New tools will help Trine PA students serve diverse populations

February 03, 2022

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Students performing their clinical rotations for Trine University’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program this spring will be equipped with new tools designed to help them show more empathy for the populations they serve.

Members of Trine’s chapter of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA) will provide students who desire them with pronoun pins to wear on rotation and pocket cards with common medical phrases in Spanish and Arabic.

Sebreena Zalam, a student in Trine’s MPAS Class of 2022, had planned to purchase a pronoun pin to wear on her rotations. The pins display a person’s preferred pronoun, and are designed to show support from medical professionals for LGBTQ+ patients.

After hearing from fellow students who were looking for ways to incorporate more diversity into their education, she asked her program director if the pins could be provided for all students. Students in the program will receive an explanation of the pins’ significance as well as educational articles provided by Alexis Salinas, SAAAPA’s diversity chair.

“The initial meaning behind pronoun pins is to let other people know what pronouns you prefer to use,” Zalam said. “And while they still do this and still have the potential to benefit providers who may identify with new or changing pronouns, I think that the benefit it has on the patients speaks incredibly loud volumes.”

Zalam said she came out as a lesbian to her primary care physician at age 17 to receive appropriate healthcare, and, as such, recognizes the significant healthcare disparities for LGBTQ+ patients.

“With the disproportionately high incidences of substance abuse, major depression, gender/body dysphoria, domestic abuse, suicide attempts and much more in the LGBTQ+ community, I hope these pins will serve as a signal for a ‘safe space’ that may ultimately lead to earlier diagnoses of these pertinent and sometimes fatal medical issues,” she said.

“I think the pins will be beneficial to Trine PA students on rotations because I believe they will allow students to create a safe environment with their patients. This will lead to better history taking and hopefully earlier diagnoses of pertinent medical issues.”

While organizing past service trips to Peru and Ecuador, Zalam had received medical Spanish cards that she planned to use as a template for the language cards Trine students will receive. However, a classmate pointed out that many Trine students will perform rotations in the Dearborn, Michigan, area, which has a significant population that speaks Arabic.

 “I asked a few classmates with fluency in these languages to help me in making these cards, and they happily obliged,” she said.

The cards are not meant to allow students to speak the language, but are designed to help them obtain a simple medical history if necessary.

“Seeking medical help and being unable to communicate with the provider can be incredibly frustrating. Having a tool to meet the patient halfway can truly go a long way,” she said. “I also believe that preceptors will be impressed with Trine's commitment to serving all patient populations.”

Zalam said the new tools will enhance the work Trine’s MPAS program has already done to prepare students to treat diverse patient populations.

“Trine University's PA program has done a good job of considering different patient populations when we learn medicine,” she said. “I feel that these small efforts will complement the program well and will be the start of truly creating well-rounded, competent providers.”

  • Pronoun Pin and Language Card

    Pronoun Pin and Language Card - Sebreena Zalam, a student in Trine’s MPAS Class of 2022, wears a pin with her preferred pronoun and holds a card with simple medical phrases written in Spanish and Arabic.

  • Sebreena Zalam

    Sebreena Zalam - Sebreena Zalam, a student in Trine’s MPAS Class of 2022, wears a pin with her preferred pronoun and holds a card with simple medical phrases written in Spanish and Arabic.

  • Alexis Salinas

    Alexis Salinas - Alexis Salinas, a student in Trine’s MPAS Class of 2022, wears a pin with her preferred pronoun and holds a card with simple medical phrases written in Spanish and Arabic.

Last Updated: 02/03/2022

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