Sara Lolar earns national New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence

Wayne State University Assistant Clinical Professor Sara Lolar has been honored by the Physician Assistant Education Association with the 2020 New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence. She was celebrated on Oct. 22 during the organization’s annual Education Forum national conference, held virtually this year.

Sara Lolar with award
PAEA sent Sara Lolar her award ahead of the virtual ceremony.

The award was established by PAEA to recognize one faculty member — across all accredited physician assistant studies programs in the country — with three or fewer years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education and has demonstrated outstanding contributions in at least one of the following areas: teaching, scholarship, administration or professional service.

Lolar excels in all four areas, according to fellow Assistant Clinical Professor Jamie McQueen. “Never in my years as faculty have I witnessed such growth in a PA educator,” said McQueen. “Our program has seen monumental improvement in the short time Sara has been on our team.”

Jamie McQueen and Sara Lolar in 2019.
Jamie McQueen (left) and Sara Lolar presenting at College Research Day in 2019.

After graduating from WSU’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Physician Assistant Studies program in 2005, Lolar volunteered as a guest lecturer and clinical preceptor while practicing in a Detroit emergency department. Since joining the faculty in 2018, she has balanced teaching with her work in the field, which currently keeps her on the front lines of the pandemic. 

“Between her passion for teaching, commitment to research and love of serving in one of Detroit’s busiest EDs, it is clear that our program, profession and community would not be the same without Sara’s contributions,” said Tanner Hecht, who graduated from Wayne State in May. “Our class looked to Sara as one of our biggest inspirations of the type of PA we wanted to be once we began in the workforce.”

Upon joining the Physician Assistant Studies faculty, Lolar was charged with teaching the clinical documentation portion of the curriculum — the crux of the program’s didactic training. In short time, she had updated the teaching methods to include active learning modules and maximized team building through faculty-led group assignments. This past year, responding to student interest in learning to use ultrasound to perform procedures such as cardiac exams, Lolar secured internal funding to purchase handheld ultrasound probes for the department and to develop a full curriculum to train students on their use.

Although she is clinical track faculty, Lolar has focused on scholarly efforts, including securing grants, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, mentoring students and faculty alike through research projects, and presenting her research nationally and internationally.

Sara Lolar and an RN staffing a COVID-19 screening tent.
Sara Lolar (right) helping staff a COVID-19 screening tent in March 2020.

“Sara is what every program director in a college of health care sciences housed in an R1 research institution dreams of — someone who actually enjoys and wants to do research,” said Program Director Mary Jo Pilat. “She is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves developing new models and challenging herself at all levels. I have not encountered many faculty members like Sara who have demonstrated such a strong commitment to both PA education and research along with service to an underserved community.”

Lolar said she was humbled and honored to receive the award, and grateful to all the PA educators and students who in turn have taught her so much.

“The coolest job I have ever had is as a PA educator,” Lolar said. “I love being a clinical PA and working in the emergency department, but I always look forward to my WSU Applebaum workdays. Students keep me excited about medicine and challenge me constantly. I know there are a lot of great PA programs out there, but for me Wayne State’s will always be the best.”

The Physician Assistant Studies master of science degree program at the Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is focused on the development of highly competent and passionate physician assistants who are deeply committed to practicing in urban and underserved health care settings.

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