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Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University

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PA program honors four decades of service

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September 10, 2012

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The accom­plish­ments of Suzanne Green­berg, who estab­lished Northeastern's physi­cian assis­tant pro­gram in 1971 and served as its director until 2006, cannot be understated.

"Sue's con­tri­bu­tions are leg­endary," said Rosann Ippolito, a clin­ical pro­fessor and the cur­rent director of the physi­cian assis­tant pro­gram in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences.

Many of Greenberg's accom­plish­ments, Ippolito noted, have been well-​​received. "She spear­headed the 1973 PA prac­tice act, the law that allowed PAs to prac­tice med­i­cine in the Com­mon­wealth of Mass­a­chu­setts," she explained. "Years later, she was also involved in the pas­sage of pre­scrip­tive prac­tice legislation."

Green­berg, Bouvé's cur­rent asso­ciate dean for grad­uate edu­ca­tion, has recently been awarded the PA program's Out­standing Ser­vice Award in honor of her sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the pro­gram. She will retire next June, after more than 40 years on the North­eastern faculty.

Trained as a social worker, Green­berg arrived at North­eastern with the goal of devel­oping the university's PA pro­gram. It launched in 1971 largely as a pro­gram to train former mil­i­tary medics for new civilian careers, and in 1985 it became the first in the United States to award a master's degree.

"There were only a couple of pro­grams like ours when we started and now we've got PA pro­grams all over the country," Green­berg said. "We were charting new ground."

Green­berg brought problem-​​based learning — long a staple of med­ical school training — to PA edu­ca­tion, teaching her stu­dents to take a broad look at patient care.

"Stu­dents were looking at a problem not just as some­thing to diag­nose but within a frame­work of legal, eth­ical and finan­cial issues," Green­berg explained.

She also taught doc­tors and other med­ical pro­fes­sionals better strate­gies for teaching stu­dents and new employees, writing a widely cir­cu­lated mono­graph in the area of pre­ceptor supervision.

As Green­berg put it, "I worked with physi­cians who knew their med­i­cine, but didn't always know how to train people."

The PA pro­fes­sional has grown in the four decades since Green­berg began her career at North­eastern, with many of her stu­dents helping plot its still-​​evolving course.

"It's very rewarding and exciting to see young people come in eager, enthu­si­astic and ener­getic — and yes, often a bit ner­vous — and come out two years later as really mature indi­vid­uals," Green­berg said. "That's the real reward that comes with teaching these stu­dents, some­thing that makes it far more than a job."

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