July 2007
PAEA Networker

PAEA Embarks on Strategic Thinking Process: Plan Is Finalized

Frank Acevedo, MS, PA-C
Director at Large

In support of the PAEA’s commitment to become a more knowledge-based organization, the Association has spent the greater part of the last half year laying the groundwork for a new process for strategic decision making, embodied in a new strategic plan that will guide us over the next several years. It is my distinct pleasure to report to you on the basic elements of the plan.

A strategic plan in its simplest definition is a tool used by organizations to provide a structure for making decisions about intended future outcomes. It draws upon the resources and talents of the organizational personnel in a way that maximizes their contributions towards achieving the final objectives and goals intended to meet the needs of the organization’s members and identified stakeholders.

As Past President Dawn Morton-Rias reported in the February 2007 Networker, the strategic planning process began in 2006 during a series of informal meetings among various past and present leaders from the Association and partner organizations. The driving force for the strategic planning process was to assist the Association in formulating a future decision-making process that would best capture emerging opportunities for its members and accomplish its core objectives. This process was then formalized and fleshed out during the first half of 2007 at the January and June board retreats, held respectively in Tucson and Denver. A strategic plan emerged from these meetings that links PAEA’s core ideology, values, and purpose to envisioned future trends and potential environments. PAEA’s core purpose is to improve the quality of health care for all people by fostering excellence in PA education. In doing so the Association envisions a future in which PAEA will be a leader in medical education. To achieve this, the strategic plan iterated six specific goals with appended objectives and strategies for meeting them. These goals address leadership, advocacy, faculty development, communication, finance, and research. I’d like to address these in turn.

The Association’s leadership goal is clearly articulated. It envisions the Association as providing recognized leadership in medical education. Its leadership position would be established by working with key organizations that support the Association’s agenda. Relationships with these organizations would be nurtured through appropriate funding, member representation, and branding of our organization and the ideals for which it stands. To facilitate reaching this goal the Association needs to further develop a climate of transparency in all of these functions through refined policies and procedures as well as to orient its members and board regarding their roles in policy development. Achieving this lofty goal is not impossible; some will argue that we have been leaders in medical education for years, as has been evident in the adoption of many of our pioneering efforts by medical schools, as well as allied health programs.

Leadership without advocacy cannot exist. Recognizing this, the strategic plan proposes that the Association further develop its role as the expert on all issues dealing with PA education through advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels. This will require enhanced communication to members about governmental issues facing PA education, monitoring of legislative agendas, initiating debate and position papers on emerging medical education issues, and the development of a government relations priority agenda. The latter will require retooling of our Federal Affairs Council to better meet this need. Other advocacy initiatives will involve strengthening PAEA’s current key alliances and developing new partnerships with other medical education entities. Many individual PA educators have been effective advocates over the years, but working as an organization, and in partnership with other organizations, we can be even more effective advocates for change and for the issues that affect us all.

Faculty Development
At the very heart of the Association are its members and their specific needs for resources to help them become the best PA educators they can be. In producing the strategic plan, the board focused on the fact that the members deserve the very best support PAEA can offer. In order to meet this obligation, the plan not only calls for continued and enhanced faculty development projects, but also for expanded member services. Basic improvements to our Web site are planned so as to facilitate delivery of some membership communications and online resources. We hope to develop a mentoring program that will link senior faculty with new or junior faculty in order to facilitate the transition to academia and the tenure process. It is further envisioned that the Association will not only create and better deliver increased faculty development opportunities, but that these be extended to include preceptors because of their integral role in PA programs. Faculty development has long been a cornerstone of what the Association does, and the strategic plan has not lost sight of this important benefit.

The value of communication cannot be overstated. Director at Large Kirsten Thomsen wrote in the May issue of the Networker about the importance of communication in everything we do. The strategic plan addresses communication directly by envisioning it as an “effective and seamless” process. Implementing this vision will require a greatly enhanced Web site, which will not only be a repository of information for members, but also facilitate communication among members and all stakeholders. Communication as identified in the strategic plan not only enhances information dissemination and retrieval, but also works to foster a sense of community between members.

Finance may be a dirty word to some people, but without good financial planning skills, neither organizations nor their plans will succeed. PAEA Treasurer Charles Brakhage outlined the Association’s finances in the April 2007 Networker. Though we are in a very good financial position, we must plan for the increased services to be provided as well as for the financing of initiatives that will take us to the next level. PAEA’s long-term investment strategies have been retooled, financial oversight has continued, transition costs came in under budget, and future financial needs are being assessed. Perhaps most pressing to the Association is a need for revenue that is not dues oriented.

The last goal of the strategic plan deals with establishing a research agenda for the Association that will allow PAEA to be the primary source for information about PA education. In the January 2007 Networker, PAEA President Anita Glicken clearly outlined her vision for our becoming a “knowledge-based association.” This vision has been further refined by the Data and Research Workgroup, which met in Denver last month to continue its work of reviewing our current data sets and considering how these can be refined and expanded. The group’s work is a lynchpin of our strategic plan. The Association has also committed resources to research by hiring Mei Liang as the assistant director for data and research. Mei’s hiring gives us the expertise in house to deal with collection, analysis, and dissemination of data. It is envisioned that PAEA will be the repository for all data related to PA education, which will allow researchers to access the most comprehensive data when conducting their research. Better data will lead to better research and better outcomes.

The Association has developed an ambitious strategic plan and laid important groundwork for a new strategic culture for PAEA. Only through the concerted efforts of all PAEA members will we succeed in achieving all of our goals. I ask that everyone keep in mind that the plan is just that — a plan. It provides us with a roadmap to achieve certain goals but at the same time allows us the flexibility to respond to the ever changing landscape of medical education. All we need to do now is what we do best: roll up our sleeves, think innovatively, and problem-solve. These actions have always been strengths of our Association and will continue to make us leaders in medical education.