Before Chris Gillette, PhD, arrived at the Wake Forest PA program in 2018, the faculty here had produced only six research manuscripts that were submitted and peer reviewed. In 2022 alone, the department produced 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts, mostly original research.
“We have continually increased our output every year,” said Chris, who serves as the Assistant Director of Research and Scholarship. “We’ve gone from not being known for producing a lot of original research, to being the PA program that produces the most research in the country.”
That dramatic increase is due to the work of Chris, Sonia Crandall, PhD, MS '03, and the group in the Research and Scholarship Responsibility Center. This growth also helped Chris to become the first of three faculty to earn the inaugural Research Educator Award from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Raising the Profile of PAs
The mission of the Research and Scholarship department is to help the faculty and students in the Wake Forest PA program conduct and publish research. Doing so raises their individual academic accomplishments as well as the program’s national profile.
Chris said there are two main ways they accomplish their goal. “Our team works to keep the faculty and students informed about any research funding opportunities,” he explained. “Then we help them any way we can to get their publications out.”
Judging by the recent wins the PA program has achieved, the department’s work is paying off.
Sarah Garvick, MS, MPAS, PA-C '11, Associate Program Director at the Wake Forest PA program, received the Brooks Scholarship medical education research grant. “She was the first PA to receive it,” said Chris. “She got it three years in a row due to her project’s sustained success.”
Wake Forest PA program has also conducted groundbreaking work, studying important topics that impact the medical profession as well as society at large. “We were the first to study how PA students and clinicians from underrepresented groups develop their professional identities,” he continued.
“We are also one of the first to have PA faculty on a grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to look at inappropriate medication use in older patients, and how that impacts development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Those are just a few of the recent research accomplishments Chris and his department have helped Wake Forest PA faculty achieve. But he said the goal is not to rack up numbers for the program, but to raise the profile of PAs in research circles.
“We are developing a network of PA faculty who can conduct research on their own. At the same time, we’re focusing on larger grants that will impact PAs and show the value that they bring to patient care,” he added.
Greater Knowledge for Better Patient Outcomes
Awarded by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, the Research Educator Award is given to Associate Professors (or higher) who excel at “educating others in the realm of research.”
|“Research is really a team effort,” he said. “This shows that our group’s collective efforts to educate our faculty are paying off."|
Chris said receiving the award was a humbling experience, and quickly credited the hard work and dedication of the rest of the team in the Research and Scholarship Responsibility Center. “Research is really a team effort,” he said. “This shows that our group’s collective efforts to educate our faculty are paying off. The department is producing a lot of scholarship that would not be possible without the team.”
Most importantly, Chris said his department’s work is helping to create better PAs, whether they graduate from Wake Forest or anywhere else.
By helping faculty at the Wake Forest PA program produce more research, Chris hopes to add to the body of knowledge available to the medical community. “That knowledge can then be used by other providers to offer better patient care.”
|“We teach our students how to treat patients, but that can change very rapidly. What’s known today is wrong tomorrow.”|
He added that teaching students and faculty about research – both conducting it and reading it – impacts patient care. “We teach our students how to treat patients, but that can change very rapidly. What’s known today is wrong tomorrow,” Chris concluded. “The more they can read the research and separate high-quality evidence from poor-quality evidence, the better patient outcomes will be.”