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University of Utah PA Wins Award for Humanitarian Work

Utah Physician Assistant Honored for Bringing Medical Care to Disadvantaged Communities in Ghana

AAPA to recognize Nadia Miniclier Cobb, PA-C, as Humanitarian PA of the Year

ALEXANDRIA— While assisting a team of public health students in a rural area of southern Ghana, Nadia Miniclier Cobb, MS, PA-C, saw hundreds of patients pouring in and out of a single health clinic. She immediately recognized an opportunity to enhance the clinical education available to the physician assistants (PAs) of the African nation.

Nadia Miniclier Cobb

With a high rate of disease, Ghana has long struggled to provide sufficient access to healthcare. To help improve the skills of local medical providers, Cobb led the way in establishing a partnership between the University of Utah PA program and the College of Health, Kintampo (CoHK), home to Ghana's largest training program for PAs. She helped create a continuing medical education (CME) program that offered a structured experience and engaging curriculum.

On May 28, the American Academy of Physician Assistants will honor Cobb with its PAragon Award for Humanitarian PA of the Year at AAPA's annual Conference in Boston. The award recognizes a PA who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to human rights and also exemplifies the PA profession's philosophy of providing accessible and quality healthcare on a domestic or international level.

"It is incredibly beneficial for these PAs, most of whom see a very high volume of patients each and every day of the week, to learn new best practices, make connections with their fellow practitioners and have the opportunity to share their own knowledge and experiences," said Cobb, an assistant professor and director of the University of Utah's Office for the Promotion of Global Healthcare Equity.

Since the CME program began eight years ago, more than 2,600 Ghanaian PAs have taken its courses. As part of the program, in 2012 a team from the University of Utah and students from CoHK provided free treatment in two rural areas of Ghana previously underserved by medical professionals. Students provided care to an average of 4,500 patients, who received neurological and dermatological evaluations, dental care, immunizations, family planning, well child checks and deworming for children.

"It has to be about the country and what they need, who they are and what they serve," said Cobb, who was born in Kenya and lived throughout Africa while her father worked as an Associated Press reporter.

Cobb's work has also caught the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO); she was invited to join a WHO working group to assess the medical education needs of PAs around the globe.

PAs are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories, with the exception of Puerto Rico. PAs are educated similarly to physicians and share diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning and treatments. PAs can prescribe medication, perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes, among many other medical services.

AAPA's annual conference will be held May 24-28 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Learn more about the 2014 PAragon Award winners at