Physician Assistant Studies Associate Professor Michael Rackover Named Outstanding PA of the Year

Michael “Rocky” Rackover, PA-C, associate professor and associate director of the Physician Assistant Studies Program, will receive the 2011 PAragon Outstanding PA of the Year Award for outstanding service from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) at the 39th Annual Physician Assistant Conference in Las Vegas in May.

The award honors a physician assistant who has demonstrated exemplary service to the PA profession and the community and has furthered the image of physician assistants. Rackover championed the introduction of genetic literacy to physician assistant education.

Bringing genetic literacy to PA education advances the understanding of how the knowledge of family history (pedigree) can improve the diagnosis, care and treatment patients receive from health care providers. As noted on the NHGRI website, “Genomics is the study of an organism’s whole hereditary information that is present in its genes (DNA) and the use of its genes.” Read more about personalized medicine in Rackover’s faculty commentary in a previous issue of Innovator Magazine.

“I am humbled and honored to accept this prestigious PAragon Award,” Rackover said. “Genetic literacy will benefit both physician assistants and their patients as the scientific research becomes applicable to the clinical practice of medicine. The information will help individualize and improve patient and family care.”

In 2006, Rackover completed a four-month sabbatical at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He focused on implementing projects that enhanced the integration of genetics and genomics into physician assistant practice and education.

He planned and coordinated a landmark meeting in 2007 of the PA profession’s executives from the four PA organizations – AAPA, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), Accreditation for Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA), and Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) – government representatives, and NHGRI directors. Meeting discussions focused on the future practice of medicine that would utilize personalized medicine involving genetics and genomics.

By the end of the meeting, all PA organizations reached consensus to support the NHGRI educational mission for health care providers. The PA profession was the first health care profession to officially support the NHGRI regarding this important initiative.

“I cannot overstate how much Michael Rackover’s unique efforts to place physician assistants in the forefront nationally of efforts to integrate genetics and genomics effectively into daily patient care have not only advanced the PA profession and made it a model for other health professional disciplines, but also have served to improve the health of patients for generations to come,” Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., previously the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and currently the director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote in a letter to the APPA in support of Rackover’s award nomination. 

In recognition of the successful meeting, Rackover received a U.S. Public Health Service Coin given by Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., acting surgeon general of the United States.

“Rocky embodies our aspirations for Philadelphia University graduates,” said Provost Randy Swearer, Ph.D. “He’s a leader and role model for our students, and deeply cares about the world around him. His life is about taking all that he has learned and applying it humanely and with humor in order to make the world a better place.”

Rackover joined Philadelphia University in 1995, assisting with the start of the PA program as the first academic coordinator. He was the director of the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies Program from 2005 to 2010. During his tenure, the program became known as a leader in providing students with the latest training and information to put graduates on the cutting-edge of what the NHGRI believes is the future of medicine.

“He richly deserves this national recognition for his impact on the physician assistant profession,” Swearer added. “We are very proud of his accomplishments and congratulate him for this prestigious, industry award.”

In addition to his clinical work and teaching, Rackover has published articles in scholarly journals and has lectured widely on clinical and professional issues. His work at the National Human Research Genome Institute was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (JAAPA).

During his 40-plus years experience in health care, Rackover has managed a radiology department and has been a radiology consultant to the Humana Corporation in Louisville, Ky. He has worked clinically as a physician assistant in radiation oncology and occupational medicine. He has also worked extensively in health care administration and academia, and has also participated in cancer research.

In 2003, Rackover was named Physician Assistant Educator of the Year by the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants. He also received the PAEA Outstanding Service Award presented at the 2008 Annual Education Forum in Savannah, Ga. He has been director-at-large on the board of directors of the PAEA and has worked with the NCCPA as a test item writer.

In addition to his Philadelphia University responsibilities, Rackover is currently a consultant to the National Human Research Genome Institute and until recently was on the board of directors for the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics.

Rackover received a bachelor’s degree and PA Certificate from Drexel/ Hahnemann University and an M.S. in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Posted in University Headlines