DPAS student Karlyn Rupert combining her love of learning with her family.
Karlyn Rupert is a physician assistant who’s been practicing for 11 years and currently works in the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Pittsburgh. She completed her PA training at Chatham University and graduated in 2012. She has worked in oncology, in both bone marrow transplant and outpatient breast medical oncology. Here’s how the University of Pittsburgh Doctor of Physician Assistant Studies (DPAS) program is helping her make a difference.
I wanted to transition my full-time clinical practice job into an administrative role. I was doing some research to determine what the best higher education program would be. Would it be an MBA or a doctoral degree? When I came upon Pitt's program, what was most attractive to me was the design and the duration of the program.
Focusing on a quality improvement project within your current clinical practice is the foundation of the program. This was perfect for me, because I wanted to enhance the care of my patients. The program duration of one year was amazing. I thought, “This is doable.” I'm a busy mom working 40 plus hours a week with two small children and a husband that is also in the medical field. I knew I wanted to advance my education, but I didn't want to sacrifice my family life.
To be honest, I was very intimidated coming into the program. Many of us haven't been students for 10 years or more because we've been in clinical practice. But it is amazing! There is such comradery and support. The faculty have all been extraordinary--working around our clinical schedules and making sure that our educational needs are met.
Program Director and Assistant Professor Mary Allias is my advisor and she's been wonderful. She's worked with me outside of my clinical schedule for office hours. Professor Dipu Patel is on my capstone committee and she's been a great resource. They work under the wonderful leadership of Department Chair Director and Associate Professor David Beck, who has really inspired and guided the faculty to develop the DPAS program. I thank all of the faculty for believing in this program and supporting us all!
Given my oncology background and my position in hepatology, I focused my capstone project on improving providers’ hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) screening knowledge for veterans with chronic liver disease. HCC screening rates are suboptimal throughout the United States and thus HCC is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, resulting in many patients missing critical interventions to help improve survival.
Rupert taking a study break with her children
My project involved developing an education module for primary care providers to aid them in identifying eligible populations to undergo screening, discussing indications for HCC screening and ordering recommended HCC screening modalities. With enhanced provider knowledge, veterans with chronic liver disease can undergo standardized routine surveillance that can help lead to earlier HCC detection and improved outcomes.
At Pitt, you hit the ground running. The first semester you're writing your literature review. The second semester you're designing the capstone project. The third semester you're analyzing data and then giving your capstone presentation at the end of the term. With the skills I learned throughout the program I am now more mindful of improvement science and how to solve problems that can enhance patient care.
Another effective part of the curriculum was my healthcare administrative elective where I gained a better understanding of the healthcare system. That is something that I didn't fully grasp while in clinical practice. Through this elective class, I am now proficient in reimbursement models, how health care is structured in the United States as compared to other countries and also how to lessen the disparity in our nation’s health outcomes.
I also learned a lot about myself in terms of my strengths, areas of improvement, leadership style, as well how to deal with conflict. I'm looking forward to applying this insight and skills to diversifying my career.
As a PA, I've always been a lifelong learner. When I was looking at other post-professional programs, I was sort of discouraged. Advancing your education while working full-time is a huge commitment. I didn't feel like the infrastructure was there to truly excel until I came across Pitt's program.
It's one of the best decisions that I've made. If you're ready to commit, choose Pitt.
Karlyn Rupert (DPAS ‘23)
Published March 7, 2023