that time was when I could invest fully in it when I could really kind of use my skills to further, you know, benefit others. And again, it took me some time, I mean, he does a good piece would have been or No, I can't do math right now. But you're going to where I became much more involved with scholarship. And since then I've kind of found my people. You know, I met you a long time ago, Kevin, but I've known a lot of people along the way. But again, the last, I would say five years has been really a great kind of a learning curve for me and to diving into scholarship and taking risks. So I would say you know, find something that you're really interested in. And for me, it was really the the notion of educating other educators, I might go into the workshops and fell in love with that, join some committees that really felt I had a true interest to contribute to, and kind of curated my career in that way. And it made a really good place that where I feel like I can again, serve more and be more of a steward of our profession. I don't know if I would have been that way, you know, early on when I was in the throes of as you know, three tiny kids and just not sure. I remember when I was working on my dissertation, or it was after I finished I think and one of my kids said, I remember that the six months when we didn't see mommy.

Unknown Speaker  39:11  
They never ever wanted to be that person. Right. I mean, so I think, you know, I planned my career around that. So yeah, I think a lot of work. Yeah, I mean, really is right. You know, when I did my PhD it was get up early and do work before the kids wake up and stay up late and do work after the kids went to bed. And it's it's, it is a significant commitment. For sure. Yeah, and one thing that I think I've learned that should have, I guess, worked on more as a younger faculty, what I would say to my colleagues is find people to work with, right I mean, I think it's funny we you know, we have these relationships and we have these, we have so much at our fingertips that we can collaborate with and I love the direction we're going with that you know, whether it be this podcast, whether it be Facebook group, or

Unknown Speaker  40:00  
or, you know, forum boards or whatever, reach out, you know, and in try to get involved. If you have an interest you don't you know, no man is an island. Right. So, or woman. So again, I wish I would have done that a little sooner, and I think it would have been more feasible to me, right? I think it was surely the problem was starting was really tough. Absolutely. Sam, I'm gonna just ask one last question that if you don't mind, which is, since you've been with the PA profession for a few years now, what would you say? And especially because you've you've you've worked with the clinical students as well. So you have a good sense of what pas really do. And I'm presuming you didn't have a lot of experience with pas before you got to Northwestern. So what's been the biggest surprise for you about the profession as a quote unquote, layperson? That's a That's a great question. And you're right, I didn't. Before joining the PA program, I honestly just had a very preliminary understanding of the PAs role in our healthcare system. I think what stands out to me and and as you correctly draw as a lay perspective, gives me a little bit of a different vantage point is just the dynamism that both our students and then our practicing graduates are able to bring to the fields, they're able to quickly cross into different specialties or different areas of medicine. I've spoken with alumni, you know, there, they had one job in one specialty, and then a few years later, they left that to work in a different area. Some of them work on large teams, hospitalists, teams, others work alongside just a few colleagues as part of a private practice or a small clinic, some work with underserved populations, some work in cosmetic dermatology. So there's a tremendous amount of diversity, professional diversity, and then being able to transition between those opportunities, and to be able to work within those teams of many different players, that's just impressed me, I think about the type of person that's able to thrive in that environment, both intellectually, professionally and personally. And it takes someone with a high not only IQ, but EQ, right emotional intelligence or emotional quotient. And that's what I see often with our own students and with other graduates of PA programs is that you have somebody who is able to adapt readily and successfully to a changing professional environment. And and you both know, and I think the audience knows, too, that this profession has not only evolved tremendously over the past decade, I've just been observing that, you know, from the outside, but I'm looking forward and looking ahead to what is the evolution going to be in this decade and beyond. And I think we all know that the role of the PA in the American healthcare system is only going to grow. And I'm, I'm really curious to see what opportunities lie ahead for for our current graduates and our future students. So that's great, thank you so much. Yeah, at this point, we typically ask you, if there's anything else you were hoping to share with us, for our listeners, before we say goodbye, anything else, I would just end by saying, you know, for the students that are interested in applying to applicants, be yourself, you know, we still do traditional interviews, we don't do the MMI, or any of those types of that process. So we still speak to them, you know, just casually as well, I would say, you know, those are the things that I'm looking for is, like Sam said, if you are focused, you know, if you change your focus, or shift your focus from checking the boxes, right? You kind of get yourself out of that cookie cutter mode. And that's what I'm looking for its authenticity, really is, is what I'm looking for, with their answers. And with just, you know, some thought, I think that you can get the answers anywhere, you know, along the way with interviews or with your personal statements. But we can sense it, I would say as a program, and I'm sure Sam could say that too, you know, when we even just do our interactions with PBL kind of sense, whose presence and who's, you know, who really wants it knows their stuff and is passionate about it. And so that's what I would really recommend for for applicants. Thank you, Sam. Any last words? I would I would echo Lena and just say that get out there and and work right? Whether that be in the academic setting and research on a clinical team, get in to the arena and start achieving start doing and then when you apply when you write your essays when you build your application. When you get invited to an interview and you share your experiences and readiness with the teams on the other side. You

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
You will be able to confidently with complete conviction draw upon your own experiences, to share with them why, why you're ready, what you've accomplished, I think about one of the candidates who applied last year. And I actually interviewed her as part of the process. And she had worked with a healthcare organization for I think, three years. And she started off at on the lowest level. And she moved up progressively twice, and she eventually became a trainer of the new hires. So she didn't have to explain to us in any elaborate terms, how she had gained leadership experience, how she dealt with conflict, how she navigated growth, taken on challenges, embrace them and overcome them, she was able to just tell her own story of her own experience. And then speaking with her supervisors, reading their letter of recommendation, all that came to life, right. And all of that is only possible through actual achievement. And it is possible for any applicant to do any of this, all you need is the enthusiasm and the will to get out there and grow and to hold yourself accountable for your own growth. Right. And so that's a really great point, Sam. Yeah, that I mean, you're talking about connecting the dots right there connecting the dots naturally, in an authentic way to what you're looking for in a grad in an applicant. And it's coming naturally, because they've had they can draw upon those experiences, as you said. So that's a great way to end this. Thank you so much, Elena. And Sam. We appreciate your time and and really excited to highlight Northwestern, and wish you both the best of health in this coming year. Thanks, Kevin. Thank you, Kevin. It's been a pleasure. Well, we want to thank our guests Dr. Lena min and Mr. Sam Richie from Northwestern University for sharing their time and insights into their program. I think we can all agree that they have a really thoughtful program and a thoughtful approach to how they look at applicants. Tune in next week as we conduct our season reflection. Stefan I will look back over the last season and talk about the things that we're hoping to highlight in season three.

Unknown Speaker  47:21  
Until next time, I wish you success with whatever path you are walking in life. And thank you for joining us.

Unknown Speaker  47:29  
The purpose of this podcast by using information on the PA profession is for informational purposes. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests do not necessarily reflect physician or policy of the University of Arizona

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Elana MinProfile Photo

Elana Min

Director of Clinical Education

Elana Min is the Director of Clinical Education in the Physician Assistant Program at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing the clinical year including evaluation and assessment of clinical sites, preceptors, and students. She is a 1997 graduate of Midwestern University Downers Grove’s Physician Assistant Program and began her career in education in 1999 at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science PA Program. During her 14-year tenure, she spent 12 years as the Clinical Coordinator. She then served as the Director of Academic Education at the Rush University PA program from 2013-2016 until landing at the Northwestern PA program in 2016 where she now serves as the Director of Clinical Education. She has been an active member of both AAPA and PAEA through committee work, posters and presentations and currently serves on the PAEA Research Mission Advancement Commission (RMAC), member of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education’s Editorial Board and an ARC-PA Site visitor.

She was a National Health Service Corps scholarship recipient and has practiced clinically in primary care and dermatology. She most recently completed her PhD in Interprofessional Education in 2015. Her scholarly interests include clinical education, interprofessional education, dermatology and ophthalmology.

Sam RitcheyProfile Photo

Sam Ritchey

Sam Ritchey serves as the Admissions Coordinator for the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program, where he is responsible for managing the admissions and recruitment efforts of the program as well as ongoing student engagement.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sam traveled north to the Bay Area for college, where he earned Bachelor's degrees in History and Economics from Santa Clara University. He then lived near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for 3 years, teaching English to professionals and high school students. After returning stateside, he settled in Chicago, which has been his home for the past 15 years.

Before joining the Northwestern PA Program, Sam worked in the tea industry as an educator and then in the Northwestern University Chemistry Department as the undergraduate program coordinator. Uniting his professional roles is a passion for working with students as they build their careers.