The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at Keck Medicine of USC has won a prestigious award from the national Physician Assistant Education Association.

The Excellence Through Diversity Award was presented Nov. 13 during the organization’s Education Forum held in Washington, DC. In addition to the USC winners, the organization recognized nine individuals who were chosen by PAEA’s Awards Committee.

In announcing the honor, the PAEA noted that “USC has been dedicated to recruiting, educating, and graduating a diverse group of students for more than 40 years. The program’s current Recruitment Pipeline Program is making a significant impact in the local community by exposing diverse students to careers in health care.”

USC representatives who were on hand to accept the award included Maria Maldonado, PA-C, MPAP, MPH, the faculty member who is primarily responsible for  the outreach done by the Pipeline Program. The program’s next event is scheduled for Dec. 12, where the focus will be on physical therapy.

Since its inception in 1972, the USC PA program has placed a strong emphasis on recruiting, educating and graduating a diverse group of students. The program employs a diverse group of faculty and staff, with 76 percent coming from minority groups. In addition, 50 percent of the class of 2018 is from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In 2011, the USC PA program placed renewed focus on the importance of a diverse workforce by concentrating on its pipeline of underrepresented and disadvantaged students. In 2014, the program was awarded a state-funded special program grant of $150,000 to help in these efforts, which allowed them to hire a part-time coordinator who develops partnerships with academic institutions, veterans organizations, and community-based centers.

In his nomination letter, Les Howard, PA, wrote, “The USC PA Recruitment Pipeline Program is making a significant impact in the Central Valley and Southern California by exposing diverse students to possible careers in health care and mentoring.”

Kevin Lohenry, PhD, PA-C, the USC PA program director said, “I believe this program will significantly contribute to the diversity of the profession, but our time has only just begun.”

Established in 1972, PAEA is the only national organization in the United States representing PA educational programs. Its mission is to pursue excellence, foster faculty development, advance the body of knowledge that defines quality education and patient-centered care, and promote diversity in all aspects of PA education.