Trevecca PA faculty research leads to innovative program, national recognition

As the longest-running physician assistant (PA) program in Tennessee, Trevecca’s PA program is built on legacy and a proven track record.

Faculty members are devoted to building on that tradition and continually strive to provide opportunities for students to excel. It was that desire that led PA program director, Bret Reeves, and faculty members Dr. Erin Martinez and Dr. Joy Twillie to research and develop a tool that prepares students academically early in the program.

The trio was recently selected to present their custom pre-matriculation self-study program at a national PA education conference in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10.

“When students get here, it is very challenging,” Martinez, associate professor and program curriculum coordinator, said. “As a program, we want to do our best to ease that transition.”

Becoming a physician assistant is a rigorous process, during which students learn about the complexities of medicine in just 15 months. Professors are there every step of the way to help students.

“Our research is unique in the field because there is little to no published research specific to early PA education,” Martinez said. “We are looking at its implications to help students of diverse educational backgrounds achieve early academic success.”

The self-study tool provides students with the opportunity to develop their study skills while reviewing material that will prepare them for the rigors of PA school.

“We want to give students the opportunity to review things they’ve already learned or expose them to new things,” Martinez said. “We are committed to our students and work to give them the tools to make them ready to excel from day one of the program.”

Roughly five months before their first day, students are granted access to the pre-matriculation self-study program. Provided through an online platform, the self-study curriculum is designed to better prepare students for the intensity of the program at no additional cost.

“This really serves as an opportunity we give to students that allows them to meet the challenges of the academic rigor [of our PA program],” said Twillie, academic director for the PA program.

With faculty committed to providing opportunities for students to excel coupled with the strong supportive community and access to tools like the pre-matriculation self-study program, the results prove that PA students continue to achieve high levels of academic success.

“The results were increased usage of the program that correlated with increased academic performance early in the PA program,” Martinez said.

It was these positive results that Twillie, Martinez, and Reeves shared with their colleagues during the conference. The response was remarkable, the faculty members said. Several colleagues approached the team with the hopes of collaborating and using Trevecca’s pre-matriculation self-study program as a model.

By Blake Stewart, ’18
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695