An exploratory analysis of research directors in US physician assistant programs

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Physician Assistant Education








© 2014, Physician Assistant Education Association. All rights reserved. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the current and anticipated utilization of research directors in physician assistant (PA) programs in the United States.Methods: The study employed a descriptive, cross-sectional design. Research directors and/or PA program directors responded to a web-based survey assessing the characteristics and responsibilities of current and anticipated faculty or staff responsible for performing research and/or evaluation activities. Descriptive analyses were performed using SPSS 21.0.Results: Ninety respondents (53.8%) from 167 PA programs participated in the survey. The majority of programs (70%) employed a designated individual responsible for research and/or evaluation within the program. Nearly 37% of respondents affirmed that they specifically employed (n = 26) or planned to hire (n = 7) a “research director.” Some of the major duties of research directors were coordinating research activities, assisting with the program’s annual report and accreditation documents, teaching research and/or evidence-based medicine courses, and assisting and mentoring faculty in research. The majority of research directors (61.5%) were doctorally prepared.Conclusion: This study provides a better understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and educational backgrounds of research directors within the PA educational community. Research directors are a viable option to help meet the growing expectation of faculty to produce research and other scholarly work. The research director’s role may vary from program to program based on its unique needs and level of research experience.