Research projects allow UKPA Class of 2021 to contribute to their future profession

The UK Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2021 finished their year-long original research projects earlier this spring. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students engaged in virtual, conference-style poster presentations with fellow classmates, faculty, and staff. Master’s’ Research Projects included topics such as interprofessional practice in rural areas, cultural competency training among health care professional, telemedicine practices, and more. 

This experience was the first time many Class of 2021 students participated in formal research. A series of courses in the program provided instruction on research methods, biostatistics, and evidence-based medicine principles. Students then applied this content by working in small groups to complete their own research project.

“The Master’s project is an important addition to our graduate education because it allows us to experience a world our entire careers are based on,” said Class of 2021 student Ashley Frankowski. “As we develop into health professionals, we must have a firm understanding of the entire process surrounding medical research, and what better way to understand each aspect than to fully dive in!”

Fellow student Fallon Smith added, “The Masters Research Project allows students to understand the value of communication, which is not just important in the classroom setting, but also when practicing medicine and providing care to patients. It also allows students to pursue a common purpose as a team while drawing from everyone’s individual strengths. All are essential in the medical field.”

Leslie Woltenberg, PhD, UK PA faculty member and Master’s Research Project course director, emphasized the hard work and dedication demonstrated by students. “These research projects exceeded all expectations. It has been a joy to walk alongside the students during this research journey and they produced incredibly valuable contributions to the medical literature,” she said.

UK PA faculty members serve as mentors to the small groups throughout the year-long process. Elaborating on the presentations, Scott Black, MD, MS, physician assistant studies department chair,  said, “The students asked thoughtful questions, their research methods were well organized, and they were articulate in their presentations. This truly was one of those moments that all of the program faculty and staff could see the quality of the future medical providers we’re developing.”

Class of 2021 student Jonathan Michael offered the following insights to future UK PA students. “You will find no greater sense of accomplishment during your didactic year than finishing your Masters Research Project. You will learn critical skills you can then apply in research and practice, and get a realistic experience of the team-based approach,” he said.

“These projects will have life far beyond the boundaries of this course experience. Research projects have the potential to impact the profession and practice in powerful ways. I am exceedingly proud of our students and what they have accomplished,” Woltenberg said.