Physician assistant (PA) degree programs can seem – and be – intimidating given the volume and scope of material to be mastered in just two years. Shaun Grammer, M.S.P.A.’07, D.M.Sc., however, says DMU’s PA program was his “best educational experience.”
“The intensity of the program brings together people of different personalities and backgrounds,” he says. “I participated in wrestling, which is both an individual sport and a team sport. PA education reminded me of that.” (It’s no surprise that Grammer enjoys the intensity of Crossfit workouts, too.)
Grammer now is chair of the department of medical sciences, program director in the division of physician assistant education and an associate professor in the College of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). He also contributes to the educational quality future PAs experience as a director at large on the board of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the national organization representing PA educational programs. He was elected to the board by other PAs and is in the second year of a three-year term. PAEA provides faculty development, assistance for accredited programs, resources for students and leadership and research opportunities.
“I leaned heavily on the association when I was a new faculty,” he says. “It provides so many resources and support to programs and faculty. I gained a network and support system that helped me when I was a new educator and now day to day. I want to help sustain the organization. There are a lot of new PA programs, so there are more new faculty to support.”
He’s enhanced medical education in other ways. After teaching night classes for medical assistant students at a small college in Cedar Falls, IA, in 2010 he transitioned to academic coordinator and educator at Indiana State University’s physician assistant program. He then helped develop the PA program at the College of Saint Mary, which he served as founding director, in Omaha. In teaching future PAs, he strives to find the right balance between giving students support and not removing the “stressors” of the program.
“You want to help them get through it, but you also want them to struggle. It’s a very intense field they’re going into, so it’s important for their development,” he says. “I try to make sure the students know I genuinely care about them and their success. They do not always like us faculty, but they get the big picture at the end.”
Grammer became director of UNMC’s PA program in 2019 and chair of the medical sciences department in 2020. In the latter role, he oversees five programs, each with its own director (including himself). The “big learning curve” and balance required for those dual roles are not unlike what he experienced as a DMU student: He and his classmates spent countless hours studying together, but they also played five-on-five basketball almost weekly and occasionally retreated to a local bar. His classmates included Holland Taylor, M.S.P.A.’07, now director of DMU’s PA program, and Angela Grundmeyer, M.S.P.A.’07, assistant professor; when he first got into teaching, then PA faculty/now emeriti Dan and Pamela Chambers, also a DMU PA alumna, provided support.
“When I was a student, whether in the evening we were studying, doing a physical activity or going to a bar, we were always inclusive of all students and their families,” he says. “In my interview, I was told DMU was team-oriented and inclusive, and I really liked that atmosphere.”