- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2021) — Virginia L. Valentin, DrPh, PA-C, began her career in healthcare when she was hired as a nurse’s assistant at 16.
Now, after stints as a registered nurse, physician assistant, assistant and associate professor, and division chief, she has been named chair and director of the Physician Assistant Studies department in the University of Kentucky’s College of Health Sciences.
With more than 20 years of experience in healthcare and academia — along with a previous role as an Assistant Professor in UK’s Physician Assistant Studies Program — Valentin is uniquely qualified to lead PAS into an exciting future. She currently serves as an Associate Professor and Chief of the Division of Physician Assistant Studies in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, one of the top-ranked programs in the country.
“It is going to be wonderful to come back to our Kentucky home, and particularly my home at UK in the College of Health Sciences,” Valentin said. “When you talk about quality of life, and where you want to raise a family, it doesn’t get any better than Lexington. We still have a community there. And when you think about the future of healthcare in the state, I believe in the impact the Physician Assistant Studies Department can make.”
Originally from Oregon, Valentin earned her Doctorate of Public Health in Epidemiology from UK in 2017, with a thesis entitled, “Malignant Melanoma: Effect of social and individual variables on stage of disease and treatment provided in Kentucky.”
She says she wants to increase space and opportunity for the Physician Assistant Department, while bringing in diverse students who want to help the region.
“We have to focus on where we think PAs are going and where education is going, and so, for me, that’s postgraduate training,” Valentin said. “Then, it’s focusing on developing a doctoral program, because I believe that that’s where PA is going. I want the University of Kentucky to be seen as a program that students from around the country want to go to.”
“We have such a need for rural health in the United States, not just in Kentucky, right?” she continued. “Here, you can come to the University of Kentucky, where you can actually train in rural, clinical rotations and learn from this unique population.”
And one of the major goals of the program is to increase access to healthcare for all Kentuckians through the training of PAs, she said.
“We are very fortunate that Dr. Valentin has decided to come home,” said Scott Lephart, PhD and Dean of the College of Health Sciences. “We are confident that her leadership — partly shaped by her previous position in the Physician Assistant Studies Department — will position us to enjoy an exciting future as we continue to care for the people of the Commonwealth and beyond.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.