Expert Insights from Program Leaders
October 24, 2022
Season 3: Episode 46 - Campbell University and Ms. Laura Gerstner

We speak with Ms. Laura Gerstner, Associate Program Director with Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina about her path to becoming a PA, her program, and her state and national leadership.

We speak with Ms. Laura Gerstner, Associate Program Director with Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina about her path to becoming a PA, her program, and her state and national leadership.

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.


Transcripts are taken as is by The accuracy of these transcripts may be altered by the artificial intelligence and is offered as is for those wishing to read our discussion. We apologize for any challenges related to the transcript.


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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 Ogden and yaki. 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.

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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.

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Think there's a handful of programs nationwide that offer that dual degree.

Unknown Speaker  0:57  
Well, hello, and thank you for joining us on season three, Episode 45. Today we speak to Miss Laura Gerstner, the Associate Program Director at Campbell University's PA program in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Miss Gerstner was the founding director of clinical education in 2010. She's a 2003 graduate of the George Washington University PA program. She earned her master's of Healthcare Administration degree from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2011. And she's currently working on her Doctorate of health science degree through Campbell University. We talked about Campbell University, we talked about her path to becoming a PA. And we talked about her role in serving both at the state and national level on leadership and also clinical education. As always, you can learn more about our guest on our path.

Unknown Speaker  1:48  
Well, Laura, thank you so much for joining us today. We're so excited to learn about Campbell University and about you and your career. Before we get started with Campbell, though, we thought we would ask you about your own path to becoming a PA because I believe it's a little bit nuanced. Yes, thanks, Kevin. Thanks for having me on the PA path podcast, I'm really excited to share my story. So it definitely is a little bit convoluted how I how I found the PA profession. Since I was in elementary school. I remember always wanting to be an astronaut. So as I approached my high school years, I looked into aerospace engineering as a major I was, you know, a strong student in math and science. And so that kind of seemed like the the right path to follow. I also looked into ROTC scholarships, thinking that if I either was in the Navy or the Air Force and could fly through the Navy, or the air force or the military, that that would also be sort of an expedited way into working for NASA someday. So I ended up going to Penn State University. For my undergrad. My major was aerospace engineering, and I had a Navy ROTC scholarship. And just a few months into my ROTC training, I very quickly realized that I wasn't really 100% certain I knew what I got myself into. And I also started having incredible anterior knee pain from running the stairs of Beaver Stadium for our physical fitness training. So I went to see our orthopedic surgeon, back home on fall break. And he I was really hoping and praying that he was going to tell me that I needed to get out of ROTC and change careers because at that point in time, I think I, I knew that for myself, but I also didn't want to make that call myself. So he sent me to physical therapy for patellofemoral syndrome. And I went to physical therapy at Penn State, and it was a huge clinic. And there were all sorts of student volunteers in the clinic and in the physical therapy clinic. And after just a few sessions, I very quickly realized like, I actually think I really want to work in medicine that still follows the math and science pathway. I really get to work with people. You know, I'm a social person I like to, to work with people and to help people. And so Thanksgiving of my freshman year at Penn State, I went home and told my parents that I had left to aerospace engineering major and I was now kinesiology sports medicine major. And so I continued on that path. I finished out my ROTC for that year just to sort of make sure that I was making the right decision, but I ultimately did get out of ROTC. I was a kinesiology major really thinking that I wanted to go to PT school. And then between my junior and senior years, I had to do complete an internship or my degree, and I did it back at that orthopedic office that had diagnosed me my freshman year with knee pain. And so in that office, this would have been back in 1998 or so. They actually had a PA and a few orthopedic surgeons working there and I just absolutely fell in love with what the PA was able to do. And I very quick

Unknown Speaker  5:00  
gli kind of decided to turn my focus to applying to PA schools as opposed to physical therapy schools. I knew I had an interest in orthopedics, but I wasn't certain that that's what I wanted to do my entire career. And so at that point in time, I had decided to apply to PA schools. And so I did I applied actually, as a as a senior in college, I applied to both George Washington and to Yale. And GW was only two hours from where I grew up, and fell in love with DC and fell in love with the program when I interviewed there and ultimately, was offered acceptance. And so I went to PA school right out of my undergrad career at Penn State. Wow, that is so cool. So you kind of came full circle back to that office as a as an intern. And it totally changed you from So you went from aerospace to PT, and kinesiology. And then suddenly you see to be gay. And you're like, oh, my gosh, this is the right fit. Yes, correct. That's exactly right. Wow. And the ci w was a how long of a program was that for you? It was exactly 24 months, a two year program. So graduated from Penn State and may started at GW in August, and then graduated two years later. Oh, yeah, that was fast. That's unusual, right? I mean, yes. Many of our applicants have to spend a couple of years gaining experience and figuring things out first. Exactly, exactly. And I had once I had decided I was gonna go to PT, and then PA school, I had started doing a lot of volunteer work at Penn State. So they had students that volunteered in the health clinic taking vital signs and doing patient intake. So I started really accruing hands on patient care. I also worked over Christmas break, and summers. And anytime that I could, I went back to that orthopedic office, and they actually trained me as a medical assistant. So I was able to get hands on patient care that way. So I believe at the time of application, I had, like exactly 1000 hours of health care experience was, which was the minimum that I needed to apply to most of the programs that I was interested in applying to. So and I just decided, you know, if I don't, if I don't get in this year, I'll take a gap year and reapply again. But I was fortunate to be offered acceptance. So you had a little bit of what the peaks in you from the experiences of that office. What did you do after you graduated from GW. So graduated from GW I took my first job in Fairfax, Virginia, right outside of DC, several of my classmates decided to stay and find employment as pas in the area. So it was really fun. You know, we all all kind of stayed in the greater DC area in Northern Virginia. And so I was hired to work in an orthopedic practice. I was the first pa that they hired, it was a single a solo physician practice, which also was fairly uncommon in that area. And it was a little bit it was a little different in the sense that I was a brand new PA, so I didn't really know what to do with myself. And because I was the first pa in that practice, they didn't really know what to do with me. And so it wasn't the best fit. I ended up only being there for about six months. And then interestingly enough, I was still very close with the orthopedic surgeons back in southern Pennsylvania where, where I had been the medical assistant and had the relationship with them. And I spoke with them and they said, Look, if you're willing to come home and back to you know, rural Pennsylvania, we will train you will train you as a PA, we have a spot, we'll make a spot for you. And so I did that I actually went back to Pennsylvania for about two and a half years I was there and really, you know, got experience under my belt. There were there was, I believe two other pas in the practice at the time, there were anywhere from two to four orthopedic surgeons at any given time. It was very general orthopedics. So we did a lot of everything except for spine surgeries. And so I had I had experienced in clinic I had experience in the operating room. And it was fantastic. I really got the experience that I needed to feel confident in my skill set. And and then after I had that experience, I actually decided that I wanted to spread my wings a little bit and leave small town, Pennsylvania. And I had really good friends from PA school, who had moved to Durham, North Carolina after we graduated, and I would go visit them frequently. And they had made a great network of friends. And so I looked into orthopedic jobs in North Carolina and was hired by an orthopedic practice in Durham in 2006. And so I moved to North Carolina, and I've been here ever since. I hear good things about North Carolina for many of our guests, so it has to be infectious in the way that they talk about how wonderful it is. Yes. And you know, with with Duke being the first PA program and P in North Carolina being the first state to have pas it's an incredibly pa friendly state. And so I've been really fortunate to live and work here and work with populations where you know, you say I'm a PA and people don't ask what that is they know what that is or they or they already immediately search

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
To tell you really great stories about their PA or the PAs that they've seen as providers, when you were practicing back in your hometown, what was that like for you to experience kind of the families you grew up with? It suddenly needed orthopedic care? Yes, it definitely was different. I had not had that experience thus far, because when I did my clinical rotations, you know, with GW, I actually traveled kind of all up and down the East Coast. So I never was really anywhere that I knew anyone, or would run into patients, you know, in the grocery store that I knew from, from growing up. And so it was it, you know, I think there are good things in there bad things, too, that, you know, you're very easily accessible. But at the same time, it is kind of a neat experience to also, you know, have patients that you knew in the past or that you went to high school with or whatnot. I remember one time having one of my high school classmates bring her young daughter in for like a congenital trigger thumb. And it just was really neat experience for me to walk in the door and her to realize, oh, my gosh, I know you and you know, we know each other and, and, you know, kind of build that trust with already knowing one another. So it was it was definitely, it was a unique experience. It was it was how big was that town? Oh, goodness. I don't know the actual population, but not very large. Yeah. And it was it was the neighboring town to where I grew up. So I grew up in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and this was Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which is just a slightly bigger town. But not the exact town that I grew up in just a stone's throw down the road. Yes, exactly, exactly. I had the same opportunity that when I when I left,

Unknown Speaker  11:42  
my PA training, I ended up working for one of them, the main dogs in my own town. At the time, when I when I left Wheaton for the military, I think we had about 29,000 people want to get finally when I got back, which was like a decade later, it was probably around 56,000. So it wasn't a small town by any means. But but it was really interesting to experience that when your friends from high schools parents would come in to see you. And you know, I think they're they were always a little hesitant because you know, they only knew me as a goofball, teenager. And here I am, you know, a serious health care provider. So, but what a privilege, it was over time to get to know them in a different level and and guide them through life. Yes, definitely. It also was in that job that I recognized actually, at Penn State, my minor was gerontology and I knew I had a love for the geriatric population. And so I really fell in love with doing joint replacements, because the majority of our population was geriatric population. And they were just so grateful for the care that that you that we delivered to them, you know, and hip and knee replacements are a large surgery, but they also are very rewarding surgery. And the patients usually do incredibly well afterwards, and their pain is so much better and improved. And I just, I love working with that population. Yeah, what a great mix. I would imagine that also had something to do with your success in GW right. As a as an educator, I don't know how to your feelings are with that. I assume you're very pro Gerontology based on what you just said. But, you know, I think that's a special population when students come in with a minor in gerontology and have a passion to want to serve that population. That's just another plus of my mind. Yeah, definitely, definitely. And then when I when I moved to North Carolina, I actually initially worked with a surgeon that did sports medicine. So we had a primarily younger population of patients younger to middle aged population. And then the practice hired a brand new fellowship trained total joint surgeon and I took the leap, and I left the sports medicine physician and went into total joints, because I just I missed working with that, with that group so much. Sure. So you're in practice in North Carolina, and suddenly an opportunity comes your way related to your current role at Campbell University. You want to talk about that? Sure. So one of my colleagues that I worked with at the orthopedic practice had been in and out of PA education throughout his career, and came up to me one day, he actually was helped me get involved with the Duke PA program while I was practicing there in Durham. So we would precept students at our clinic, and I would help him with that. And I also was able to get my foot in the door and do some lecturing in their orthopedics course and in a couple of their hands on labs that we did. And so I knew that I really enjoyed teaching. I was a student athlete tutor at Penn State. So I've always kind of had a knack for teaching others. And so he came up to me one day in clinic and said, Hey, I just wanted to let you know, I'm going to be leaving this practice, and I'm going to start a new PA program at Campbell University, and he said, I think you should come with me. And so, you know, we started to chat and at that point in time, I was starting to feel a little bit of clinical burnout and I didn't know

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
If I just needed maybe a change from orthopedics, because that's the only field I had practiced him. Or if I just needed a change altogether, I actually was at that time in the midst of getting a master's of healthcare administration, from UNC Chapel Hill really thinking that I wanted to do something in healthcare administration, whether that was in the at the practice level or in at the hospital level. And so I was already kind of thinking about other avenues to use my PA career to build upon. And so when, when this opportunity presented itself, to start a new PA program, I decided to really look into it and consider it and I came down and I interviewed at Campbell, and you know, I had only ever done my own education at really large institutions, Penn State, GW, UNC Chapel Hill, I mean, huge institutions where you didn't know your classmates, let alone, you know, I shouldn't say that at GW we did. But you didn't really, you know, recognize people on campus and faculty maybe recognize you or maybe did not recognize you. And when I came to Campbell, it was just this completely different experience. It's a small institution, there's, I think, 900 to 1000 undergrads per class. And at the time, there was a pharmacy program that had been in existence for about 25 years, but no other health professions programs when they were when they were starting the PA program here. And so, you know, my interview, on my interview day, I interviewed with the provost of the University, and you know, he was very personable, and we had a great conversation. And I just could really see myself kind of fitting into this world of academia. And so in 2010, shortly after I got married, I took the job at Campbell, as the founding clinical coordinator. At the time, there were there was a program director, Academic Coordinator, I was the clinical coordinator, and we had a medical director. That was it. And we had a blank sheet of paper and a mostly written accreditation application. In fact, I think the application was mailed off just a few weeks after I came on as faculty. And then our first class started Exactly a year later. So I was here a full year before our charter class began. So you're one of those clinical coordinator types that was part of developing program, which is, that's I mean, clinical coordinators in PA education have a special skill set already, right, because it, they have to be able to locate quality sites for the students to train at. But but when you're starting from total scratch, and do an entire program that had to be interesting, it was you know, looking back on it, I sort of joke that I never want to start a program from scratch again, I think I had no idea the amount of work and labor of love that I was getting myself into, but at the same time to look at our clinical curriculum then that I was building before we even had any tactic your students really with no prior experience working in clinical education, besides being a preceptor to what it is today, it really does make me proud. I mean, I think we have a fantastic product here at Campbell, my team now well, and actually, that's another conversation but but the clinical team now I just actually exited the clinical team after 12 years into associate program director position, but our clinical team grew from me to now there is a Director of Experiential Education to clinical coordinators are two additional clinical faculty and a clinical staff member. So we're much larger team and much more dynamic. The clinical year looks very different. We started with five week rotations and move to four week rotations. We've dropped a class, we've added a class. So lots of lots of changes. It definitely looks very different than it did with our charter class or early years. Well, congratulations, you and your colleagues have slowly built up a very nice reputation and Campbell. So thank you, the PA community is very impressed. And the reality is, I mean, you entered into the hollow grounds of North Carolina, right, you've got Wake Forest, and you got Duke and like the two of the earliest programs. And your you are a little Campbell University, and you've kind of I will I will credit I think the North Carolina culture, from what I understand has been very accepting of other PA schools, which is great. Yes, definitely. Definitely Methodist is really close as well down the road in Fayetteville. So we definitely are nestled here. I think a couple of things that were two that work to our advantage. One is that our pharmacy program had an excellent reputation. And so a lot of places said oh, you know, we have really enjoyed and had great experience taking Campbell pharmacy students, we would love to take PA students as well. So that was incredibly helpful. And our medical director, who is still our medical director to this day, was literally born and raised behind the football stadium and buoys creek here in North Carolina. And so he went to Chapel Hill for undergrad and then to East Carolina for med school and then came back and at the time he owned and was a physician in an outpatient internal medicine practice and now he's a hospitalist at the local

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hospital, but we tease him that he is sort of like the mayor of the town. And he knows everyone, and he either went to med school with them, or he treated them or he referred patients to them. And so, you know, he was incredibly instrumental in helping us to secure clinical rotation sites early on, as well. And I loved that aspect of the job, too. It's funny over time it's become, it became one of my less favorite things to do. And actually one of our other clinical faculty took over the role of directing Director of Clinical partnerships, which has also been really, really helpful. But I really did love kind of making those connections and just cold calling offices or, you know, speaking at medical staff meetings to try to try to find clinical preceptors within hospital systems. So I did really enjoy that part of the job. What's your secret sauce? What is the magic secret, that that other clinical coordinators who need to hear and how to secure that partnership? I think honestly, never be afraid to ask someone if they're willing to take a student and you can't go in asking them to take 12 students, you have to go in and ask them to take one student, and then you've got to send them your rock star or one of your rockstars and really show them the high quality that your program produces. I really think that's made a big difference for us. You know, I've I have learned, even when I'm, you know, teaching, just just last week, I was teaching a workshop at the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistant conference. And I found myself asking folks like, Oh, where do you work? Oh, are you interested in taking a student, I mean, I was I was still doing that side of clinical coordinating, although that's not my position any longer. But you know, I think you always just have to sort of be able to be comfortable networking, and asking for clinical sites, and just keeping the lines of communication open, we now you know, really strongly recruit our alumni as preceptors. And a lot of them, I think, are really honored when you reach out to them, it's maybe not something that they necessarily saw themselves doing. But when you bring it up to them and ask them, if they'd like to try taking a student, they usually are very receptive to the idea of their practice will let them so I think it's just you know, using all of your resources, just don't be afraid to have your your faculty help find clinical sites for you. You know, we've all kind of got that, that networking skill and that networking bug. And that's really how I think we've been successful in finding clinical sites. I was a preceptor for seven years before I became a PA educator. And that was how they get the hook and me started, like, we took maybe three to four students here. So it wasn't taxing for the practice at all. And it became something that we all look forward to all the docs in the practice of myself, we enjoy teaching, we were in a really busy internal medicine practice, but I can only think of one, one negative experience I had with any student. And every other one of those over seven years was super positive. And I still keep in touch with many of them, they still let me know where they're at. So I I'll put in this plug for precepting. If you aren't like like the national data a couple years ago, maybe a decade ago said only 25% of PA is trained pas. And that's just crazy. You guys, we all need to pitch in and take a few students from local programs a year, it makes you a better provider, I'm convinced because it keeps me sharp. And I think I was afraid at the beginning that the students would make me feel less than ideally adequate in my medical knowledge. And in fact, the truth is, I mean, I knew way more than they did, because I've been out for a year or two. And that wasn't the point. Right? They still I still learned a lot. In fact, I think they gave me more than I was able to give them but yeah, for all the educators out there, you know, we should all be pitching this to to our colleagues because it should be an honor to do it.

Unknown Speaker  23:48  
And see it that way. Yes, it's so true. And interestingly, Kevin, I'm just starting some research on my capstone for my Doctor of Health Sciences. And I am I'm interested to look at sort of what kind of recruited pa faculty into being pa faculty, I really think a lot of them come from being preceptors. I know that's where we recruit, when we have open positions, we sort of think, Alright, which of our preceptors really seems to embrace teaching and enjoys working with students. And I think the more we can dump into preceptor development, the better we're going to create our pipeline for PA educators. So I agree that's, that'd be an interesting study. I look forward to seeing that data. Yes. Let's talk about Campbell University. So how long is it? What kind of students are you looking for? What makes Campbell University kind of set itself apart? Yes, so we are a 24 month program. We actually initially started as a 28 month program and just a few years into the PA program, the university decided to start a doctor of osteopathic medical school and we are not affiliated with an academic medical center. So we

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Your standalone do program. And it really made sense for the PA program and the D O schools clinical years to align, because we were going to very obviously be sending students to the same clinical sites. And I can just imagine the chaos we would have created if we had been on different clinical year schedules. And so we actually shortened our clinical rotations from five weeks back to four weeks to better align or to perfectly align, I should say, with the do third and fourth years, and it's worked out nicely. They have clinical campuses that they send students to. And so in our clinical year, we have a cohort of students that we send to one particular hospital system for the majority of their clinical rotations. And so it's nice because they really are able to work alongside of the Do students. We also have pharmacy students in the same hospital systems and clinics as well. So So that's really great. We have enjoyed working with the medical school and since I think I mentioned but the there was a pharmacy program initially pa came about in 2010 Sorry, 2011, our first class started. And since that time, we have a doctor physical therapy program. We have a Master's of Science in Public Health. We have a Bachelors of Science in Nursing in the medical school as well. So we have all of these health professions programs, we now have an interprofessional education office and department. And so we have a lot of interprofessional education that goes on here at Campbell, which is which is great. As for the type of student that we are looking for, so we are in rural North Carolina. And our mission is definitely focused on equipping our students to serve the underserved primarily, you know, rural, in the rural setting, but not necessarily you know, any any underserved setting is obviously our goal as well. We are looking for a diverse student body, although sometimes it's a little bit more difficult for us to recruit both diverse faculty and staff as well as diverse students to this area. But we definitely are continuing to to look at that well rounded student we're kind of looking at holistic admissions, we look at not only their GPAs, and their GRE scores, but also their healthcare experience, their service and volunteer service, their leadership experiences, any research experience. And really, we just want to know that they want to be a PA that they have thought about this and that they want to be a PA because they want to serve others, they want to serve patients and they want to be servant leaders. And that's really what we're looking for in our applicants. That's amazing. So So what's a way as an applicant, I can demonstrate a passion for servant leadership. So we just recently added a couple of supplemental questions to our Casper application, one very being very mission focused. So our the mission statement of both Campbell University and of the PA program, talk about faith learning and service as are sort of the three tenets that we focus so that our mission is based upon. And so we're really looking for mission centered mission focus students, those that have demonstrated servant leadership thus far, or can discuss in their essay, why they want to be a servant leader, or how they intend to be a servant leader. So that's really important to us. That's sort of I guess, our first way to see their dedication to servant leadership. But also then we have questions in our interview process, if they are asked to interview that also asked about, you know, what they plan to bring to the program and any challenges or benefits to providing care in a rural area. So we're always trying to kind of recenter our admissions process on our mission and making sure that students understand Campbell is a Baptist institution, but we are so we're a faith based institution, but we're very inclusive of all religions as well. But it is sometimes amazing the number of students that I think haven't even looked at the mission statement when they've either applied or even at the interview process and seem a little bit surprised at at the mission of the university. So I think that's a really important point when you're looking at PA programs to apply to to make sure that you're really looking at all aspects of their website, particularly looking at their mission and vision and values to make sure that it aligns with with your own. Yeah, I agree. I agree that a lot of different PA schools have a lot of different flavors. So finding a flavor that matches what your taste buds like is always good. I was so you so you, obviously you you do a good job of recruiting and students who fit this mission and and are passionate about servant leadership. We all know pa education is very taxing and a 24 month program. That's pretty rapid. Right? So how does the program kind of keep that flame alive for certain leadership while they're there? So during the didactic year of the program early in the didactic year, we have the students elect officers within their class and a couple of the different off

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
serve positions include an outreach chair, which really is primarily responsible for outreach to the other health science programs, but also to the community. We have a diversity, equity and inclusion chair, we have a community service chair. So like all three of those positions sort of work together to find opportunities or to get our students involved in various opportunities, primarily in our local community here. So our students do a variety of outreach. Some of the outreach is coordinated, either with the medical school or with the the rest of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences here at Campbell. But our students also have done a Make A Wish golf tournament almost annually for the last 11 years, raising about $10,000 a year for Make A Wish in eastern North Carolina this year, we developed a project access program where our students went out in smaller groups to the various high schools in the county and talked about what it was to be a PA and let the the high school students do various activities that were related to medicine, some fun skill based activities that that we could show them, you know, some various things that pas are able to do, we do a mock mass casualty event every summer that really initially was was faculty driven, but has become very much student driven, which is amazing. It coincides with our emergency medicine course. But it really is an opportunity for the students to not only practice their skills in the event of a mass casualty event, but it also we are able to bring in like the local fire stations and EMS groups. And we actually, I think almost every year, we've had a helicopter come from either UNC or Duke. So it's really great because the community health care providers are also able to kind of hone their skills and work with the students as well. So we've had, I think, a mock plane crash, we've had a mock mass shooting, we've had, I think, a mock, I don't know if it was a hurricane or tornado sort of weather related events. So every year they sort of change up with the mass casualty event is and then we have incoming students and other current students serve as patients and we do mu Lodge and you know, we've got all sorts of crazy things we do to make it look very realistic for the students that are participating in the in the event. So it's that is really amazing as well. And I love how it also helps train the local. You know, like I said, fire and EMS, folks, the news over the last couple of years, and everything has been going on and all these disaster areas. Just show yeah, that really is so yes, yes, exactly. And then aside just from those events, there's lots of other events that the students have the opportunity to participate in from a service standpoint. And we actually require that they that each student has 25 hours of community service during their didactic year, most have a lot more than that. But a 25 hour minimum is required actually to move on to clinical year. So we definitely take it very seriously. And then just this year, we implemented as part of our senior seminar course in the clinical year, at the end of the program, the students actually write a reflection on how they intend to incorporate faith learning and service into their clinical practice as a PA, so it sort of makes them kind of think full circle what they plan to take from the program with them into their clinical practice. Fantastic. Wow, it made us happy reading those. Yes, for sure. I bet. I bet as an educator, it kind of fills your soul a little bit of fire going down. Yes, absolutely. You're like, wow, they really did take a lot from us.

Unknown Speaker  33:32  
I think when I when I went into academics full time, the thing I missed the most about patient care was that kind of instant gratification of coming up with a diagnosis or saving a life. But I think those are the kind of ways that in like student advising and other things that we can do students that keeps that fire going in a different way. Yeah, absolutely. Just just reading those reflections really made my heart happy as we're getting ready to graduate that class. So Laurie, you you obviously have a full plate with the school, but you've also chosen to get involved in nationally and locally. It sounds like you've been involved with North Carolina Academy, but also you currently serve as the chair of PAs leadership mission advancement commission. Yeah. So do you want to talk a little bit about your interest in leadership and what led to that and kind of what you're doing with that? Yeah, absolutely. So just to take a step back my my initial involvement with pa EA, I remember attending my first forum, and I think it was I don't know that it was the first fall that I started as faculty but I think it was the following year. I just remember going to the forum and coming back and thinking oh my gosh, those are my people like they I just felt like my my bucket was filled with spending time with other pa educators who I could share ideas with and make friends with and have somebody to call on when I had a question. It just it was something that I think I had initially been lacking and didn't realize

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
How much I needed that camaraderie. And so a few years later, I tried to think of the order of things. But I believe first, I applied to be a facilitator for the clinical coordinators workshop. And so I was able to do that starting in the fall of 2015. And actually still, I still serve as facilitator for those workshops to this day. That is one of my most favorite activities that I do. I really enjoy faculty development and helping mentor and educate future and current clinical educators. I just I think it's such a great, the workshops that PAA puts on are so helpful, and I always recommend them to anyone that I can, because I think they're such a great resource. And then I also around that same time, I became a member of the Committee on clinical education, which actually does not exist any longer. But I absolutely loved the year or two that I served on that committee before the volunteer structure was changed at FPA. So I was involved in writing some articles, I'm trying to think what all we did, that that committee had also just recently developed, like the preceptor handbook, and the clinical educator handbook, right before I joined, we made one pagers for preceptors, that are great little resources that you can print off, they're really nice looking, print them in color, take them with you on site visits, and give them as a quick preceptor development to your clinical sites. So just really enjoyed working with other clinical educators. And again, kind of sharing ideas and just having a network of folks that I felt like I could reach out to and collaborate with and ask questions. And then after that committee, or after the volunteer structure changed, at PAA, I didn't serve in a volunteer position for a few years while my children were young, but I believe it was in early 2020, or actually would have been the end of 2019 is when I applied for a position on the leadership Mac. And that's when I had a wonderful mentor who was leading the leadership, Mac, Mr. Kevin himself, and, and so I joined in January, three months before COVID hits, I felt like we had just had a meeting or two. And we you know, we're just starting to get kind of get going on some new ideas and COVID hit and everybody's focus obviously kind of scattered from being centralized to more focused on survival of our programs at that time. And so I think was it at the end of that year, Kevin, that, yeah, that you had changed positions. And so you, you were going to step away from the L Mac. And so I decided, you know, I again, I love my work with pa EA and and so I decided to apply for the chair position. And and I was chosen to be the chair starting in January of 2021. So I've been the chair now for about a year and a half this current year, we had about half of the committee that had timed out I guess is the right word, and had fulfilled their their time with the L Mac. And so we had several new members join us this past January we've gotten we've got a great group of folks, a great group of PA educators. And so we're currently working on some really exciting leadership focused leadership related ideas to present to the board.

Unknown Speaker  38:20  
One is in the form of sharing stories of everyday leaders. One is hopefully a leadership toolkit for programs to help them incorporate more leadership tools into their programs for their students. So similar to the D and I toolkit, we'd like to kind of follow that similar pattern, and actually have a product that programs can take and use the components that make sense for their program to bring more leadership to their students, and leadership training to their students. And then the final one is is looking at the possibility of a leadership fellowship for PA educators.

Unknown Speaker  38:58  
Yes, so we've got three pretty pretty big projects rolling, but you know, all will be kind of ongoing over the next few years. I anticipate so really excited for those things. Yes, yeah, you totally got me excited. I think the the fellowship idea, like there's so many things you could do to equip people in PA education, they could spend time doing advocacy training, you know, the board when I was on the board, we have lots of advocacy training. And I think it's super helpful not only for the work on the board, but when you when you understand how to advocate to people, and how to tell a story and how to market which your your messaging is, it can benefit you not only professionally but also personally to Yes.

Unknown Speaker  39:43  
The dei work, you know, there's a lot of competencies of dei that could be incorporated into that. So that's really exciting. I love Yes, yeah, we're really, really excited for these projects, and I'm excited to see them kind of come to fruition. So yeah, congrats. The other one here. You

Unknown Speaker  40:00  
Are the student leadership work? Right? I love that too. I think so often students who go to PA school don't understand what their role is, as a leader in the community. And we have many, many, many students are reluctant leaders there. And that's okay. We don't all have to be up in front of the podium. But the truth is, they're going to be looked at as a leader in our community by virtue of their white coat in their training. So that's really great. Yeah, absolutely. And the whole thought with the toolkit is to follow the leadership enhancement framework that the elnec developed a few years ago. So it will talk about leading self leading others and then leading organization or community, so we'll kind of cover cover all three. And if I can put a plug in. If this podcast happens to air before the forum, I'm not sure of the timing, but there will be a workshop that they'll make puts on that we actually are asking for feedback on the components of the toolkit. So we have sort of a framework laid out, and we're going to have a workshop on Friday afternoon of the forum.

Unknown Speaker  41:05  
I always like to give our guests one last opportunity. If there's anything else you're hoping to share with the audience before we go. Yes, the other thing I wanted to mention about Campbell one, a couple of things that I think make us a really unique program. One is that we have two dual degrees that we offer. So we offer three year programs that combine our PA Physician Assistant degree, as well as a Master's of Science in Public Health. And so folks that are accepted into the dual program do the first year as an MSPH student, and then they roll right into the PA program thereafter and complete that so in three years, they're awarded both masters. And the other one is a combined dual degree with PA and a masters of science and clinical research, which is actually a really cool unique combination. Not offered very, I think there's a handful of programs nationwide that offer that dual degree, we just graduated our our first dual MSCR student in the summer in the class of 2022. And she's going to be doing a surgical fellowship at Duke but definitely has a strong interest in incorporating research into her into her clinical practice as well. So both of those are, I think, unique opportunities for the right applicant who really has an interest in combining either public health with their pa career or clinical research with their pa career. The other two things I just wanted to mention as well, we do a lot with bedside ultrasound. So our students receive a lot of better bedside ultrasound, both lecture and hands on lab training, we're fortunate to have ultrasound machines that we share with the medical school. And so our students are able to learn bedside ultrasound that is applicable to primary care. And we also have medical Spanish course, which I love. And for a long time it was we allowed students to elect to participate or not. And now we decided that it is part of the curriculum and all students go through medical Spanish. So yeah, we have a faculty member who is from Puerto Rico and is obviously a native Spanish speaker. And this is his baby. He loves teaching medical Spanish. So I think it's a really great offering. And it's very practical, medical, Spanish, they don't have to have had any Spanish, you know, training or classes beforehand. It really just teaches them what they need to be able to do to be able to communicate with patients at a very basic level and Spanish. So yeah, that is great. Wow, very exciting stuff. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. And Campbell University's PA school story. There's such exciting things going on both for you professionally and for the school as well. And I know our audience will be very excited to learn more about your school, and we really do appreciate your time. Yeah, thank you so much, Kevin, I have really enjoyed talking with you. And I get really excited to share about Campbell, I just I think it's so important for applicants to remember that every PA program is different and making sure that they find the one that fits them best is most important because it is as you know, a very intense couple of years of PA training. And so I think it's really important for applicants to make sure that they are that they find the right fit. And if Campbell is the right fit for them, we would love to have them. We'd like to thank our guests Miss Laura Kirschner for sharing your time and insights about her path to becoming a PA about Campbell University and about her service at the state and national level. Her contributions at the professional level have been extraordinary. Tune in next week as we speak with Dr. Jeremy Walsh, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Provost for Academic strategy at the University of Lynchburg. We talked with Dr. Walsh about his PA program and about his postdoctoral program that he developed to allow pas to get a doctor of medical science degree.

Unknown Speaker  44:54  
Until next time, we wish you success with whatever path you're watching in life. And thank you for joining us

Unknown Speaker  45:02  
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 on this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the University of Arizona.

Transcribed by

Laura GerstnerProfile Photo

Laura Gerstner

Associate Program Director, Chair of Admissions Commitee

Laura Gerstner, MHA, MSHS, PA-C

Laura Gerstner is the associate program director at the Campbell University PA program in Buies Creek, North Carolina, where she was the founding director of clinical education in 2010. Laura teaches most of the orthopedics course in the didactic year and serves as the Admissions Committee chair. Her clinical experience is in orthopedic surgery. A 2003 graduate of the George Washington University PA program, Laura then earned her Master of Health Care Administration degree from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill in 2011. She is currently working on her doctor of health science degree through Campbell University. She has served as a facilitator for the PAEA Clinical Coordinators 101 workshop since 2015, and currently serves as the chair of PAEA's Leadership Mission Advancement Commission (MAC).