How to Run a Successful Pre-Physician Assistant Organization
By Taylor Jensen
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.
Physician 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.
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 responsibilities 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.