Rand brings rich life experiences to PA students

Joel Rand, Program Director/Chair of the Physician Assistant ProgramJoel Rand, M.P.A.S., PA-C, openly admits he had little academic experience before joining DMU’s physician assistant (PA) program faculty, as an academic coordinator, in August 2014. He makes up for it with a diverse clinical background that includes serving veterans with mental health and substance abuse issues; treating uninsured and undocumented patients in free clinics and shelters; and performing a wide variety of surgeries and other procedures.

“I’ve cured cancers and delivered babies. I’ve had to tell families their loved one was going to die. It’s not my academic experience but my life experiences that I have to benefit students,” he says.

Rand is doing so in his new role as program director/chair of the PA program as well as assistant professor. In fact, he’s already done so in the past year in his and his colleagues’ work in “curriculum mapping.”

“In that process, we look at the PA core professional competencies set up by our national organizations and align them with our courses’ learning objectives,” he explains. “We then can link those learning objectives to our assessment tools.”

Studying the data on student outcomes further allows faculty to ensure course content fosters students’ professional competencies, he adds.

A graduate of the University of Iowa PA program, Rand always knew he wanted to go into medicine. He also wanted to help maintain his family’s Marshall County, IA, farm, with his brother Nathan, a veterinarian. Those two goals made physician assistant a good career choice. The influence of his parents, both educators, shaped his decision to join DMU.

“I enjoy having open communication with students and supporting them,” he says. “Those two years of PA school can be a tough time.”

Jodi Cahalan, Ph.D., M.P.H.’01, M.S.’93, PA-C’89, DFAAPA, dean of the College of Health Sciences, says she wanted to make sure the PA program director had “both the ability and personality that would serve the program and its stakeholders well.” Reviews of course surveys and student and graduate survey data helped seal Rand’s selection.

“Students repeatedly praised Joel’s exceptional abilities in the classroom and his ability to work well with students,” she notes. “He’s also been commended by faculty across campus for his collaboration in initiatives such as integrating ultrasound technology in the University’s clinical curricula. He has an amazing grasp of the program and its needs, and I’m excited by his vision and direction for the program.”

Sitting in his Academic Center office, surrounded by photos he’s taken on his nearly 200 scuba dives, Rand is glad his new role includes teaching as well as administrative responsibilities. He jokingly compares working with students to the “horizontal transmission of a pathogen.”

“As a PA, I can help only 20 people a day. But if I can help train 50 people a day, I can really expand my impact,” he says.

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