A Conversation With Two Trailblazing Public Members
This article was written with editorial support and input from NCCPA.
Beverly Black (left) and Zeno St. Cyr, II (right), not only serve as the public board members for the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), but they also represent the diverse talents and perspectives public members bring to such boards. Their journeys to these roles underscore the richness of their experiences and unique contributions they offer.
St. Cyr's service on Maryland’s health professional regulatory boards and his involvement with national commissions dedicated to health occupations licensing exam development make him a pivotal player in the health care sector. Meanwhile, Black's experience in governance, including updating bylaws and board development, offers a fresh lens to health care governance in her role as a public member.
Leading the Way as Public Members
In St. Cyr's view, public members like him represent the “voice of the general public,” infusing boards with perspectives that can enlighten the other professional members. Black aptly summarizes the role, noting that public members consistently remind professionals about the ultimate beneficiaries of their services — the patients!
The NCCPA doesn't just acknowledge these public members; it places them in leadership roles, further strengthening its commitment to diverse viewpoints. As a testament to this, Black holds the prestigious position of board chair for the NCCPA, and her influence is far-reaching — having served as board secretary for two terms and chair of several committees and workgroups during her tenure. St. Cyr serves on the Partners in Mental Health Steering Committee under the NCCPA's Health Foundation. He is also the 2023 chair of this profession-wide think-tank, where his role focuses on emphasizing the importance of mental health and substance use disorder recognition during routine patient visits. His leadership also extends to the NCCPA’s Review Committee, addressing agency testing and disciplinary issues as well as service on several other workgroups and taskforces throughout his tenure.
Beyond her service as board chair, Black’s influence resonated when she facilitated discussions around the relevance of I.C.E.’s Future of Credentialing Report in relation to the NCCPA's strategic direction. The section on government and credentialing was especially helpful to review as the NCCPA occasionally responds to issues or questions from state medical boards or state physician assistant/associate (PA) associations. Although the NCCPA predominantly plays a certifying role, it remains vigilant and ready to assist in relevant legislative issues pertaining to PA certification or recertification.
Drawing from his experience, St. Cyr observes that public members sometimes exhibit a greater receptiveness to change. Underscoring this belief, he noted serving on one testing agency that resisted changes to its exam only to have circumstances — in this case the pandemic — force the agency’s hand in implementing those very changes. He also observed the hesitance of some to embrace the globalizing trends of professional certification and licensure. St. Cyr adds, “There is a general reluctance to adapt to the globalization of professional certification and licensure. Organizations considering testing in the global marketplace absolutely need to proceed with caution and due diligence, but also recognize that globalization may be the paradigm of the future.”
Finding Value in I.C.E.
Both members value I.C.E.'s initiatives to promote public membership. They actively participate in I.C.E.'s Public Member Committee and commend initiatives like waiving public member registration fees. These gestures, along with resources available on the I.C.E. website, emphasize the organization's commitment to public members.
Black calls for a greater emphasis from I.C.E. on promoting the significance of certification and enhancing the visibility of information about public members. In her words, "Public members can both champion the importance of certification and underline their value in this process." St. Cyr, while recognizing the satisfaction of mentoring future public members, highlights the need for them to be vocal, informed and allowed to ask questions.
In concluding their insights, both Black and St. Cyr converge on a vital point: the attitudes held by an organization’s CEO and board chair play a pivotal role in creating an environment where public members can thrive and effectively contribute.
In essence, public members like Black and St. Cyr don't merely add voices to boards like the NCCPA; they bring in transformative perspectives that foster richer discussions and more holistic decisions.