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Meet Your Leaders—Part 1: AAPA

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Patrick Killeen, MS, PA-C, may have just taken the reins as President of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), but he is no stranger to leadership roles. His extensive resume includes tenures as President of the Society for PAs in Pediatrics and as the AAPA Liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But for Killeen, one of the significant highlights was serving as President of the Student Academy of AAPA (in 1986-1987): “Without that,” he says, “I don’t think I would have continued in the track that I did.”

As he commences his newest role, Killeen found time to answer a few questions for Clinician Reviews.

CR: What have you learned during your tenure as President-Elect that will shape or inform your presidency?

Killeen: The past year was all about health care reform. Like no other year previously, that was the hot issue. So what I learned is that we have to be very, very organized as a profession, in order to be at the table and not “on the table,” as people say. If you’re not sitting there talking about your profession, then your profession may not be noted. In the past year, in my opinion at least, the Academy has done a great job promoting what the PA profession should be doing within health care reform, without talking about the Democratic or Republican side, but rather in reference to how PAs should practice.

[On a more personal note,] Steve Hanson, the current Immediate Past President, gave me some great advice in reference to looking at the future. It was “Do everything you need to do in the moment, because the big picture is overwhelming.” And it’s really true. When you look at everything you have to do as a profession, oh my gosh, it’s so much work to be done. But if you live in the moment to get done what you need to do right now or be at the table you need to be sitting at today, you’re going to make great progress. That’s probably the best advice he gave me.

CR: What impact do you foresee health care reform having on your profession? How might PA practice change as a result?

Killeen: It’s going to be about primary care. The Obama administration just announced that about $250 million will be going to health care reform in the primary care workforce. And we know that 15%, or about $32 million, of that is going to go to PA education, and that’s going to focus on primary care.

To me, it’s amazing that PAs are already recognized, with other providers such as nurse practitioners, as being primary care providers in a medical home or chronic care management model. Those are things that weren’t acknowledged at the federal level prior to health care reform. For the PA profession, it’s placed us with a great opportunity to make an impact in primary care.

When you talk about throwing 32 million [previously uninsured] people into the primary care pool and looking at where they are getting their care—no longer, hopefully, in emergency rooms—I think PAs, NPs, MDs, and DOs are really going to have to look at their patient mix—and reimbursement has to be appropriate for that patient mix…. So for right now, I think the focus is going to be on looking at increasing the patient load and looking at appropriate reimbursement.

CR: Personally, which initiatives are you most excited about working on during your time in office? What are your own goals for your presidency?

Killeen: For me there are two things, the first being the implementation of health care reform and all the different venues we have to look at. That’s probably our biggest thing, because again, if we’re not at the table, we’re not going to be the people who are able to implement changes.

And the second thing is research on the PA profession. I’m excited about working to develop extensive research on how PAs impact patient care, patient care outcomes, compliance to medications, compliance to smoking cessation and obesity interventions. Those are the types of things that we really need to look at. The PA profession has some of that information. But if you were to ask, “Is there one study that tells everything you need to know, or one great study that’s kind of the blueprint [for the profession]?” that would be a hard one to pick. I think this research agenda will allow the profession to really target some areas of clinical expertise, in addition to how they affect patient outcomes.

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