What Should the American Academy of Physician Associates Focus on in 2025?

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During AAPA 2024, a group of session presenters provide recommendations for the next year's agenda based on trends and development.

As far medical conferences goes, few annual meetings may provide as consistently a diverse agenda of topics as the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA). Of course, keeping up with the constantly-expanding reach of medicine and health care means constantly looking ahead.

Amid the AAPA 2024 Conference & Expo in Houston, TX, HCPLive asked a quartet of expert presenters the following question: “What is a session you would advocate for AAPA to host at its 2025 meeting?” The experts included the following:

  • Janelle Bludorn, PA-C, assistant professor at Duke School of Medicine
  • Kevin Peterson, MD, MPH, professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota and vice president of the American Diabetes Association
  • Danielle O’Laughlin, PA-C, MS, a physician associate in Mayo Clinic’s division of community internal medicine, geriatrics and palliative care
  • Kyle Fortman, PA-C, MBA, director of the Marcus Heart Valve Center at Piedmont Healthcare

Here are some session topics the group proposed for AAPA 2025:

Bludorn: I think that we do need to talk more about environmental impacts at the next AAPA and all future AAPA sessions. Clearly, heat-related illness is going to be one of those that should be included. But I also think we need to look at the effects of things like microplastics on body systems, as well as other chemical contaminants, things like PFAS, forever chemicals like GenX, because those are having really profound effects on people. I live in North Carolina; we are one of the states that is most affected by that particular chemical, and it does cause a lot of health issues. So, on a whole, I'd really like to see more environmental topics at AAPA next year.

Peterson: I think that next year, there will already be new (incretin) agents out. I think that the pharmacology of obesity and weight management is rapidly changing. I think the impact of that research that's going on is going to change what we do. And it may not all be pharmacology; I think we're seeing a better understanding of how lifestyle and physical activity have this interplay with what we eat, and that we just can't say, 'Well, I'll change my eating pattern and then I'll be okay.' Because it's not that—it's activity. I don't want to say exercise, because sometimes it's not exercise. I'm sure exercise works, too. But it's physical activity, and it's getting up off the sofa. It's behavior, it's the lifestyles that we lead. I think that's going to be an evolving area.

Of course, we're also going to see numbers of different drugs come out. And some will have a wide variety of impacts. So I think that obesity and weight management next year is gonna be just as important as it is this year.

O’Laughlin: I think really having a wide variety of topics is good because our audience is so broad and PAs are doing such amazing things across the spectrum, that I think you really have to cater to everyone's needs. I specifically am always super passionate about women's health. I think we don't talk about infertility enough. I think we don't talk about female sexual dysfunction enough. I think we don't talk about vulvavaginal hygiene enough, or vulvavaginal issues enough. Those happen to be all kind of in my wheelhouse. I think PCOS is important because it's not just OB/GYN or women's health. There's a lot of aspects.

Again, I really love women's health. But I think AAPA always needs to focus on covering and having something a little bit for everyone. I also have the joy of working in internal medicine. So, we still need topics in orthopedics, we still need topics in dermatology, we still need cardiovascular and pulmonary topics, we need inpatient and outpatient topics, we need surgical topics. It's fun to hear the research topics, to see what other people are doing and what we could potentially implement in our future practices. So, I think AAPA is doing a really good job at that. We just need to keep it up.

Fortman: It's a good question. I've been thinking about it all through today, as I think about next year, and what do I want to present on and what do I think is necessary. I've been presenting a lot on cardiology—that's where my vast expertise is in practice. However, I do think what I've experienced at other conferences is pathways into leadership, and pathways into other non-clinical areas of medicine. It seems to be a very big interest among the physician assistants, as well as non-physician providers and even physician providers.

I also co-chair the American College of Cardiology Physician Assistant workgroup. And one of the main things when we sent a survey out about a year ago was they wanted to hear from people that aren't in classic clinical roles. They want to know pathways to get into administration: what hurdles were, what barriers were, and what what else they could do other than just be clinical bedside providers—not that they wanted to move away from that, but what else could they do? Can we talk to some folks that are research PAs? Can we talk to some folks that are administrative PAs, maybe people that are helping to write guidelines for the ACC and stuff. So, I wonder if a good talk might be just non-clinical expansion in the role of PAs, the 2024-2025 barriers, and how to get through them.

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