The Physician Assistant Studies program at the UNC School of Medicine has named William A. Mills Jr. as its 2019 Preceptor of the Year. Mills spearheaded creation of the pediatric rotation for second-year PA students as part of their clinical experience; his involvement with the PA program began with its first cohort of students, accepted in January 2016. The PA program is housed in the Department of Allied Health Sciences.
“The opportunity to craft something from the ground up was pretty cool. I thought that would be an interesting endeavor,” Mills said.
The PA pediatric rotations grew out of Mills’ experience doing pediatric clerkship for UNC School of Medicine students. His goal is to have well-rounded graduates from the PA program.
“What I really want them to do is get their hands on pediatric patients, so getting used to working with children and families,” Mills said.
The rotations focus on outpatient pediatrics and consist of two students per two-week blocks for four weeks total. One student focuses on the emergency department while the other focuses on the outpatient setting. Other work on rotations include working in diagnostic clinics, in the newborn nursery at UNC Hospitals, and being part of Beacon rounds and Beacon consults.
“Dr. Mills epitomizes the great collaborative spirit that prevails at UNC,” Paul Chelminski, PA program director, said. “More important are his efforts to fully and equitably integrate our students into the clinical environment so that they feel like true members of the health care team.”
The PA program has a focus on nontraditional students, specifically with veterans from special forces medics. Nearly one-third of incoming PA students are veterans; the national average hovers around four percent.
“For a lot of folks, this is a completely different experience,” Mills said. “For them to come out on the other side and say ‘I can come out of this experience and treat peds’ is really rewarding.”
Mills said he was first exposed to PAs after his residency at a local hospital in Baltimore. “The PAs took me under their wings and taught me so many skills and shared their knowledge,” Mills said. He said his work as a preceptor would be a good way to give back to the PA profession and to have reverse influence.
“The PA profession is the ultimate team-based medical discipline,” Chelminski said, “and Dr. Mills has created an outstanding team-based learning culture.”
For more information about the preceptor program, contact Jason Hrdina, the PA program’s director of clinical education.
—Brooke Love, communications intern
William A. Mills Jr., PhD, MPH is a pediatric emergency medicine physician in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Paul Chelminski, PhD, MPH is a professor of medicine and an experienced educator of medical students and resident physicians at the UNC School of Medicine. Since 2001, Chelminski has practiced primary care in the UNC Internal Medicine Clinic.