Rachel Ditoro, MSPAS, PA-C, understands many patients have been to healthcare providers and have walked away feeling dissatisfied after their encounter. As a result, her ultimate goal is to make sure this doesn’t happen with the Physician Assistant (PA) Studies students trained at Salus University.
 
Rachel Ditoro“From my perspective, a successful provider is someone who will actively listen to their patients, someone who will not only hear the words they’re saying but try to understand what it is that they are conveying through those words,” the new director of the University’s PA program, effective July 1, 2022, said.
 
As something the program is continually working on, she stresses this expectation to incoming and current students.
 
“Not only will they be trained and competent enough to pass their board exams, but the medical education they’re getting at the University will allow them to be successful, compassionate clinicians,” she said. “The piece that we feel we want to continue to strengthen is around communication, building empathy, and trying to help students become providers patients will go to and feel good about.”
 
In addition, Ditoro said the PA department as a whole strives to continue to build a more diverse program and improve the cultural competence of its students.
 
From a programmatic standpoint, the new director wants to continue to help the faculty and staff grow and develop professionally. Ditoro replaces Daniel Pavlik, DMS, PA-C, as program director.
 
Prior to coming to Salus in 2016, Ditoro was one of the first PAs to serve in a pilot project to trial the PA profession in the United Kingdom. Her work there in the early-to-mid 2000s helped in the development of the PA role within England’s nationally-funded healthcare system.
 
While still working clinically, Ditoro was part of the interdisciplinary team tasked to develop the PA professional competencies for the British National Health Service. She was also involved in creating the initial curriculum for the University of Birmingham, one of the first schools to offer the PA graduate degree in the UK.

Rachel Ditoro in lab with studentsWhen she eventually returned to the United States, her interest in education had been ignited and she served as a PA faculty member at her alma mater, Arcadia University. 
 
When she initially came to Salus six years ago, the program was dealing with an accreditation issue, now resolved. Brought in to help chart a new course, she served as the director of Educational Competency and Strategic Innovation, a new position created with the intention of looking at student competencies. In that role, Ditoro helped support student learning by checking their progress and providing support systems.
 
“Not just remedial work but actually trying to identify students who were struggling before they got to the point of being put in any form of academic jeopardy. It (this role) was developed with that kind of purpose in mind,” she said.
 
Ditoro was also tasked with looking at the program as a whole, which included a curriculum revision, and putting an infrastructure in place for students to be successful.
 
“Part of my role was looking at the big picture; the end point was that students were coming out with the knowledge and the skills that they needed to be ready to practice medicine,” she explained.
 
Now that she’s leading the department, Ditoro wants to continue that development process she helped create when she first arrived at the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus.  
 
“We all feel very confident…the things that we are focusing on now are trying to help students become successful clinicians beyond just medical knowledge,” she said.
Rachel Ditoro in lab with students