SMHS Faculty Spotlight
SMHS Faculty Spotlight
CFE (Center for Faculty Excellence)

GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center for Faculty Excellence 

October 2023 Faculty Spotlight

National Physician Assistant (PA) Week

Excellence in teaching & learning, scholarly endeavors, and leadership are all around us at SMHS. The Center for Faculty Excellence would like to Spotlight our faculty’s contributions to SMHS, George Washington University, and beyond. Each month we will spotlight faculty from across the Academic Medical Enterprise. We want to thank our highlighted faculty members for sharing with us their advice and perspectives!
- SMHS Center for Faculty Excellence
Aaron Henry, MSHS, PA-C
Join the CFE as we highlight Aaron Henry, MSHS, PA-C, in honor of National Physician Assistant (PA) Week. Aaron discusses his journey to academia and his coaching and research interest in men’s health, specifically black male health disparities. Throughout his efforts here at GW, Aaron embodies the meaning of National PA Week, PAs Go Beyond!


Aaron Henry, MSHS, PA-C, is an Assistant Professor at the GWU PA program, and currently serves as the director for the Behavioral Medicine and Primary Care clerkships and several electives. Prior to joining the faculty, Aaron served as a clinical preceptor and adjunct instructor for the PA program.

Aaron is a graduate of the George Washington University Physician Assistant Program and has worked clinically in emergency medicine, urgent and primary care. Before becoming a PA, Aaron honorably served as a Navy Corpsman with two tours of duty in Iraq.

Aaron’s interests include men’s health, ultrasonography, and the improvement of healthcare access and education in underserved communities.

Interview Q/A

How long have you been at GWSMHS? Why did you decide to pursue a career in Physician Assistant Studies?
Aaron: I graduated from the GW Physician Assistant (PA) program in 2010. After graduating, I served as adjunct faculty, precepting students and teaching within the program. 

Prior to becoming a PA, I was a Navy Corpsman and served two tours of duty in Iraq. Healthcare, especially emergency medicine, has always been an interest and passion of mine. During my second deployment, I happened to work with a PA who was doing incredible things, and this interaction really sparked my interest in the field. So I applied to and was accepted into the PA program here at GW.
What are some of your primary responsibilities here at GWSMHS?

Aaron: I currently serve as the Clerkship Director for Behavioral Medicine, Primary Care, and several elective courses for our clinical year students. The clinical year is where a lot of the magic happens; it's where all the information and knowledge that students gathered in the didactic year gets applied in the clinical setting and is a pivotal point in their education, which sets them up for a career as a PA. I also teach some lectures on the didactic side, such as the Cardiomyopathy lecture and Men's Reproductive Health I & II.

Aside from my teaching and service within the PA Department, I am also a men's health coach and have my own men's health coaching business, TrueGuide Health Consulting, LLC, that is focused on helping men lose weight and live healthier lives> This work dovetails with the research that I want to do. I actually just started my PhD in Translational Health Sciences through GW this past week, and my focus is going to be on black men's health disparities. Unfortunately, a lot of mistreatment throughout history has created a barrier for this population, so my research will focus on finding ways to build rapport and trust between this underserved population and the healthcare system.
What is your favorite part of teaching at SMHS?

Aaron: I love the one-on-one interactions with the students where I can really teach them, based on my experience. In addition to teaching, I am also an advisor for both first and second-year students. Students at this stage are very unsure of what they want to do or the specialty they want to pursue, so being able to help them identify their strengths and guide them to such an important decision that best suits them is really what I enjoy most. 
What is your favorite thing about your current role or responsibilities?
Aaron: One of my favorite parts is how my experience has come full circle after being both a student and now a faculty member. I enjoy being able to support students as they go through the process and being able to shed light on my experience in class and also go out to the clinics and see the students in action and am able to troubleshoot issues and work with the preceptors to create a better learning environment for the students. It feels like I am really leaving a legacy and imprint on the students and university.
What impact do you hope to have through these roles?

Aaron: One of the impacts I hope to have is improving diversity within our profession. Focusing on more recruitment of minority populations, especially African Americans. Being less than 1% of the population in the PA field as a black male says a lot. Representation is something that is very personal for me, and I want to identify ways to improve our programs to reflect that. Being at an institution like GW, within the PA program which is in the top 5 programs in the country, it can feel very intimidating for potential applicants to even apply; however, with improved initiatives, we can show potential applicants that they can apply here and that this profession is possible for them to be a part of. There have already been significant changes since I started as a student, so it's very promising to see how this profession and our department continue to grow.

Aaron: The other impact I hope to have relates to Men's Health, which is a field that really isn't explored. We know about some of the issues, but there really are not many discussions around it. Based on my experiences as a veteran, having five brothers, and seeing a lot of death and loss with men in my family, I became very interested in exploring this topic more. All this really put me on the right path to tie into my research and doctoral studies to focus on this gap and health disparities.

What are you looking forward to working on or doing here at GWSMHS?

Aaron: Currently, I am doing work with Dr. Robert Turner in his lab, where he is conducting multiple studies focused on black men's health. One is an NFL concussion study which he partners with other institutions, and another is a black male caregiver study, which focuses on the effects of caregiver burden for black men who care for patients with Dementia and Alzheimer's. It is great to be able to align my work with that lab which is within our university. Eventually, I hope to develop a curriculum within GW that focuses on men's health and health disparities and increase conversations about this topic and issue across the country and the world.
What about the future of the PA Studies Department excites you?

Aaron: Overall, medical healthcare is a complex system. Teaching this new generation of providers, especially in this era after the pandemic, which really stressed the system and caused a lot of chaos, has posed some challenges for medical education. It is exciting to be a part of our department and play an active role in brainstorming new ways to make sure we are preparing our students to be resilient professionals and meaningful contributors to this system.
How does this spotlight/recognition make you feel?

Aaron: Overall, I am a humble person, but it does feel great to be highlighted in this way and somewhat surreal to be in this position as someone who was once a student in this program and now gets to work side by side with some of my previous professors, such as Drs. Tammy Ritsema and Howard Straker. I'm grateful to have this opportunity to be a faculty member and have this abundance of resources, especially within the CFE under the leadership of Dr. Dee Dee Herrmann, that have supported me and made me feel appreciated. This kind of recognition really just encourages me when it comes to further promoting my purpose within medical and health education.
What is one piece of advice for your trainees here at GW?
Aaron: As I continue to learn and navigate academia, I have to draw from my experiences, a lot of which are deeply rooted in my upbringing. These included growing up in a rough environment and serving in the military, where you had to learn discipline. Those experiences are things I tell the new cohort of PAs: You have to be disciplined in your learning and take the initiative to be disciplined when you are practicing because discipline can save someone's life. Are you disciplined enough to look up the medical drug interaction between these drugs or search the latest literature regarding new surgical procedures? It can feel simpler just to take the easy route, but it is at the detriment of not only you but your future patients. This kind of advice, I hope, has a lasting impact on them and supports them throughout their career.
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