Stephane VanderMeulen, MA, MPAS, PA-C, is a PA educator and past president of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). She served on PAEA’s Board of Directors (2010-2016) during a period of rapid growth for the PA profession and for PA education. The number of accredited PA programs grew from 150 to more than 215, and PAEA grew from a small association dependent on volunteers to a mature, well-staffed professional organization designed to support its members and promote PA education. VanderMeulen recalls that it “truly represented a coming-of-age era for the Association”.
VanderMeulen grew up in O’Neill, a small rural town in north central Nebraska. Her interest in the PA profession was sparked by Janet Fletcher, an early graduate of the University of Nebraska PA program who served as Ms. VanderMeulen’s personal health care provider and mentor.
VanderMeulen attended Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1992. She then when on to attain her MPAS degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha in 1994. In 2020, she received her master’s in Social Gerontology from the University of Nebraska.
After graduating with her PA degree, VanderMeulen worked clinically in rural family medicine at a hospital and medical clinic in Atkinson, NE until 1996. In 1996, she joined OrthoWest Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska and eventually became the lead PA at that practice. In 2005, her focus shifted to PA education when she joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s PA program, first as Clinical Coordinator and then as Academic Director and Director of Admissions. In 2016, she accepted a position at Creighton University to lead the development of its PA program and currently serves as the inaugural Program Director and Chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Health Professions at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
VanderMeulen has served the PA profession in numerous capacities. She was the Nebraska Academy of PAs’ liaison to the Nebraska Board of Medicine and Surgery (2007-2014) and was the co-chair for the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Academy (2007-2014). She chaired the Awards Committee of the Physician Assistant Education Association (2009) before becoming a Director at Large on the PAEA Board of Directors the following year. She then served as President of the organization in 2015. During her time on the board, she also served on several committees, including Finance, Leadership, and Government Relations. Under her presidency, the PAEA Presidents Commission was developed. She was a member of the Commission from 2016-2021 and was its chair from 2020-2021.
While VanderMeulen served as President of the PAEA Board, she challenged the Directors and the Association leaders to “be bold”. She felt that it was a time for them, as leaders, to confidently advocate for the profession and promote PA students, educators and practicing PAs. “While [Be Bold] is a simple concept, I hope those two little words remain a guiding principle for the leaders of our profession now and into the future”, VanderMeulen remarks.
VanderMeulen was the first of PAEA’s presidents to testify before a US Congressional subcommittee, voicing support for Title VII funding, and the first member of PAEA leadership to be invited to speak to the American Medical Association at its annual conference. Under her presidency, the PAEA Government Relations team worked with Representative Karen Bass to introduce some of the first PA modernization acts. PAEA’s partnership with the AAMC expanded with a joint publication in the Journal of PA Education emphasizing the importance of the physician-PA relationship and with the development of several cross-organization working groups, modeling interprofessional collaboration on a national level. Programs and services were implemented to provide resources for and to support diverse PA faculty. The Future Educator Fellowship was launched, and a new emphasis was placed on research, expanding the PAEA research staff, and introducing the Faculty & Directors research reports as a resource for programs. The Journal of PA Education transitioned to a new publisher and was included in the Ovid database, increasing its visibility in the medical literature sphere.
VanderMeulen has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions in her career, including the Special Achievement Award for Professional Service by the University of Nebraska Medical Center (2010), the Service to Colleagues Award by the Nebraska Academy of PAs (2010), and the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Teacher of the Year – College of Allied Health Professions.
In her free time, Ms. VanderMeulen enjoys travel, creating watercolor and printmaking art, and outdoor activities such as cycling and horseback riding on her horse, Teco. She continues to pursue opportunities to advocate for the profession both locally and nationally. She is passionate about leadership development and is committed to supporting new and developing leaders in the profession.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Stephane VanderMeulen with the assistance of PA History Society staff. It was submitted to the Society in May 2022. Photographs are courtesy of Ms. VanderMeulen.