How to Run a Successful Pre-Physician Assistant Organization Reply

How to Run a Successful Pre-Physician Assistant Organization

By Taylor Jensen
President 2012-2014
Association of Pre-Physician Assistants
University of Central Florida

I have had the honor of serving as President of the Association of Pre-Physician Assistants (APPA) at the University of Central Florida since April 2012. In just one year, we have doubled in size and currently have over one hundred due-paying members. This significant growth is secondary to hard work and dedication among our Executive Board members. It wasn’t an easy task, but together we accomplished our goals in gaining recognition on campus and expanding our organization.

appaPhysician Assistant programs prefer applicants who are confident in their decision to become a Physician Assistant. They are more likely to accept an individual who has shown sincere dedication to the profession. Students who are exposed to the field will gain a thorough understanding of their future profession and all that it entails. Your Pre-Physician Assistant organization can give members valuable exposure and experience before they begin the application process.

Getting Started

If you do not yet have a Pre-Physician Assistant organization on campus, start one. Just follow these steps.

1. Begin by contacting the Office of Student Involvement at your campus. They will provide you with all of the information necessary to form a new organization. This includes organization proposal and approval information.

2. All student organizations should formulate a Constitution which includes the organization’s name, mission and goals, membership statement, officer eligibility, process for the selection of officers, meeting information, advisor details, finance information and means to approve amendments.

4. Recruit Executive Board Officers! It is crucial to have a set of team members who are dedicated to your mission. Each officer should be assigned a personal email solely for the use of the organization. These emails should be listed on the organization’s website in order to ensure easy and open communication among all members.

5. Reserve a room on campus through the Office of Student Involvement. Plan on holding meetings biweekly, with officer meetings held on off weeks.

Use These Great Resources

Once the organization becomes registered according to the University’s standards, the next step is to promote the club and seek partnerships that will endorse the organization with both promotional and financial needs.

1. Pre-Professional Advising Office
Check to see if your university has a Pre-Professional Advising office. They can advise prospective PA students of the benefits of joining your organization. They additionally are a great resource for applicants regarding their personal statement and are sometimes willing to host Mock Interview Sessions.

2. GRE Preparatory Services
Graduate Records Exam test preparatory companies often partner with student organizations. The Princeton Review currently has a contract with the Association of Pre-Physician Assistants at UCF, providing free printing for promotional materials, discounts on GRE test preparatory classes and even free food for meetings. This relationship has given members the opportunity to take a GRE practice test at no cost! The Princeton Review also helps fund t-shirts and marketing cards that are distributed across campus.

3. Student Government Association
At the University of Central Florida, student organizations can seek “Financial Allocations for Organizations” through SGA. This allocates money for office supplies, events, activities, and speakers. Additionally, be sure to see if your Student Government has a “Conference Registration and Travel Funds” committee. At the University of Central Florida, this committee approves conference and travel allocations for student organizations. The most active members of the Association of Pre-Physician Assistants at UCF get their tuition for the Florida Academy of Physician Assistant Pre-PA Conference paid for. It is a huge benefit to our members!

4. Office Space
Most universities offer campus resources to their registered student organizations. The Association of Pre-Physician Assistants at UCF currently has a cubicle located in the Office of Student Involvement on campus. For a total of ten hours a week, Executive Board officers staff the cubicle to answer any questions prospective or current members may have. This cubicle is designed to provide a personal space to allow open communication between Executive Board officers and the members.

The Seven Keys to Success

1. Be a Team Leader
As a leader of your Pre-PA organization, it is important to recognize you cannot do it alone. You need a dedicated Executive Board to assist in each aspect of the organization’s needs. The Association of Pre-Physician Assistants at UCF currently has ten positions on the Executive Board: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Events Coordinator, Public Relations Director, Historian, Marketing Director, Webmaster, and Education Chair. Each officer is held accountable for their responsibKey-to-Success1ilities and we meet biweekly to discuss what each officer currently working on. The task of running any organization is too much to handle without the help of fellow officers. Being a team player is a necessary characteristic for a Physician Assistant and it is important to develop and uphold this quality within your organization.

2. Develop a Close Relationship with Your State Academy

The Florida Academy of Physician Assistants (FAPA) consists of representatives across the state who are available to assist Pre-Physician Assistant organizations. Many of these FAPA representatives have Pre-Physician Assistant liaisons who work specifically with undergraduate organizations. FAPA often hosts local dinners and occasionally will invite Pre-Physician Assistant students to attend. FAPA also holds an annual Winter Challenge Bowl where Pre-Physician Assistant organizations can watch current PA students compete for their program.

In addition, the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants holds an annual Pre-Physician Assistant Track at their Summer Conference. This conference is one of the most beneficial opportunities for any Pre-PA student. The networking that can be accomplished at this conference is essential for the growth of Pre-Physician Assistant organizations. Last year, students who attended were given current PA-student mentors who are still available to offer insight and answer questions. The agenda for this year’s conference includes valuable advice from current PA students, faculty of various PA programs, and leaders of the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants.

3. Increase Member Involvement
In order to get members to attend meetings they must have some incentive. How are they benefiting from attending general meetings? A standardized point system is a great way to encourage attendance. This system rewards members with points for attending meetings and events. When a member reaches a certain number of points each semester, they become an

“Honorary Member” and are eligible to attend the annual banquet at the end of the spring semester. The Association of Pre-Physician Assistants at UCF awards members for attending meetings, events, and wearing a T-shirt. The table below shows the point distribution for APPA’s members. If a member wears their APPA T-shirt to any event, an additional five points is rewarded.

Type of Event / Points Awarded

  • General Meetings – 5 points
  • Socials – 10 points
  • Volunteer Events – 15 points
  • Educational Events – 10 points

In order to be considered an Honorary Member, a member must attend three events and have at least 120 points per semester. Honorary Members receive an award at the end of the year at the Annual Banquet. This Honorary Reward looks great on PA school applications and provides the members with incentives to get involved!

4. Promote Your Organization on Campus
Any organization has to cultivate new membership to be successful. The Association of Pre-Physician Assistants at UCF actively recruits members during freshmen orientation for this purpose. By participating in tabling events during freshman orientation, an organization can spread their information to a wide variety of students. Organizations should also speak in pre-health undergraduate classes about their organization and meeting details. Many incoming freshman are unfamiliar with the Physician Assistant profession and eager to learn more about the field. Speaking to incoming freshman is one of greatest recruiting methods for any new organization.

5. Workshops for Your Group
Your organization should provide your members with several workshops over the course of the year. Local PAs can be a great resource and some are eager to help with events like leading a basic suture workshop or a casting workshop. It is often possible to get the supplies donated by local companies or Physicians.

Another beneficial workshop is a CASPA workshop. CASPA is the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants, and will become Pre-Physician Assistants’ best friend during their application cycle. You should be able to find a member, PA student or a new graduate PA who has been through the application process to lead the workshop. By providing members with a step-by-step walk through of the application, they will feel more at ease and prepared to tackle the application process.

6. Organized Tours of Regional PA Programs
All Pre-PA students enjoy PA program tours. This additionally gives Executive Board officers opportunities to network with the Admissions Directors while providing members with a closer look to see if they would truly be interested in attending the program. It is sometimes possible to arrange a dinner with current students following the orientation to get a more personal interaction and feel for the program.

7. Medical Mission Trips
Attending a medical mission trip can provide members with priceless hands-on experience that is so critical on their CASPA application. The Village Mountain Mission Project provides reasonable prices for trips of Pre-Physician Assistant students to travel to the Dominican Republic. Not only will members be building their clinical hours, but they will be giving back to underserved populations that are lacking proper medical care.


Hard work and dedication are the building blocks of running a successful Pre-Physician Assistant organization. By understanding the responsibilities of leading an organization and utilizing the resources provided, a solid platform will develop and thrive. Through leadership, networking, and commitment, a Pre-Physician Assistant organization will become a success.

How I Started the prePA Club at NSU Reply


Ben Freed, President NSU prePA Club

To my surprise, unlike other universities around the country and despite NSU’s national recognition for its P.A. Graduate Program, there was no undergraduate P.A. club!

It was an opportunity to lead and make a difference for other aspiring physician assistants. This is how I went about it.
Step One:
I visited the SOURCE office on NSU’s campus and verified that there was no Pre-PA club. I also researched the history of prior attempts to found and create such a club. There were no previous attempts. At that point, I obtained an organization packet and began my journey to launch the club.
Step Two:
I began speaking to other presidents of pre-health organizations around campus to gather information on how they successfully started their clubs. I contacted the following clubs: Pre-Dental, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Med and Pre-SOMA. I gained valuable information from each of these clubs to help me make the Pre-PA club successful.
Step Three:
I began networking to identify other students like myself who were excited about a future P.A. career. My thought was to begin developing an outstanding executive board to help build a terrific club.
Step Four:
I started to network outside of NSU’s undergraduate pathways. I began by contacting Judy Dickman, Head of Admissions at NSU’s P.A. Graduate program. After a long conversation, Judy referred me to another faculty member who understood the various graduate level student organizations. From there, I met Robin Schugar, an assistant professor within the graduate P.A. program. Shortly thereafter, Robin agreed to be my faculty advisor for the club.
Step Five:
Our first interest meeting was held in March 2012 and the rest of the executive board was selected from the best possible candidates who attended the meeting. The executive board was comprised of: Rosa Navarra (vice president), Ana Rehman (treasurer), Lucas Strabeli (secretary), Taylor Harrison (historian) and Michelle Garcia-Calas (public relations). Since the club was created so late in the academic year, we only held a few meetings prior to summer break.
Step Six:
We created the constitution for the club in May 2012 and became an official undergraduate club, having completed all required paperwork, in June 2012. The club is officially listed on orgsync and recruiting will continue through summer and fall 2012 for the upcoming academic year.
Step Seven:
The club may require new student members to join FAPA (Florida Academy of Physician Assistants) as prePA members. This will promote the field of physician assistant and create opportunities for future networking and shadowing.

Start a prePA Club: Basic Steps Reply

1. Identify 4-6 interested individuals

2. Contact Student Activities/Student Life office for information and application to start a new campus organization. Just follow their outline.

3. Hold an organizational meeting.
Elect officers – your application may require certain positions be elected before submitting your application. Other officers can be elected when you get more members and a better idea who the real leaders are.

4. Advisor – Your college or university will have requirements for a faculty or staff advisor.

5. Bylaws – will likely be required. These are the rules that govern your organization. Look online for samples posted by other prePA clubs.

6. Schedule Meetings – advertise
reserve room
minutes – submit to Student Affairs office if required.

7. Register with and post all club information here. That way anyone can quickly read about your meetings and activities. This is a great way to share information with other clubs and prePAs nationally.

Is It Important To Go ToThe Best Possible PA Program? Reply



What do they call PAs who graduate from the weakest PA program in the country?



The same title as those who graduate from the best, most prestigious and possibly the most expensive programs.

I graduated from Baylor College of Medicine which has probably been in the top ten programs in the U.S. since it’s inception in 1972. I believe I got the best

Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

education and training possible and I cherish the experience and the memories.  But had I graduated from a far lesser program I don’t think it would have affected my career in the long run.  Really!

The truth is, when you graduate you will  probably have all the building blocks you need to learn quickly once out in the work place.  If your orthopedic training was weak in school but an orthopedist hired you, by the end of six months you would probably have a very satisfactory level of competency, plus you will continue to learn for the rest of your career.

If you can, sure, go for the gusto and try one of the top 10 programs like  Duke or Baylor but I don’t think it is terribly important as far as the rest of your life is concerned.  Wherever you go, when you graduate you will be a PA-C, after passing the National Certification exam.

For your very first job the reputation of your program could make a difference to some employers, especially if there are several programs in your region and one is known to be the weaker,  but generally I don’t think it’s a huge issue.

More important factors are the quality of your references,  how well you interview, and perhaps how well your personality fits with the practice.

Many PAs find their first job during clinical rotations by working hard and proving themselves to prospective employers. Others earn a quality recommendation to help land that first job.

After your first job the reputation of your program may be even less important.  From that point on most employers will care more about your work history and references than your pedigree.

Debt  Please think long and hard about how much debt you rack up.   I have interviewed many new PAs and PA students who, as prePAs, were not worried about debt because they figured, “I’ll be making good money and I’ll be able to pay it off.”  Most wish they had thought a little longer about those hefty loan payments that drag on for ten years. 

For some of you debt should be a bigger consideration than the reputation of your program.  You might be proud to graduate from  an expensive and prestigious PA program, but as you see a huge portion of your paycheck disappear from your bank account month after month, year after year after year, you and your family may be paying a higher price than was  necessary.


“Whassup?” 1

Do you really know what you are up against?  Right now your goal  is getting into PA school, but if you make it, being a PA student will be one of the biggest challenges of your life.

My days at Baylor College of Medicine were some of the toughest; also some of the best.  As a pre-med major I studied hard for A’s.  As a PA student I studied hard for survival.  But I’m an old sailor and maybe things have changed in PA Land so you need to hear what is happening today;  like  right  now.  

I will be inviting first and second year PA students from all 159 programs to share snippets of what is happening in real-time in their lives.  You know, daily stuff: classes, teachers, tests,  lunch,  fellow students, studying, social life….

There will be new postings from many different parts of the country just about every day. Calling it “Notes from the Field”.   Tune in often and ask questions of the students who post.  One thing that has really impressed me is how much PA students want to help prePAs like you.

They really do.

Inaugural prePA Track at FAPA Summer Symposium! Reply

Applying to PA school in the next twelve months?  Let me suggest what might be the best insurance policy available today to help you reach your goal.

 Participate in the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants(FAPA) Summer Symposium this August.  The Florida Academy has just announced a focused weekend track for prePAs, perhaps the first of its kind.  It was designed especially for you.  How do I know?  I spearheaded the project for FAPA and have been involved in every step of the planning.

Many of the excellent speakers will have from 20-36 years of  experience as practicing PAs, and others will be current PA student leaders who will be able to share their very recent trials, tribulations and success.  Both groups have many pearls to offer you.

If you have prepared well and have a strong GPA what could go wrong?  The interview is the area many worry about.  You will notice that most of Sunday is set aside to hear from a panel of PA students who recently went through the interview process at a dozen or more different programs across the country.  They will be sharing that experience with you.  Cool. In the end there will be role-playing and practice interviews for you to be tested under fire.

When you look at the total cost of your PA education, the time and tuition it will take for you to attend this conference makes great financial sense. You can join FAPA as a  prePA for $150.  Pay prePA conference tuition of $200.  Looking at the non-member conference tuition of $350 you can see that becoming a prePA member of FAPA is basically free if you are planning to attend the conference (It looks good on your resume too, and who doesn’t need that??). 

The Champs
PA Student Challenge Bowl
NOVA SE University, Ft. Myers Campus
2012 FAPA Winter Symposium

Be smart and join one of the biggest and strongest state academies in the US who is clearly looking  to help you, our next generation of PAs and PA leaders.

The FAPA website  has all the conference information with a special section detailing the prePA Workshop.

Hope • to • see •you •there!

Want Some International Medical Experience? Reply


Chris with a fresh “hand” of bananas

Come to the Dominican Republic!

I am working with Village Mountain Mission in the Dominican Republic to send crews of  prePA students to help the poorest of the poor in one of the most beautiful island nations in the Caribbean.  I’m writting this blog on my sailboat sailing north toward the Turks and Caicos Islands.  I can still see the high green mountains of the Dominican Republic off my stern.  My wife  and I stopped by to visit old friends in Luperón and to meet with the Village Mountain Mission “man on the ground”, Chris Percy.

Chris and I talked for hours about how prePAs can help serve the beautiful people of the “DR”, (that’s what most of us who have spent any time there call the Dominican Republic).  The primary focus and mission over the years was to build small homes for the poorest families in small pueblos.

Peter, a fellow sailor, doing some mudding

When I sailed into Luperón in 2006 I met the man locals sometimes call “Boy Scout Billy”, a name earned by  his long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America, his willingness to be of assistance to anyone who needed help and also because one of the most reliable sources of help up to that point had been Scout Troops from the U.S.

While working with Billy on a few houses he discovered I was a PA.  Oh my, was he excited when he heard that!

“I have a dream,” he told me, “to teach some of the women in the pueblos to be the local healers in their villages.  Is there any chance you would help train them?”  He went on to tell me that someone had started teaching a group of women using the book “Where There Are No Doctors” but then had to leave before finishing.


One of the healers showing me a traditional poultice

Over the next three months I finished their training before my wife and I sailed on to continue our circumnavigation of the Caribbean.


Medical students in 2006

That was six years ago.  I decided  to get back in touch with Billy  this year and I was excited hearing the Village Mountain Mission  goals have changed a bit.  They continue to focus on building  houses but The Healers I trained are still at work!  Not only in their own villages but also doing outreach work in other pueblos.  So now there is a medical component to the mission.

What Chris and I came up with is a special opportunity for prePAs like you.  Typically groups of 8-14 come for 7-8  days.


Open-air “Student Union”

It’s a lot of work; sleeping in hammocks and eating local foods can take some getting used to if you are not naturally an adventurous person. But the rewards are forever.

A Service  Opportunity For prePAs

Home Building – Your team would still focus on building or repairing a home, no experience necessary.  If you can lay one concrete block on top of another that’s the only home building skill you need.

Community Service – There is a small hospital in Luperón.  We are working with the administrator to find projects for your group, such as scrubbing and painting the OR or patient rooms.  In turn you will get to observe how a small rural third world hospital works.Image

Public Health

1.   Some groups will get to work with The Healers and go out on immunization and other public health projects.  If you haven’t ever given an injection, no problem, you will learn on the job!

2.   Did you know that simple public health education programs like hand washing and clean water have probably saved more lives than all the drugs ever created?  Your group will develop a public health event for a village.  Skits and puppet shows are a great way to teach not only the kids, but the adults love any entertainment that comes to their village as well.

Local Herbal and Medicinal Treatments – The Healers I trained taught me about some of the natural remedies they have used for generations.  I though you might be interested in learning about this too so Chris and I went to visit an expat American couple who have lived among the country people in the DR for Image20 years, living simple low-key lives relying on their own gardens for nourishing and healing foods.  I asked if they would consider teaching you what they have learned  and they are eager to do so.  You will get to spend an afternoon with this fascinating couple.



Fun – All work and no play is not healthy so groups usually head to the mountains for a guided hike through a system of cascading water falls.  You swim, climb and jump through pools of cool clean mountain water.  The falls are beautiful and you will not forget the experience.

We are getting a late start on our next trip scheduled for July 28 – August 4th.  If you are interested contact me immediately.  

Jack Foard, PA-C


Meanwhile, for more information  check out