SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s STAR program receives $1.5 million award to educate and train physician assistants in HIV care

September 30, 2013 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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SUNY Downstate Medical Center has received an award of $1.5 million from the AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) Program of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to educate and train physician assistants (PAs) in HIV/AIDS care and treatment. 

The project will be conducted by SUNY Downstate’s Special Treatment and Research (STAR) Program, a multidisciplinary component of the Department of Medicine, in collaboration with the Physician Assistant Program in Downstate’s College of Health Related Professions (CHRP). The project will address the shortage of trained HIV healthcare care providers and receive $300,000 a year for five years. 

Jack A. DeHovitz, MD, MPH, distinguished service professor of medicine and director of the STAR Program, said, “With the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy, HIV has become a chronic disease, requiring comprehensive primary care to address common age-associated diseases and co-morbidities, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. Furthermore, there is an increasing nationwide deficit in HIV providers as current ones retire and too few primary healthcare providers are adequately trained in the management of clinical aspects of HIV infection.” He added, “Despite targeted prevention efforts, HIV infection continues to spread in New York City, further underscoring the need to provide HIV clinical education to healthcare providers.” 

The new PA HIV training program will integrate supplemental HIV education for selected PA students entering a specialty HIV track, including an HIV-focused clerkship in the STAR Program’s HIV primary care site, the STAR Health Center.  The program’s ultimate goal is to educate and train 10 new PAs per year, with the first cohort enrolled in 2014. Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, PA-C, is dean of the College of Health Related Professions. Felix Nwamaghinna, MSB, RPA-C, is chair of the Physician Assistant Program.   

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

SUNY Downstate is one of only five academic medical centers nationwide to receive this prestigious HIV training grant this year, and the only PA program awarded. The four other programs involve training nurse practitioners in HIV care. 

SUNY Downstate has a quarter-century history of providing innovative HIV primary and specialty care, research, prevention services, and clinical education in Central Brooklyn.  In 2012, the STAR Program was one of three sites in the United States awarded a HRSA AETC grant to develop an HIV Track in Categorical Medicine in collaboration with the Department of Medicine’s Internal Medicine Residency Program. The first group of medical residents began the program in July. The SUNY Downstate Physician Assistant Program has been the recipient of several HRSA awards throughout its 23-year history and continues to be nationally recognized for its leadership in urban PA education. 

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