Menezes appointed director of new Physician Assistant Program

Prema Menezes, PhD, has been appointed as the first director of the physician assistant (PA) master’s degree program currently being developed within the Department of Allied Health Sciences (DAHS) at UNC School of Medicine. She will assume the role on August 1.

Menezes appointed director of new Physician Assistant Program  click to enlarge Prema Menezes, PhD

“Dr. Menezes has an international reputation as an accomplished educator and a respected researcher, extensive experience providing high-quality patient care in a clinical setting, as well as teaching PA students, and the administrative skills and experience to successfully navigate the complex process of establishing a new academic program,” said Lee McLean, PhD, Chair of DAHS and the School of Medicine’s Associate Dean for Allied Health Education. “We are thrilled that she has decided to join the department and take the helm of this important new endeavor.”

The plan to establish a PA master’s degree program at UNC Chapel Hill was announced in December 2012.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) and the UNC School of Medicine, with input from U.S. Army Special Forces Command, developed a plan for a program that could provide a pathway for U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Sergeants to translate the skills and expertise gained through military service into a civilian career.  BCBSNC made a $1.2 million commitment to help the University launch the program.  Not only will the new PA program assist military veterans, but it will also help to meet the growing need for highly-trained health care professionals in North Carolina.

Menezes holds a PhD in epidemiology from UNC Chapel Hill and a MHS from the PA program at Duke University.  She has been a faculty member at UNC for over 15 years, most recently as a Clinical Associate Professor with the Division of Infectious Diseases and Adjunct Assistant Professor with the Gillings School of Global Public Health.  She has been Co-Director of the UNC Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), Clinical Core, since 2001 and Co-Director of the UNC Fogarty Global Health Fellows and Scholars Program since 2011.  In addition to treating patients and conducting research on HIV/AIDS clinical care and clinical trials, she helped to establish a variety of collaborative programs including the annual CFAR World AIDS Day symposium.

Menezes has also been an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Duke University, where she has been involved with course coordination and instruction, curriculum development, and mentorship for the PA program for over 12 years.   In 2007, she received the Physician Assistant Award for Training and Education from Duke, an honor given annually to only two individuals who have made significant contributions to PA education.

Menezes will now take the lead in preparing for the UNC PA program’s approval and accreditation reviews, developing the curriculum, recruiting faculty members, and establishing application criteria for students. The program may welcome its first students as early as 2015.

“It is a privilege and an honor to have been selected to serve as the director of the UNC PA program,” Menezes said.  “I look forward to advancing this exciting initiative to best serve the UNC School of Medicine, our veterans, and the citizens of North Carolina.”

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