Constance “Connie” Goldgar, MS, PA-C Emeritus, has been a PA educator at the University of Utah’s PA Program from 1994 to her retirement in 2020. She has had a passion for the study of genetics since she became a PA in 1982. Goldgar served in many capacities with ARC-PA and NCCPA but worked many years with the PA Education Association (PAEA). At PAEA she was director-at-large for three years, before becoming president in 2013 and was recruited back to serve absences on the board in subsequent years. She is well published in the medical and PA education world and has helped secure federal grant monies in research and education over her career.
Goldgar graduated in 1977 from Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA, with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She had entertained the idea of becoming a physician when she heard about the University of Iowa’s PA Program. Although the PA profession was quite young at the time, the idea of providing medical care to underserved communities resonated with her, having grown up on the south side of Chicago. Her interest in pediatrics and the possibility of attaining a Master’s degree took her to Colorado where she was admitted to the Child Health Associate Program at the University of Colorado, Denver, graduating with an MS degree in 1981.
After graduating from the University of Colorado Child Health Associate/PA Program, Goldgar worked with patients while also participating in clinical research at several universities: as PA/Clinical Research Associate at the University of Nebraska’s Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology (1982-1984); Clinical Research Coordinator at the Clinical Research Center of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Division of Pediatrics in Jackson, Mississippi (1984-1986); and PA/Research Associate at the University of Utah’s Department of Medical Informatics, Genetic Epidemiology Division in Salt Lake City, UT (1987-1994). She helped manage a large NIH-funded grant focused on the genetics of common cancers, enrolling patients and their families into studies as well as collecting clinical data with the medical team. She learned to write federal grants in this role as well.
Although she worked clinically with research patients, Goldgar missed the day-to-day and relationships developed in providing medical care for patients. By chance, her 5-year-old son became friends with Don and Kathy Pedersen’s son. Don Pedersen, then Program Director at the University of Utah’s PA Program, mentioned having an educator position open. Goldgar saw this as a road to refresh her clinical skills before seeing patients in a clinical role. Goldgar took her first academic position as Academic Coordinator/Clinical Coordinator at the University of Utah’s PA Program from 1994-1996. However, having a family with two careers temporarily intervened with a move of the family to Lyon, France from 1996-1999. As she could not work as a PA in France, she utilized her writing and editorial skills to serve as head of the department for books, monographs and other publications of the World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France from 1997-1999. In late 1999, she returned to the University of Utah PA Program as Director of Graduate Studies and held the position for the next 18 years, retiring in 2020. While in this role she created and coordinated the first University of Utah PA Program Graduate Masters curriculum and projects. The Masters project focused on an Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) curricular model. After one of her first presentations on EBM at PAEA, Paul Lombardo asked if she would be willing to “teach the teachers” EBM at his program. Over the next several years she and her work partner, David Keahey, PA-C, MSPH, were invited to share their teaching model with more than 150 PA program faculty, as well as MDs and other medical occupations nationwide.
Goldgar’s service to the PA profession on the national level includes serving as an Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the PA (ARC-PA) site visitor for more than 14 years. With PAEA, she became a liaison to the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine where she helped secure a relationship between Family Medicine and the PAEA. With her background in genetics and successful grant application, she was also a liaison from PAEA to the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG), beginning a continuing relationship with the National Human Genetics Research Institute, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Goldgar served on PAEA’s board of directors, becoming president in 2013. While president of the PAEA board, she expanded both the board and staff, was part of the discussion and decision to move the organization’s office to the Association of American Medical College’s (AAMC) building in Washington, DC, and participated in the Jill Biden and Michelle Obama Veterans Initiative which included the discussion on how the historic pathway of veterans to the PA profession could be replicated and modified. One of her other efforts during her presidency was to re-emphasize the continuing need for PAs in a primary care, and dedication to a generalist PA education.
Goldgar was the only non-physician and PA to be invited to serve on the Family Medicine for America’s Health (FMAH) project funded by all 9 organizations of Family Medicine, working from 2015-2018 as a member of the Workforce and Education strategic aim task force. She was chief editor of the National Commission on Certification of PAs’ (NCCPA) joint ethics project: “Concepts in PA Excellence: Exploring Ethics. A Guide for Facilitators,” which produced a DVD program featuring common ethical issues cases simulated with actors. This program was distributed to PA programs nationwide. She served for several years on the advisory council and editorial board of the interprofessional National Human Genome Research Institute’s Genetics Genomics Competency Center.
In 2005, Goldgar received PAEA’s Rising Star Award which recognizes a PA program faculty member within the first 7 years of their career who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education. In 2013, she accepted PAEA’s President’s Award in recognition of her leadership and dedication to excellence in physician assistant education. She is the 2010 recipient of the Michael J. Scotti, Jr., MD, Award, given by the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics’ for her contributions to genetics education for PAs and other health professionals. She is the first PA and first non-MD to receive this award. She has continued to work with the National Institute of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute’s genomic education group in various capacities helping to pass the baton to young PAs interested in this arena.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by PA History Society staff, with the assistance of Connie Goldgar, and was submitted to the Society in October 2023. Photographs are courtesy of Ms. Goldgar.