Christine Bruce , PA-C

Under the direction of Christine Bruce, PA-C, students at the Pennsylvania State University PA Program have a 99 percent program completion rate, 100 percent first-time PANCE pass rate, and 100 percent employment rate as Certified PAs within four months of graduation. As the university’s first PA program director, Bruce leads with a vision of inclusiveness and a track record of success.

The program’s holistic application review process weighs a litany of factors beyond students’ grades, resulting in a student body that is reflective of today’s diverse society. A significant number of students are first-generation college students, veterans, educationally or environmentally disadvantaged, or from a medically-underserved community. In fact, the most recent graduating class was two-thirds male, who now join a workforce overwhelmingly female (68%). These diverse students are most likely to return to medically underserved areas and practice in high demand areas of medicine.

Thirty-eight years ago, Bruce began her professional journey unlike many PA students today. She enrolled at the St. Francis University PA Program, a program that accepted students directly from high school. After 13 years of working clinically full-time, she decided she wanted to make an impact on the next generation of PA students and became the inaugural program director at DeSales University. Before the existence of the DeSales PA program, employment opportunities for PAs in that region were largely non-existent. However, PAs today celebrate a successful partnership in local healthcare.

“As an educator, she has always been constantly engaging and challenging to the students,” said colleague Kenneth D. Sherry, PA-C, CPAAPA. “Her commitment to excellence is unparalleled. The success of her program’s endeavors at DeSales included years of accolades and successful NCCPA initial certification exam results for that program’s PA new graduates.”

Bruce and her colleagues work to ensure students’ passion for the profession remains strong throughout the program. They attribute the program’s success to team-based learning and the focus on medical case studies that require students to rely on their problem-solving skills. These immersive techniques help students absorb complex information more quickly in a collaborative environment.

“Christine’s strong commitment to provide each student with an individually-tailored educational experience that maximizes their strengths and corrects or compensates for their deficiencies has produced hundreds of students who perform at a high level of clinical competence and with great compassion,” said Dr. Edward Jones, MD, MPH, an academic coordinator and assistant professor at Penn State. “She has made an effort to recruit a diverse group of students and to look past the traditional student selection criteria to find people with great potential that has yet to be fully realized.”

Outside of instruction, Bruce works part-time clinically in internal medicine to remain medically adept and bring relevant, real-life cases to the classroom. While treating patients strengthens her expertise, it also reminds her of one of the most important competencies for practicing medicine: mastering people skills.

“To be an excellent provider you have to connect with patients,” she said. “Having medical information doesn’t make you a good provider – it’s transforming that information into a clinical setting. To do so, providers must listen to their patients. I emphasize the importance of listening skills because the more you listen, the better diagnostician you become.”

Throughout her impressive career, Bruce has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the promotion of the profession both locally and nationally. Moreover, her passion for students and patients is evident in her willingness to serve. For over a decade now, she has precepted students in inpatient and outpatient settings, and has served on test writing committees and several PAEA committees. This includes PAEA’s Faculty Development Institute, the Leadership and Recruitment Council, and the Awards and Recognition Committee.

“I am proud to be a PA, and I feel blessed that there is a career in which I can make a difference in both my students' and my patients' lives,” said Bruce. “I have the best of both worlds, and I take these roles very seriously. I recognize that I am entrusted with great responsibility, and I hope to represent this profession until I retire.” NCCPA salutes Christine Bruce, PA-C, for promoting the importance of diversity and inclusiveness in the success of PA education.