COVID Collaborations: A Physician Assistant Program and Health Department Partnership.
ABSTRACT: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the displacement of clinical-phase medical learners across the country. Physician assistant (PA) and other health professions programs were challenged to innovate and offer alternate learning experiences that would meet students' needs as future health care professionals. At the same time, local and state health departments were faced with quickly increasing their capacity for contact tracing and case investigation in response to the growing number of COVID-19 infections. Through a collaborative partnership based on the needs of the local health department and clinical-phase PA students, the Duke PA program developed an elective in which students served as contact tracers and case investigators. PA students provided over 1500 hours of contact tracing and case investigation support to the local health department. Qualitative review showed students gained a greater appreciation of the impact of social determinants of health, saw first-hand how the pandemic disproportionately affected communities of color, and increased their knowledge about the role of public health. The partnership between the PA program and the health department was mutually beneficial and established a foundation for future collaborative experiences that support both the community and the needs of health professions' learners.
Jones, Q; Blazar, M; Blackley, T; Lyn, MJ; Johnson, FS
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