Growing up in Hammond, Indiana (a Chicago suburb), Laurie Lipsig Pylitt wanted to teach Adapted Physical Education and work with kids with disabilities. While majoring in PE at Indiana University, Bloomington, she read about the PA profession in Seventeen magazine. After graduating cum laude from IU, she started her PA training at Emory University in Atlanta, but then transferred to Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, graduating in 1976. This decision to pursue the PA profession gave her a satisfying medical career and a balanced family life – two of her life goals.
Shortly after PA school graduation, Ms. Pylitt began her volunteer service with the American Academy of Physician Assistants. As one of AAPA’s youngest leaders to ever serve on the AAPA Board of Directors, she provided innovative ideas and energy from 1978-80. These were pioneering, formative years of the Academy and the profession. The Board’s business ranged from establishing the Academy’s financial stability (dependent on member dues); expanding member services (publications, public education, continuing medical education, representation at the state and federal level); overseeing state legislative initiatives to achieve PA practice in New Jersey and Missouri; establishing the Educational Research Foundation (the predecessor to the PA Foundation); guiding the evolution of PA practice issues (regulation, supervision, prescriptive practices); overseeing the acceptance of the profession by organized medicine; and monitoring research studies on patient acceptance, quality care, and PA qualifications and privileges.
Besides her AAPA Board service, Ms. Pylitt focused on working 15 years as a surgical PA in Chicago and studying at the University of Illinois/Chicago Health Sciences Center to earn a Master of Health Professions Education degree. During this time, she also served as President of the Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants (1986) and as a Member of the Test Development Committee for Physician Assistant Certifying Examination (PANCE) of the National Board of Medical Examiners (1982-1993).
In the early 1990s, after her marriage to Bernard (Buddy) Pylitt, Ms. Pylitt returned to Indiana and became the Manager of Quality Assurance at Indiana University Health. During this time, she returned to an AAPA leadership role, serving as the Chair of the Risk Management Task Force (1991-1994). In 1994 she participated in the publication of Managing Risk through Quality PA Practice: A Guide for Health Care Providers, writing a chapter on “Risks of Clinical Practice Confronting Health Care Professionals.”
Always busy and forward thinking, in 1994 Ms. Pylitt and then Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Associate Dean, Bruce Clayton, successfully co-authored a grant proposal to establish the Butler PA Program in Indianapolis. It had been a dream of hers to start a PA program. There had not been a program in Indiana for 20 years, since the program she had graduated from closed due to lack of funding after graduating five classes of students. Upon successful funding of the grant, Ms. Pylitt was named the founding program director (1994-1998). Since the first graduating class in 1996, more than 1,000 PAs have graduated from the Butler PA Program.
Between 2000 and 2007, Ms. Pylitt worked as the Education Coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine’s Family Medicine Residency with primary responsibilities that included curriculum development, curricular assessment, OSCE design/proctoring, and data analysis to meet regulatory/accreditation requirements. In 2007 she was wooed back to Butler University where she served as the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Director of Assessment. In addition to providing didactic/laboratory course instruction and academic advising, she coordinated course and instructor evaluations, monitored compliance with University and accrediting body requirements, analyzed assessment data, prepared reports for the University and accrediting bodies, and served as the College’s subject matter expert on university requirements and tools for assessment of student learning outcomes.
Asked about her proudest career accomplishments, Ms. Pylitt responded “…starting the PA program and rekindling PA education in Indiana after a 20 year absence, and working in the healthcare assessment and accreditation fields. Starting the PA Program spurred the development of additional new programs in Indiana. And, from an assessment perspective, I feel like I was able to make the assessment process more understandable and less intrusive, while helping both professionals and students across multiple disciplines understand how assessment provides the basis for identifying opportunities for improvement and documenting the results of improvement efforts.”
Ms. Pylitt’s other professional activities and memberships include the Indiana Academy of PAs (serving as President 2000-2002); the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, International Medical Graduate Instructional Design Workgroup; the American Academy of Physician Assistants; the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
University and community service roles have included the Carmel Clay Schools Health Curriculum Committee, Carmel, IN; Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School Swimming and Diving Team parent; Boston University Parents Advisory Group; Indiana Schweitzer Fellowship Advisory Board; and Hamilton County (IN) Health Department Board Member (Vice Chair 2019-present).
Ms. Pylitt and husband Buddy are proud parents to Adam, Chelsea, and Alison Pylitt, and grandparents to Caleb (7), Braden (17), and four-legged grandson Newton. Since her retirement as an Emerita faculty member in 2017, her spare time is filled with gardening, cooking, listening to audiobooks, and traveling.
Acknowledgments: This biography was prepared by Marilyn Fitzgerald with the assistance of Ms. Pylitt and submitted to the Society on May 2021. The photographs are courtesy of Ms, Pylitt.