- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
By Sara Pisoni
Teaching was never really in the plan for Ashley Sparks.
That said, it would also be accurate to express that she never really thought she’d be teaching for her alma mater, either.
But that’s exactly what has happened.
Sparks, MSPAS, PA-C, is a new lecturer in the UK Department of Physician Assistant Studies — and she holds the unique distinction of teaching in the program she graduated from.
A London, Ky., native, Sparks grew up with interest in the medical field and attended Eastern Kentucky for her undergraduate experience, earning degrees in Medical Assisting and Medical Practice Management.
Prior to joining the UK faculty, Sparks practiced family medicine and established a diabetes management program at a private practice in Lexington. Prior to becoming a PA, she worked as a CMA (AAMA) and a clinical supervisor in the same private practice and assisted in achieving the patient-centered medical home recognition. Her experience brings a unique perspective of patient care and medical practice management.
“The decision to attend UK was based on the program’s reputation and legacy,” she said. As the longest standing program in Kentucky, with over 1,600 graduates since 1974, she felt confident UK was the best place to be.
But her interest in teaching did not come until during her clinical year in the program, when she was offered the chance for an academic rotation.
Working alongside PA Assistant Professor Leslie Woltenberg, PhD, MSEd, Sparks was able to rebuild one of the program’s courses — while also completing her pediatrics rotation at the time. This is where she realized teaching was her future. She graduated in 2018.
“The best things about the UKPA environment are the comradery amongst the faculty, the dedication to making this program better for their students, and their love for teaching and supporting the next generation of PAs,” she said. “It was all so genuine.”
She is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the American Society of Endocrine Physician Assistants, and the Kentucky Academy of Physician Assistants (KAPA).
Professor Sparks teaches primarily within the didactic portion of the UK curriculum. She is passionate about patient-centered care and has a clinical interest in endocrinology.
Being a faculty member allows for the unique opportunity to reach both students and patients, and she said one of the best things is seeing students succeed as providers.
“As both a student and faculty member, the support in this program is what truly makes it so special,” she said. “PA programs across the country provide education and clinical experiences to prepare you for the field, but I doubt any program has this much heart.”