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Ina Cushman, PA-C

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Ina Cushman, PA-C, is a graduate from the Yale PA Program. She was speaker of the AAPA House of Delegates, president of the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) and served on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of PAs (JAAPA) for many years. During the commencement address to the Yale PA Class of 2002, Cushman urged the students to “Be true to yourself. Be true to your profession. Be true to your education. These three pieces add up to a whole and complete life.” Advice that still holds true today.

Cushman has lived in Sharon, Massachusetts all her life. She moved back to her family home to be with her mom until her passing at 102 years of age. Growing up in a Jewish household in a small, then rural, middle-class town, has shaped her life. She fondly recalls house calls from the family physician, particularly a time when she was three years old, and her doctor drove her to the children’s hospital. She still possesses a coffee table book that was ever present in her house – Jews in Medicine. It offered advice she would always embrace as a clinician regarding the patient relationship: “individualized, personalized, caring approach”.

Cushman attained a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology from Connecticut College, New London, CT, in 1976. Cushman carried a long interest in space exploration and was looking at ways to shape her learning in Zoology to focus on human physiology and lung function in space. Although she never made it into space, Cushman was so envious when Haley Arceneaux became the first PA in space in 2021. Cushman also had a lifelong passion for participating in sports, particularly field hockey and gymnastics. At the age of 24, a PA was part of the surgical team that cared for Cushman when she had an emergency appendectomy. Her interest in the PA profession was sparked, and she began working as a medical technician to earn direct patient contact hours to meet prerequisites for PA school. Shortly before she applied to PA schools, she ended up having knee surgery. She went to her Yale PA Program interview in a full-length leg cast. In 1986, she graduated from the Yale University School of Medicine Physician Associate Program, New Haven, CT. Leadership was stressed by the Yale faculty, and Cushman saw a number of examples of AAPA leaders at Yale, including Elaine Grant, Jeff Heinrich, and Bruce Fichandler.

After graduating from PA school, Cushman was employed by Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates where she worked in orthopedic and general surgery. While working there, she developed a method of care that allowed patients to participate in their own wound care and therefore spend less time in the hospital recovering. Fourteen health care centers in the Vanguard system would adopt her method to better help patients. She remained with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates until 2009, leaving after almost 30 years.

Cushman enjoyed precepting PA students, feeling it a privilege to impart her knowledge to them. She has been a lecturer since 2009 and helped create the Orthopedics course for Northeastern University PA Program Orthopedics in 2013.

Cushman quickly became an involved member of the Massachusetts Association of PAs (MAPA). Immediately upon returning to Massachusetts, she accompanied MAPA leader Barbara Webster to a board meeting. She left that meeting as Chair of the MAPA Public Relations Committee. In addition to serving on that committee, she also served on the Membership Committee. Later, she would become Secretary of the MAPA Board and then President.

She also is a member of the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), where she served as the speaker from 1998 to 2000 and then president from 2002 to 2003. Her path to national involvement was launched when she talked with the AAPA President at the Annual Conference in Boston (1986) about how the AAPA could better respond to the needs and interests of volunteers. She was encouraged to join the AAPA Membership Committee. During that time, she worked with the chair on the committee’s plans for leadership succession in the Academy. Cushman’s fascination with policy led her to get involved in the AAPA House of Delegates, starting as a MAPA delegate in 1998. During that time, Cushman served for five years on reference committees, including the role of chair. It was noted by many that the groups Cushman led were getting done what needed to be accomplished. More importantly, she was known to seek the views of others. As a result, she was encouraged to run for House office. Having first been elected as Secretary, she then moved through the ranks of Second Vice Speaker then First Vice Speaker. Cushman received the Outstanding House Service Award in 2005. She served for many years as a Chief Mentor of the AAPA House of Delegates. During her presidency, she represented 110,000 PAs by testifying in front of Congress to ensure that patients were receiving the highest quality of healthcare. She also spent time working behind the scenes to facilitate conversations that advanced the efforts of AAPA to work more effectively with the other PA national organizations.

Cushman has been interested in wound care research, particularly in the outpatient setting. She received the initial Pfizer Innovations in Medicine award for creating a manageable home dressing program at Harvard Vanguard. She continued her interest in scholarly work by serving on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the AAPA from 2001-2010.

She was awarded Yale Alumni of the Year in 2001. Cushman is a Distinguished Fellow of the AAPA.

Cushman believes that being allowed into the lives of her patients has been her most treasured experience as a PA. “Sharing both the happy and the sad is the most important part of what I do,” she remarked in an article for her alma mater, Yale University.

Cushman is actively involved in being a tutor for PA students and students in other health professions programs. She has no specific university affiliation and is proud of the many referrals she gets from students she has helped.

Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by PA History Society staff with the assistance of Bill Kohlhepp and Ina Cushman. Portrait photograph at top of page is courtesy of Ms. Cushman. All other photographs are courtesy of the PA History Society, AAPA Photograph Collection.


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