FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Students performing their clinical rotations for Trine University’s
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program this spring will be equipped
with new tools designed to help them show more empathy for the populations they serve.
Members of Trine’s chapter of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician
Assistants (SAAAPA) will provide students who desire them with pronoun pins to wear
on rotation and pocket cards with common medical phrases in Spanish and Arabic.
Sebreena Zalam, a student in Trine’s MPAS Class of 2022, had planned to purchase a
pronoun pin to wear on her rotations. The pins display a person’s preferred pronoun,
and are designed to show support from medical professionals for LGBTQ+ patients.
After hearing from fellow students who were looking for ways to incorporate more diversity
into their education, she asked her program director if the pins could be provided
for all students. Students in the program will receive an explanation of the pins’
significance as well as educational articles provided by Alexis Salinas, SAAAPA’s
“The initial meaning behind pronoun pins is to let other people know what pronouns
you prefer to use,” Zalam said. “And while they still do this and still have the potential
to benefit providers who may identify with new or changing pronouns, I think that
the benefit it has on the patients speaks incredibly loud volumes.”
Zalam said she came out as a lesbian to her primary care physician at age 17 to receive
appropriate healthcare, and, as such, recognizes the significant healthcare disparities
for LGBTQ+ patients.
“With the disproportionately high incidences of substance abuse, major depression,
gender/body dysphoria, domestic abuse, suicide attempts and much more in the LGBTQ+
community, I hope these pins will serve as a signal for a ‘safe space’ that may ultimately
lead to earlier diagnoses of these pertinent and sometimes fatal medical issues,”
“I think the pins will be beneficial to Trine PA students on rotations because I believe
they will allow students to create a safe environment with their patients. This will
lead to better history taking and hopefully earlier diagnoses of pertinent medical
While organizing past service trips to Peru and Ecuador, Zalam had received medical
Spanish cards that she planned to use as a template for the language cards Trine students
will receive. However, a classmate pointed out that many Trine students will perform
rotations in the Dearborn, Michigan, area, which has a significant population that
“I asked a few classmates with fluency in these languages to help me in making these
cards, and they happily obliged,” she said.
The cards are not meant to allow students to speak the language, but are designed
to help them obtain a simple medical history if necessary.
“Seeking medical help and being unable to communicate with the provider can be incredibly
frustrating. Having a tool to meet the patient halfway can truly go a long way,” she
said. “I also believe that preceptors will be impressed with Trine's commitment to
serving all patient populations.”
Zalam said the new tools will enhance the work Trine’s MPAS program has already done
to prepare students to treat diverse patient populations.
“Trine University's PA program has done a good job of considering different patient
populations when we learn medicine,” she said. “I feel that these small efforts will
complement the program well and will be the start of truly creating well-rounded,