It was just a typical class for Kristopher Maday, MS, PA-C, program director and associate professor in the UTHSC Physician Assistant (PA) Program. He had stepped out of the room briefly to set up a simulation exercise, and when he returned to class, his students had a surprise for him.
They had nominated him for the 2020 Tennessee Academy of Physician Assistants (TAPA) Educator of the Year Award and had been notified that he had won. To celebrate, they met him with applause, congratulations, and a cape they made declaring him “Super PA.”
“I had no idea that it was coming,” he said. It took me probably a good two or three minutes of everybody clapping before I realized kind of what was going on. It’s just nice to be recognized by the students that you are doing a good job.”
Maday will be formally recognized by TAPA on October 5 at the organization’s Fall Fest in Gatlinburg. However, if you ask him, being nominated by his students is reward enough.
“I think what means the most about this is that if you can get nominated for something that recognizes the commitment that you make to students and their education and resonates with them, it kind of tells you that what you’re doing is right,” he said.
The PA program at UTHSC began in 2013. Maday joined in 2017 to help the program grow. By 2018, the UTHSC PA Program was granted a 10-year accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. That year’s graduating class earned a 100% first-time pass rate on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam.
“I have never met an educator who loves teaching as much as Kris,” said Stephanie Storgion, MD, FAAP, FCCM, chair and professor of the UTHSC Physician Assistant Program. “Not only does he give his very best for teaching our PA students at UTHSC, he also posts PA educational spots on various social media platforms and runs his own blog for PA students. His desk in his office on campus looks like a newscaster’s desk with multiple screens and an amazing microphone to project the very best for learners, many of whom he will never meet, but on whose learning and future practice his imprint will be forever embedded.”
Maday created and produces a podcast, the PAINE podcast, which stands for Physician Assistant In Education, to help students, wherever they are studying, get ready for the PA National Certification Exam.
The two-year PA program at UTHSC has 60 students, 30 first-year students in their didactic training, and 30 second-year students in clinical rotations. Students from both sections supported Maday’s nomination with words of their own.
“Mr. Maday is not only one of my favorite professors at UTHSC, he is one of the best teachers I have ever had throughout all of my education,” wrote Mary Parker Johnstone, Class of 2021. “He truly wants us to enjoy what we are learning and is understanding that the material can be tough sometimes, but he wants us to learn and become great PAs, so he challenges us and makes sure we are pushing ourselves.”
Abbey Bounds, Class of 2021, called Maday a superhero. “He’s currently teaching three classes, running the program, and working in the clinic,” she said. “He has gone out of his way to make us all feel comfortable tackling virtual PA school.”
Haley Feiler, Class of 2020, wrote that Maday influenced her to choose the UTHSC program. “Mr. Maday is not only an incredible physician assistant, but also an excellent professor, mentor, role model, and advocate for the future generation of medical professionals,” she said. “To be completely honest, he was the biggest reason I chose to attend UTHSC. Listening to his PAINE podcasts while applying to graduate schools made it abundantly clear that even when he’s not teaching his students, or practicing medicine, he chooses to spend his time educating a broader audience and advancing the reach of the PA profession. That’s who I wanted to learn from.”
Maday, who has been an educator since 2008, said he loves to see his students progress through different phases of their training, from classroom to clinicals, and then to become colleagues in clinical practice. “And so, just the fact that they felt enough of an urge to want to submit a nomination on my behalf for this solidifies that everything I’m doing and the reasons why I’m doing this are the right reasons, and at the end of the day, that I’m in the right profession,” he said.