An Advocate for Compassionate, Patient-Centered Health Care
Nora Lowy, Director of the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies Program, Florham Campus
By Kenna Caprio
In Nora Lowy’s opinion, good health is the foundation upon which people build happy and productive lives. And physician assistants (PAs) are essential contributors to that strong foundation.
“I wanted to be a health care provider who interacted with patients on a more personal level — a clinician who would provide quality care and who would also make patients feel comfortable to share their stories,” says Lowy. “As a PA, helping patients was truly rewarding. Now, as an educator of future providers, guiding students toward serving their future patients is exciting!”
After more than 20 years heading the PA program at Wagner College in New York City, N.Y., Lowy came to Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2019 to develop the new Master of Science in PA Studies degree.
In 2022, the program enrolled its inaugural class of 40 students.
“There’s an emphasis on social responsibility, compassionate care and advocacy — all of which make the program unique,” she says. “It provides a solid foundation of sound medical knowledge and strong clinical practice experience.”
Students complete 2,000 hours of clinical practice, learning to deliver active, chronic, emergent and preventative care to patients of all ages in various settings including hospitals, clinics, emergency departments, urgent-care centers and private practice.
PAs can take patient histories, perform physical exams, diagnose medical conditions, develop treatment plans, order and read tests, prescribe medications, offer counsel and provide preventative care.
“Providing quality care requires more than memorizing anatomical structures or acquiring a set of clinical or technical skills. Every patient has a story to share, and every patient has something to teach us,” Lowy says. “My clinical years were dedicated to attending the births of and caring for high-risk premature infants in an intensive-care setting, but it was also about taking the time to listen to the stories and hopes of the parents of those infants.”
A big part of the mission of FDU’s PA Studies program is to provide compassionate patient-centered care.
Lowy also notes that an important part of her job is to design a responsive curriculum based on the current health care landscape. “For example, in response to some of what we learned from the pandemic, we have incorporated telemedicine training and a course on the global practice of medicine.”
It’s thrilling for Lowy to think about the impact she’s having on her students’ lives, and — more broadly — on the health care system itself.
“Whether I’m teaching physiology, pathophysiology or internal medicine, my focus is on integrating medical case studies into the learning process and guiding students through their clinical reasoning and problem-solving journeys,” Lowy says. “That ‘aha’ moment when they determine a medical condition or figure out the ‘why’ to explain the patient’s symptoms is priceless.”
“Life itself gives me purpose. There’s always so much to learn, so much to explore and so much that still needs our attention.”
On her days off, Lowy likes to go for a walk on the beach, watch the waves and then find a quiet spot to dive into a book.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
SUCCESS IS …
“Many things! The wonderful deep breath you take when you accomplish a goal, the warm feeling when you put a smile on someone’s face, or that call you get five years after graduation from a student who just wants to say thank you.”