Shani Fleming, MS, MPH, PA-C, is recognized as a national diversity and inclusion leader who has helped develop strategies and efforts to teach her academic colleagues about the importance and benefits of inclusion, diversity, equity and social justice in PA education. Her leadership and involvement with the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) and the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Project Access Task Force has enlightened numerous Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) high school and college students about the PA profession. As a member and chair of the PAEA Diversity and Inclusion Mission Advanced Commission (2014-2019), Fleming encouraged PA programs to develop minority faculty leaders who can serve as role models and manage and evaluate diversity and inclusive programmatic goals. Fleming has also served on a PAEA research initiative investigating the impact of requiring entry-level doctorate degrees for PAs and the potential impact this would have on diversity.
Academically, Fleming has served on the faculty of Towson University/CCBC Physician Assistant Program, Essex, MD (2007-2010), Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, MD (2010-2014), Barry University, St. Croix, VI (2014-2017), and University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD (2018- ). In addition to her academic duties, Fleming serves on the executive team of the Physician Assistant Leadership and Learning Academy (PALLA) and was named Graduate School Chief Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Officer at the University of Maryland Baltimore in 2021. In this position, she provides strategic, systemic, and sustainable guidance and recommendations to advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion integration throughout the graduate school. Clinically, Fleming has various experiences as a physician assistant, including working in family medicine, adolescent medicine, infectious disease, and urgent care.
Fleming first learned about the PA profession when she was a student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD (where she received a BS in Rehabilitation Services, 1999). The University was starting a PA program, but she chose to enroll instead in the PA program offered by George Washington University (GWU), Washington, DC. She graduated GWU with dual master’s degrees in Public Health and Health Science in 2002. She served as a National Health Service Corps scholar and loan repayor, working in several Federally Qualified Health Centers in rural and urban settings. Her work serving underserved communities enhanced her awareness and sparked her interest in combating inequities in healthcare. She leveraged working in community health centers as an opportunity to promote the PA profession to patients from historically underrepresented groups as a possible career choice.
Her clinical experience and growing role in academia provided an opportunity to pursue her interest in cultural competence, healthcare disparities, social justice, and related matters. Her Quality Matters certification for online learning management systems has allowed her to teach online and web-enhanced courses to a broad-based audience. Her webinar topics emphasize social determinants of health, implicit bias, cultural humility, and why health systems must adapt to meet the special needs of LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and other underserved patients to promote health equity. She has authored and coauthored several articles on these topics and presented papers and posters annually at national PA meetings.
Fleming has taken every opportunity to enhance her knowledge and skills as an academician and administrator. She regularly attends national meetings and serves as a PAEA volunteer, serving on task groups and helping to mentor young faculty. She helped form an interest group for minority faculty to improve social contact and provide a safe space to discuss personal issues.
Fleming is the 2022 recipient of the inaugural AAPA Diversity Award which honors a PA that serves as a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the PA profession. Fleming is proficient in Spanish and is pursuing her PhD in language, literacy, and culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Reginald Carter with the assistance of Ms. Fleming and submitted to the Society in July 2022. The photographs are courtesy of Ms. Fleming. Information for this biography was extracted from online biographical information, Ms. Fleming’s 2022 CV and Shani Fleming Mini Oral History Interview on Vimeo .