Dr. Dawn Morton-Rias, PA-C joined the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) as president/CEO on June 2, 2014. Formerly, she served as Dean of the College of Health Related Professions and Professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center since 2003. As Dean, she was responsible for the academic administration of programs in Diagnostic Medical Imaging (BS-Sonography and Radiologic Technology); Medical Informatics (MS); Occupational Therapy (MS and Certificate); Midwifery (MS and Adv. Certificate); Physical Therapy (BS/DPT); Physician Assistant Education (BS); and certificate programs in Medical Billing and Coding and Mammography. Dr. Morton-Rias served as the inaugural clinical coordinator for the SUNY Downstate PA Program and quickly rose to Program Chairperson in 1993, a position she held until her appointment as Dean. She has served the larger SUNY Downstate community in a number of capacities, across several health professions and disciplines. Dr. Morton-Rias’ passion and expertise in health professions education centers on curricula innovation, promotion of diversity and educational access, and institutional and student assessment.
Morton-Rias has served as President of the Physician Assistant Education Association (2005-2006) and feature editor of “Cultural Perspectives” for the Journal of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs from its inception and continuing as the Journal of Physician Assistant Education until 2009. She is an extended member of the New York State Board of Medicine, a 2012 appointee to the Federation of State Medical Boards Education Committee, and a 2010 appointee to the HRSA Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. She has been an advisor to the National Health Service Corp and a commissioner on the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). In 2012, she was re-appointed as an at-large commissioner on the ARC-PA.
Morton-Rias served as project coordinator of the APAP Minority Issues Faculty Development workshop and has presented numerous faculty development workshops for PAEA. She was project director for several US Department of Health and Human Service PA training grants awarded to the SUNY Downstate PA Program. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Senior Specialists grant award (2008), the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health’s Urban Medical Education Award for leadership in community-based health care delivery and health professions education (2008), and the 2008 SUNY Chancellors Award for Professional Excellence.
Morton-Rias earned a Bachelor of Arts from Stony Brook University and a Bachelor of Science and Physician Assistant Certificate from Howard University, School of Allied Health. She completed a Professional Diploma in Instructional Leadership and earned a doctorate of Education from St. John’s University.
Morton-Rias has been a certified physician assistant for 30 years. She served the residents of Brooklyn, NY, as a primary care physician assistant for over 15 years, providing health care for the homeless, as the medical officer and coordinator for an outreach mobile health team and providing primary care medicine as the first staff PA for the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center. She has also practiced as a clinical PA in hospital-based and ambulatory gynecology and in-patient medical management of patients with addictive disorders.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written by Ragan Cohn with the assistance of Dr. Morton-Rias, and was submitted to the Society in February 2015. The photographs are courtesy of Dr. Morton-Rias.