First-Year PA Online Student Selected to Join PAEA’s Future Educator Development Committee

Mary Bradley, a first-year Yale Physician Assistant (PA) Online student, says she had “a pretty diverse career path” from high school science educator to PA student, with an unexpected detour into small business along the way.

Bradley’s strong background in education likely played a significant role in her selection to serve on the Physician Assistant Education Association’s (PAEA) PA Future Educator Development Steering Committee (FEDSC).

This committee, according to the PAEA, seeks to “serve as the voice of PA students and early career PAs and work to bridge resources to develop diverse and inclusive clinician-to-preceptor and educator pipelines.”

Bridging the Student-Educator Gap

The FEDSC has seven members: six early career PA educators and one current student. Any PA student located in the United States and in good academic standing is eligible to apply for the student opening, which carries a two-year term. Bradley was selected based on a written application and interview process.

While Bradley is the only student on the FEDSC, and only one of two students to serve in any PAEA position, she is not the only Yale PA Online committee member. Yale PA Online faculty member Stephanie Neary, MPA, MMSc, PA-C, began serving on the committee in 2014, when it was called the Student Advisory Task Force. Neary told the Yale PA Online class about the opportunity, which is how Bradley learned about it.

Neary said that the FEDSC tries to bridge the gap between being a student and being an educator by “delivering very specific content and creating opportunities that allow students who are interested in education to develop their skills very early in their career—while still students.”

“Our hope is that these students will go on to become PA educators, whether it be full time, part  time, adjunct or as a preceptor in clinics,” she said. “We are trying to plant that seed very early on and help students foster the necessary skills and find mentors to help them best pursue their career interests.” 

One example is the FEDSC’s Future Educator Fellowship—a yearlong fellowship for 15 PA students designed to explore foundations in teaching, expose students to the current educational environment, and expand professional development and leadership opportunities.
Bradley was excited to hear about the FEDSC opportunity.

“It seemed like a great fit for me,” she said. “Not only would I be able to serve as the ‘student voice’ for the group, but I could also contribute with a perspective as an educator. I was thrilled to find out I was selected.”

Preparing New Educators for Success

A pre-med major in college, Bradley enrolled in the University of Notre Dame’s two-year Master of Education service program. This program sends students to teach full time at under-resourced schools across the country and fulfill their course work online during the academic year and on campus during the summer.

Bradley was assigned to teach chemistry and biology at San Juan Diego High School in Austin, Texas. She enjoyed the experience so much that she stayed on to teach at the school for three more years after earning her master’s degree. Bradley thrived in the role; she often was asked to mentor other teachers regarding curriculum, assessments, teaching methods and classroom management. She was named chair of the science department after her first year of teaching.

Bradley looks forward to contributing to the FEDSC since she knows how challenging the transition to the classroom can be for new teachers.

“You can be the best in your field, but that doesn’t always translate to success in the classroom,” she said. “From writing objectives and aligning curriculum to creating assessments or simply establishing expectations for students, I think it is important to prepare new educators with information and resources so they feel well-equipped to transition from the clinic to the classroom. This will help set them—and their students—up for success.”

Educator and Entrepreneur

Neary attests that Bradley’s value to the committee was evident at its annual meeting in early June in Washington, D.C.

“Bradley had an impressive background in education before becoming a PA student,” Neary said. “This was apparent with her ability to jump right into the conversation and offer innovative solutions to the problems being discussed. She is passionate about the work she is doing and is exactly what we were looking for to fill the student seat on the committee.” 

Bradley’s detour from education and medicine stemmed from a screen printing hobby she shared with her sister Lizzi. They started by making gifts for their family, and the hobby grew to selling items on Etsy. Eventually, the sisters launched a small business called Little Minnow, which sells handmade women’s accessories online and to shops across the country. The company’s success eventually resulted in Bradley leaving teaching to manage the business full time, and she put her thoughts of medicine on the backburner.

After six years, Little Minnow was able to operate self-sufficiently, enabling Bradley to refocus on her interest in the medical field, and she began looking at options for PA programs. By this time, however, she was settled in Austin, with her fiance and small business located in the city. 

The fact that Austin did not have a PA school was an obstacle, so when she heard that Yale was launching its new online program, it sounded like the perfect fit.

“Being a former teacher, I compared programs with respect to their curriculum and instructional methods. I wanted a program that was innovative: making use of technology, synthesizing curriculum by specialty area, and emphasizing problem-based learning,” she said. “Yale PA Online offered all of this with the added benefit of getting to stay in my Austin community.”

While Bradley has a strong interest in education and working as an instructor in the future, she plans to focus on clinical practice after graduation.

“I love teaching in any capacity, so I would happily take on the role of preceptor and am definitely interested in a role as faculty,” she said. “Whether full time or part time will depend on the situation.”

Bradley is just seven months into the 28-month PA Online Program and two months into her 24-month FEDSC role, but Neary is already “looking forward to seeing what Bradley will accomplish in her career as a PA and a PA educator.”

Citation for this content: Yale School of Medicine Physician Assistant Online Program