Lena Ward, PA-C, is inspired by a sense of community. Regardless of whether she’s building, empowering or supporting physician assistant students, patients, alumni or the community at large, her focus is on making sure people see others who look like them wherever they are.
One of the youngest and one of a handful of Black students in her cohort, Ward graduated from CNHP’s Physician Assistant (PA) program in 2019 having completed the Health Science/PA accelerated program. She shared that she struggled to fit in. “It’s the second time I realized I'm the only or one of the very few Black students in the room or who's meeting academic expectations,” she said. Ward believed the cohort started out with ten Black students and only four graduated in our class. "It felt like imposter syndrome. I didn’t want anyone else to feel like that, so when Megan Schneider, MMS, [assistant clinical professor] asked if we should start an affinity group for PA students of color, it resonated with me.” Ward cofounded this new community—the Physician Assistant Minority Alliance (PAMA).
“Our mission is to improve academic success, decrease attrition rates and provide support to minority students throughout their didactic and clinical years,” Ward articulated. Designed to provide mentorship, academic resources and networking opportunities, PAMA hopes to help students and alumni be more successful and possibly improve historic higher dropout rates and delayed graduations within the PA profession and within Drexel’s program. “We need more representation in healthcare and role models in our local communities,” she remarked.
She’s hoping that PAMA will make it easier for students to ask for help. “We easily come together socially, but when we are struggling with academics or our well-being, we may not want anyone to know we aren’t doing well. So, let’s make this a community that plays to each other’s strengths,” expressed Ward. She sees her job, especially as the newest clinical instructor in CNHP’s PA program, as empowering students and creating change. “There are people who don’t have anyone to advocate for them. I see what some have and what others don’t. I want to at least decrease this gap,” Ward concluded.