Center for Excellence Honoree: Cynthia Lord

Cynthia LordCynthia Lord, director of the physician assistant program in the School of Health Sciences, makes sure community service is as a much a part of the program's curriculum as learning how to diagnose an illness or administer an injection.

Lord reminds students that health care professionals are always taking from patients - personal information, blood for tests - and patients are always giving, particularly when allowing students to practice skills, such as physical examinations and placement of an IV. Lord believes health care professionals owe something in return.

"Thousands of patients allow our students to learn from them when students do their clinical work in hospitals and clinics and at private practices," Lord said. "Our community service is repaying the debt."

The passion for service Lord instills in her students is why alumna Kathleen Swift nominated Lord for the Excellence in Teaching Award. "She is forever encouraging us to give back to the community and our patients," Swift wrote in her nomination form. Suszy Pafka, desktop support manager for Macintosh systems, also nominated Lord.

Lord's students exceed her expectations. They have received the Outstanding Student Society Award from the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants five times, most recently in May 2008. The award recognizes commitment to public service, public education and professional activities. The student society also was recognized this year for raising the most money, $10,000, of all student societies nationwide for the American Academy of Physician Assistants Host City Prevention Campaign, which benefits an organization in the host city of the academy's annual conference. The 2008 beneficiary was The Children's Shelter in San Antonio, which promotes childhood literacy. Students raised the $10,000 from the society's annual Run for Your Life 5k Road Race and annual cow chip bingo fundraiser.

Her students also promote childhood literacy by reading to children monthly at the pediatric clinic at the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven and reading weekly at the Mill Road School in North Haven. Lord, who is president-elect of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, encourages community service focused on health maintenance, disease prevention and literacy for underserved populations. The Physician Assistant Student Society has donated more than $10,000 and hundreds of hours of volunteer medical service to the University of Connecticut School of Medicine Mobile Free Migrant Farm Worker Clinic, which travels to farms in Greater Hartford to provide medical service, such as tuberculosis and diabetes screenings, to migrant farmers.

Lord, the physician assistant faculty and students also collect food and clothes for the homeless in New Haven, volunteer for the National Kidney Foundation to screen people for kidney disease and hold health fairs throughout Connecticut to conduct blood glucose screenings and blood pressure checks.

"A core value of our profession is giving to the community," Lord said. "That's the philosophy of every faculty member in our program. Community service gives students a purpose to their education."

Lord knows giving is contagious. Many of her students continue providing community service work after graduation. When they participate in athletic events to raise money for awareness of a disease, they contact her to encourage current students to donate. That's when she brings the "PA Scrubs" baseball hat to class to pass around. Whatever students give, she matches from her pocket.

"When they see I'm giving, they want to give," Lord said.

She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a double major in biology and medical technology in 1982. She then ran a hematology laboratory and served as an oncology clinician for a private practice at Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford.

Physician assistants she knew influenced her to become a physician assistant. She received her physician assistant education from Yale School of Medicine in 1991 and then joined a private family practice in Storrs. While serving on the board of directors for the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants, Dana Stanhope, the first director of Quinnipiac's physician assistant program; biology professor Ken Kaloustian; and Joe Woods, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the time, called Lord to serve on Quinnipiac's advisory committee for developing a physician assistant program.

"She's one of the very best professors we have brought to Quinnipiac," Kaloustian said. "Her dedication to our students is second to none. She is an outstanding example to our students for professionalism and integrity."

Just before the program launched in 1994, Quinnipiac asked Lord to serve full time as educational coordinator to design curriculum and teach courses. She became director when Stanhope left to start another physician assistant program in California.

"Professor Lord's program works," Swift wrote. "The support, skills and confidence she passes on to students make Quinnipiac physician assistants renown across the country." The program is ranked 14 out of 141 in the country, according to America's Best Graduate Schools 2008 published by U.S. News and World Report.

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