Annually during May, Professional Patient Advocates in Life Sciences (PPALS) in partnership with Sanford Research, conducts the Patient Advocacy Certificate Training (PACT), a specialized course of study designed for patient advocacy life sciences professionals and leaders of patient advocacy organizations to enhance their professional development.

It is important to realize that the Sanford/PPALS collaboration is not a traditional conference, but a course of study that ultimately leads to certification of the PPALS curriculum. Based on how PACT is structured and presented, participants should view the Sanford/PPALS PACT as being an ongoing curriculum that continues even after leaving Sioux Falls.

Participants of Track I (Industry), Level 101 (Introductory) will be encouraged to complete a Capstone project while participants of Track II (Patient Advocacy Organization), Level 101 (Introductory) will be encouraged to complete a Reflection Paper.   

Participants of Tracks I and II, Level 201 (Intermediate) are encouraged to submit a Case Study for possible use in a future PACT.  

While a Capstone project, Reflection Paper, or Case Study are not required for completion of the course, participation in this aspect of the curriculum bestows an enhanced certification.  

What is a Capstone Project?

Traditionally, Capstone Projects are found in undergraduate and graduate programs at leading colleges and universities, and are designed to serve as comprehensive, culminating projects that students are required to complete, once they have finished their curriculum in their field of study and before they qualify for graduation. 

A Capstone project does not have to be an extensive, involved project. For example, participants can take an ongoing project they are already working on for their career or organization and have that project double as their Capstone. 

Two key aspects for the Capstone are: 

  • Demonstrating the skills that have been acquired and use the information they have learned. 
  • Capstone projects will help PPALS to measure the effectiveness and value of the current curriculum.

What is a Reflection Paper?

A Reflection Paper is a short synopsis on the PACT experience and how participants can apply what they have learned in their organizations. Reflection papers also help measure the effectiveness of the PPALS course. Participants are encouraged to reflect upon their experience in Sioux Falls. 

Key points to remember about Reflection Papers are: 

  • Participants can show how the course helped them.
  • Will allow participants to show how they applied (or plan to apply) what they learned to their organizations.
  • No more than three pages.

How does this work?

Participants should develop an idea for their Capstone or Reflection Paper while attending the Sanford/PPALS PACT. During the PACT, participants will pick a mentor who will approve the idea and work with them to complete the project. Mentors are PACT faculty who have agreed to take on this volunteer responsibility. Individuals considering completing a Capstone or Reflection Paper can also work with fellow PACT attendees in a group setting. 

Steps to complete a Capstone or Reflection Paper:

  • Create an idea for the project.
  • Pick a Mentor who will review and discuss the idea.
    • Keep Mentor apprised of the project during the process.
  • Upon completion of the project, submit a copy to Mentor and PPALS. 
  • Independent Review.
    • Projects are reviewed by an educational specialist unaffiliated with PPALS.

What is the time frame to complete this project?

PPALS requests that participants complete and submit their Capstones or Reflection Paper  by October 1st of the year that they attended the Sanford/PPALS PACT. 

What happens next?

Participants retain ownership and copyright of their Capstone or Reflection Paper and thus they will determine what happens with or how to use the project going forward. 

There is the option to grant permission to share the project with all PPALS alumni and faculty. In some cases, a Capstone or Reflection paper project, which may contain information that is not for public consumption, will not be shared. 

What else can be done with the project? Obviously, this is tied into the topic and subject matter of an individual project. Some ideas include: 

  • PPALS will publicize the project across its social media platforms and website. 
  • Certain projects may be considered for a future  PPALS course. 
  • A project may be considered for a future educational purpose such as a webinar.
    • The webinar can be run by the author(s) of the project.
  • Professional development and networking
  • Internal use – Some projects will be specific to the organization of the author(s)
  • Incorporated into a self-evaluation if required by employer.