April 2006
PAEA Networker

PA Programs Encouraged to Join Pi Alpha

By George Bottomley, DVM, PA-C
Chair, Pi Alpha Committee

Pi Alpha, the PAEA National Honor Society for Physician Assistants, is well into its second year and already has 50 chapters established at PA Programs all over the country. Nearly 300 students, faculty, alumni, and honorary members have been inducted into these chapters. Have you considered starting a chapter at your program?

We established a Pi Alpha chapter because it is not strictly based on academic performance like Alpha Eta or Who’s Who. It recognizes the well rounded student who is committed to serving the community and the program.

— Patrick Auth, PhD, PA-C
Director, Drexel University Hahnemann PA Program

Created by a membership motion at the 2003 APAP Education Forum in Phoenix, Pi Alpha is the first national honor society for physician assistants. As its bylaws state, the society was created for “the recognition and promotion of significant academic achievement, leadership, research, and community/professional service; and the encouragement of a high standard of character and conduct among both physician assistant students and graduates.”

Student membership in Pi Alpha is an honor bestowed on a graduating student in recognition not only of scholastic achievement (the minimum professional grade point average is 3.5 on a 4.0 scale) but also demonstrated excellence in research, publishing, community professional service, or leadership activities. The total number of student members cannot exceed 15 percent of the graduating class.

Each student receives the cord and pin along with a blue carnation as part of the presentation … They are then able to wear the cord and pin the next day at graduation.

— Rick Muma, PhD, PA-C, Director, Wichita State University PA Program.

The WSU program inducts its students into Pi Alpha the day before graduation.

Membership in Pi Alpha is not limited to PA students. There are two additional categories of official Pi Alpha membership: alumni/faculty and honorary. Membership for PA program alumni and full-time faculty provides programs a means to recognize and honor those who have distinguished themselves in their professional careers.

PA program participation in Pi Alpha is voluntary, and the society bylaws were intentionally written so that each individual PA program could integrate this special recognition into its unique program philosophy. As long as the spirit of the bylaws is honored, a PA program may weave the purpose of its Pi Alpha chapter into the fabric of its specific mission. The program director and faculty of each PA program that has started a chapter determine who is eligible for membership. A list of nominees should be submitted to the advisory committee for aproval at least two months prior to the chapter's date of graduation. All inductees receive an individually numbered certificate, honor cord and pin. Costs for these are covered by a $25 fee per inductee paid by the program. These costs are to be absorbed by the chapter for all student inductees, resulting in no cost to the student inductee.

An excellent reason to apply for a charter now is that the Pi Alpha Advisory Committee is planning the first annual Pi Alpha reception, to be held on Sunday, May 28, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the 2006 PAEA Semiannual Meeting in San Francisco. Justine Strand, division head of the Duke University PA Program and AAPA’s 2005 Outstanding PA of the Year, will be guest speaker. All Pi Alpha inductees, all faculty from any program with a Pi Alpha chapter, and any program member interested in starting a chapter are invited to attend.

If you have already established a Pi Alpha chapter at your PA program, thank you and congratulations! If you haven’t, I invite you to consider the possibility. Bring the idea to a faculty meeting and discuss how you might use this honor society to recognize deserving students, faculty, alumni, or others.

To apply for a charter, a program must send a completed and signed application, along with a $200 application fee, to the Pi Alpha Advisory Committee for approval. More information and membership details may be accessed at the Pi Alpha home page. Or contact any Pi Alpha Advisory Committee member with questions. Committee members are George Bottomley, Rick Muma, and Jodi Cahalan.

Students love it. [Alumni] appreciate the fact that the program goes back to recognize them.

— Marianne Vail, MS, PA-C
Director, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences PA Program