Janice Tramel, MS-HPE, PA-C Emeritus, began her career in health care as a licensed vocational nurse after completing a program at Pasadena City College through the Congressional Manpower Development Act of 1965. Then in 1972, she was accepted into a pilot program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College to become a registered nurse. Tramel first considered the physician assistant profession while she was a registered nurse at Los Angeles County Hospital in 1974.
Having worked with PAs in the emergency department, she had caught herself wondering if she could do the same procedures they were doing on patients and when she caught sight of a hospital flyer announcing that the University of South California PA Program was taking applications, she didn’t let the fact that the deadline had already passed deter her from applying. Showing up to the first of her two interviews, she felt incredibly nervous with seven men sitting behind a long table opposite her single chair, and when they asked why she didn’t want to become a nurse practitioner instead, Tramel was ready to step up and do whatever she could to embrace the PA profession.
Well-matched by the mission and drive of the USC PA Program, she found herself in class during the day and doing rotations in the evening, while supporting her two daughters. Her final preceptorship was at the Kaiser Permanente in East Los Angeles, where they offered her a job in family medicine after completing the program in 1977.
In 1979, she was recruited as the first clinical coordinator for the USC PA Program. During her more than 40 years at the USC PA Program and as the program’s first African American faculty member, Tramel has held many roles and become a pillar of the program. She has been an acting program director, assistant director, course director, admissions chair, student progress committee chair, and director of clinical education, to name a few. To many students, she has been the tough love they needed and the nurturing mentor who steered them through the rigorous program. To faculty, she has been the inspirational push and the guide that they would be lost without. She is the true embodiment of the “Trojan Spirit” never resting and striving to do more tomorrow or late into the evening hours.
“We stand on the shoulders of others,” shared Les Howard, a colleague and an alum of the Class of 1986. “So, Janice’s shoulders must be pretty broad, because she supported a whole bunch of USC PAs. Thank you for all you do, have done, and continue to do.”
With her mentorship, Tramel has been a gateway to many PAs who have an interest in PA education. With her inspiration, they have gone on to become faculty at programs across California, many of which currently teach at the USC PA Program.
“The profession is strengthened by the senior PAs,” said Tramel. “We have laid the foundation and traditions are important.”
Tramel was the first African American and woman to chair the Physician Assistant Examining Committee (now the California PA Board) and the first to chair the California Academy of PAs Program Relations Committee. She has served as an ARC-PA site visitor, Department of Health and Human Resources grant reviewer, chair of the Faculty and Staff Development Committee for the Association of PA Programs (now PAEA), participated in Project Access, and is a founding member of the African Heritage Caucus for the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). She also holds the title of the longest serving PA faculty member in California.
“I want PAs to always be collaborative,” Tramel shared. “I want PAs to always contribute to the disadvantaged in a way of service that pays it forward.”
She has published work in the Journal of PA Education, contributed her expertise to several books and written test items for the PANCE exam. Additionally, she has presented at the AAPA Annual Conference and the PAEA Forum. Tramel has dedicated her time and expertise to grants that promote diversity, primary care and interprofessionalism in the PA profession, including ones from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) and PAEA.
Pursing her continued education, Tramel completed her Master of Science in Health Science, Health Professions Education at Western University of Health Sciences in 2007. In 2011, she became a Pi Alpha Society inductee recognizing her leadership, research, community and professional service. In 2017, she received a Certificate of Honor from the African Heritage Caucus of AAPA for her dedication to the diversity in the profession. Most recently, she was acknowledged for her 40 years in PA education with a special congressional recognition from Representative Karen Bass, who was a student of Tramel’s and now serves as the only PA in Congress and the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Currently, Tramel continues to inspire and lead students in her role as an Instructor of Clinical Family Medicine at the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, where she is a clinical coordinator and co-director of Clinical Skills IV. She devotes time to the USC PA Pipeline Program and the Ruth Webb Society, where she continues to work with diverse students who are pursuing the path to becoming PAs.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Claire Norman with the assistance of Ms. Tramel and was submitted to the Society in February 2019. The photographs are courtesy of Ms. Tramel, the Keck School of Medicine, and the PA History Society (the first black and white photograph).