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Joel Hill and Amanda DeVoss

New PA Program faculty Joel Hill and Amanda DeVoss teach master’s-level courses, mentor student capstone projects, and practice in the clinic.

With Two New Faculty, PA Program Implements First Year of Master’s Curriculum

Amanda K DeVoss MA
Joel R Hill MS
Virginia L Snyder PhD

This May, the UW Physician Assistant (PA) Program will have completed its first year as a master’s program.

Putting the program’s rigorous new curriculum into practice has been a big task for everyone involved. Fortunately, last year, two new faculty—Director of Distance Education Joel Hill, MPAS, PA-C, and Director of Research Amanda DeVoss, MMS, PA-C, have come on board to help with that effort.

Introducing Joel Hill and Amanda DeVoss

Hill and DeVoss bring over 25 years of combined clinical and teaching experience to the program.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Joel Hill served in the US Air Force for 21 years. He worked as a PA in family practice and urgent care for 10 years while on active duty. He was an instructor at the University of Alaska while stationed in Fairbanks, and taught at the South Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants’ annual conferences.

After retiring from the USAF, Hill was a PA specializing in general, thoracic, and oncologic surgery in Rapid City, South Dakota. He joined the program in May 2010.

Amanda DeVoss graduated from Midwestern University, and completed a fellowship in hepatology though the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).

She was a PA specializing in hepatology at Rush University Medical Center and the University of Chicago. She also gave instructional lectures at Midwestern University and to PAs and nurses in the community. DeVoss joined the program in August 2010.

A Revitalized Curriculum

Since their arrival, Hill and DeVoss have been deeply involved in putting the program’s rigorous master’s curriculum into practice.

The new curriculum boasts many improvements to meet the changing needs of the PA profession. Three didactic courses—Clinical Medicine, Diagnostic Methods, and Clinical Pharmacology—are all organized by module, so students learn how to prevent, recognize, diagnose, and treat a particular organ system at the same time.

“Students appreciate getting the whole picture, rather than having the information all broken up,” said DeVoss, who directs the Diagnostic Methods course.

These modules have been enhanced in the new curriculum, and new ones on genetics, ethics, and family medicine have also been added. In particular, the family medicine module, taught in part by DFM faculty, demonstrates the program’s focus on primary care.

Also new to the curriculum is the two-semester Clinical Prevention and Community Practice course, directed by Hill. It integrates population health concepts, a key part of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s transformation, with clinical education.

The course also teaches students about oral health, cultural competency, and communication in healthcare. This way, they are better prepared for community-centered practice, especially for rural, urban, or underserved populations.

Capstone Highlights

Hill, DeVoss, and other program faculty also mentor students as they complete another new program requirement: the capstone project.

For their capstone, students are evaluating global PA education programs, helping PA students communicate with patients using simpler language, and identifying specific ways vegetarian and vegan diets may affect patients.

One student is even returning to her hometown in northern Wisconsin to incorporate information about the PA profession in a high school course on health fields. “This is a great example of coming up with a capstone project and taking it back to your community,” DeVoss said.

Keeping the Real-World Connection

In addition to their academic responsibilities, Hill and DeVoss also practice in the clinic one day a week:  Hill at the Wingra/Access Family Medicine Center; DeVoss in hepatology at the UW Health West Clinic.

Both agree that the weekly clinical connection benefits students. “I can offer examples of situations, like how to work with insurance companies, that you might not think to talk about if you aren’t in that setting,” said DeVoss.

“It gives you a certain sincerity with students,” concurred Hill. “At least once a week, I bring up a scenario in class based on a patient I recently saw. These examples fit right in with what we’re learning about.”

It also fits in with another new facet of the master’s program: student shadowing. Several first-year students accompany Hill, DeVoss, and other faculty in the clinic, learning not just real-world practice, but also how important it is to stay current.

“Medicine changes quickly,” explained Hill. “What students learn today might change by the time they are in practice two years from now.”