Karen Hills, MS, PA-C, professor of community and family medicine, will leave her role as director of the Duke Physician Assistant Program effective Sept. 29, to join the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) in a newly developed role as chief of educational development.
Hills has served as director of the Duke PA program since 2013, and previously served as associate program director from 2005 to 2012 and clinical coordinator from 2002 to 2005. Hills came to Duke as a teaching fellow in 2001. She received a B.A. from Wake Forest University in 1983, an M.S. from American University in 1988, and a PA certificate from Wake Forest University in 1999.
In her role, Hills will be expanding faculty development services and looking at curricular offerings and resources that could be helpful to PA programs and faculty. She says with it being a new position, there is room for creativity and to learn more about the organization’s vision for the role.
Hills is no stranger to PAEA, as she served as president of the association in 2014. Hills says there are discussions across the profession about the role of PAs in the ever-changing health care environment. She sees her new position at PAEA as being able to contribute to those discussions.
“It starts with PA students, it starts with pre-PA students, and the educational framework that would support potentially a new identity or a new way of entering the health care workforce,” Hills says.
Hills recalls attending a PA Day reception her first week as a teaching fellow at the Duke Physician Assistant Program, and describes the overwhelming sense of history she felt. She recalls that several pioneers of the profession were in attendance, and also Eugene A. Stead, Jr., M.D., founder of the program and the profession, and E. Harvey Estes, Jr., M.D., who took over as head of the program when Stead left Duke.
“Being someone who knew about the birthplace but had never experienced what that meant was just truly an outstanding moment,” Hills says.
Hills says she will look back on her time at Duke fondly, remembering all the people she’s worked with and students she’s taught.
“I started as a teaching fellow, had the opportunity to be clinical coordinator, associate program director, and then to be a program director of the top PA program in the country,” Hills says. “How could anyone ask for a better career?”