PA Medicine Program appoints a new Medical Director – Lynchburg University

Lynchburg University’s PA Medicine building is located near the main campus.

Lynchburg University Master of Medicine PA The program has a new Medical Director, effective January 1. After the retirement of Dr. Dan Johnson, who had served as the program’s medical director since 2012, local cardiologist Dr. David Truitt took over.

Johnson said he “couldn’t be more excited” about Truett’s appointment and was quick to praise him. “Dr. Truitte has served the greater Lynchburg community as a respected non-invasive cardiologist for more than 30 years,” he said. “Many of his patients love him very much and talk a lot about his attentive desk and bedside manner.

“His reputation as an outstanding physician has earned him the respect of our colleagues in the community, including physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners. He will continue to strengthen our partnership with the Free Virginia Clinic, where he volunteers and provides care to many of our medically underserved patients.

Dr. David Truett (left) shakes hands with Dr. Dan Johnson.
PA Medicine’s new medical director, Dr. David Truett (left), shakes hands with Dr. Dan Johnson, the program’s outgoing medical director.

“Under his leadership as Medical Director, he will not only bring his expertise in cardiology, particularly in the areas of hypertension, advanced cardiac imaging, heart disease prevention, and wellness. He will also add a renewed level of enthusiasm and energy to the programme.

His positive relationship with Centra Health and other medical institutions will open new doors in terms of clinical training and teacher training for our students. He is certainly no stranger to the PA profession and is known as an advocate for the PA service provider.

“I can assure you he will be a huge support to the PA faculty and staff, and especially our students. The program is fortunate to have him as its next Medical Director.”

Truitte, MD, a cardiologist at Centra Heart and Vascular Institute in Lynchburg, earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1986. He did his residency at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he was chief resident from 1989 to 1990, and completed a fellowship in cardiology at the Dartmouth Center— Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Johnson, along with faculty members Dr. Jeremy Welch and Dr. Ed Bollway, has been instrumental in the development of the Lynchburg Medicine Program.

In 2012, he was a busy emergency department physician, supervising physician assistants and nurse practitioners at Lynchburg General Hospital in Sintra. He was recently involved in a study to determine whether starting a PA medicine program at then Lynchburg College was feasible.

After the group decided it was a viable goal, Bollway, the dean of graduate studies at the time, invited Johnson to be the medical director of the new program. It wasn’t an easy sale in the beginning. “I had no thoughts of becoming the medical director; after talking with Ed, kind of twisting my arm a little bit, I said I’d do it temporarily.”

Over the next three years, members of the PA medical faculty, among them Welsh, were appointed. Together, Johnson and Welch surveyed central Virginia, securing locations where PA medical students in Lynchburg could take their clinical courses.

“It is absolutely essential to have a PA program,” said Johnson. “[We had] Meeting after meeting after meeting with regional medical centers and anyone associated with medicine, such as the major medical practices around Lynchburg, Farmville, Bedford, and places like these. …

“We had to make sure that we adhered to practices that could support our students in clinical courses. Without that, we could not have received interim approval from the National Accrediting Agency for PA Medical Scientist.”

All the while, Johnson continued to work in Lynchburg General’s emergency department. The medical director was working part time and in the emergency department, he could also help facilitate clinical rotations for PA medical students.

“It was very rewarding to have helped build one of the best PA programs around the world,” said Johnson. “It has been a real pleasure working with such capable people to build this PA program and watch it grow.

“With the addition of our new Medical Director, it will just keep getting better and better.”

Starting with the program’s first cohort in 2015, Johnson has directed the Community Clinic, a PA medicine course that introduces students to the Free Clinic of Central Virginia. In addition to helping treat patients at the free clinic, students learn from others in the community – fire and police officers, child protective services workers, mental health professionals, etc.

Johnson said, “The most satisfying part of my time in Lynchburg University’s PA Medicine program has been participating in the education of our students and watching them graduate to become qualified, caring PA providers.”

“This is the most rewarding part. We graduated from so many amazing PAs working here in Lynchburg, all over Virginia, and all over the United States. It’s really special to see the students we coach practice and mentor PA students.”

As one might expect, over time Johnson realized he wanted to be more than an “interim” manager.

“I really liked the medical director job,” he said. “I had a great team and we had great and unconditional support from then-boss Jarin, Ed Bollway and Julius Siegler, so I chose to move on and take over on a permanent basis.

“I knew we had something very special, and if we had the right people, we could take this program to a higher place and create an exceptional PA program.”

Johnson will continue to volunteer at the pro bono clinic and teach in the PA Medicine program, though Dr. Gina Rolfes 20 DMSc, associate dean for College of Medical Scienceswill take the Community Clinic course.

“[Dr. Johnson’s] “The dedication has helped create a program that continues far into the future and touches the lives of countless students and patients,” said Welsh, dean of the College of Medical Sciences. “His work at Lynchburg is of the highest order, and we will always appreciate his lasting influence and impact.”

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