Take a glimpse into the career of a physician assistant

Celebrating National P.A. Week, Oct. 6-12

Oct. 8, 2018

Did you know there are more than 140 physician assistants practicing at OHSU? And each year, the OHSU P.A. Program graduates another 42 physician assistants to join the workforce. National Physician Assistant Week is a time to recognize the contributions physician assistants make to the medical community and to increase awareness about P.A. practice. To celebrate, here are glimpses into the lives of physician assistant students and faculty members at OHSU. 

P.A. Class of 2020 celebrate P.A. Week

From classroom to community, P.A. students serve and advocate

P.A. students and faculty in Forest ParkGiving back to the community is a central part of being a health professional. The P.A. Class of 2020 recently partnered with the Portland Parks and Recreation No Ivy League to help restore the native habitat of Forest Park. Fifteen students and three faculty members hiked Oct. 6 to an area overtaken by invasive ivy and pulled it out.

OHSU health professions students sometimes have an opportunity to meet with legislators and other elected officials to describe their career path. P.A. Class of 2019 student Michael Graham, also in the Oregon National Guard, met Governor Kate Brown when he was on clinical rotation in Roseburg, Oregon. Gov. Brown was on location with community health care leaders and county representatives to discuss health care issues in Douglas County. Graham shared his experience with what drew him to the P.A. profession, and his ideas for solving the provider shortage in rural Oregon. "It was a really awesome experience ... also, I was the only P.A. affiliate in the room!" he said. See more on Facebook.

Help celebrate P.A. Week on social media with the hashtag #PAWeek. Check out P.A. student Rebecca Wong, featured on OHSU Instagram.

During P.A. graduation in August, Dean Sharon Anderson made clear her admiration for the P.A. profession. "In my book, physician assistants are rock stars," she said. "I personally have the greatest respect for you as individuals, for this P.A. program specifically, and for the P.A. profession in general. You are a critical part of the health care team, and that will be even more true in the future."

PAs recite the oathThe numbers attest to how critical physician assistants are to the community. Among P.A. Program graduates, 23 percent of practice in rural settings, and 19 percent practice in medically underserved communities. Among the 41 members of the P.A. Class of 2018:

  • 73 percent are women
  • 22 percent are from rural areas
  • 17 percent are first-generation college students
  • 17 percent identify with a racial or ethnic minority group underrepresented in medicine

The OHSU Physician Assistant Program was established in 1995 with the mission of preparing physician assistants to provide primary care services to rural and urban medically underserved communities. The Program graduated its first class in September 1997. The OHSU P.A. Program ranks fifth among graduate-level physician assistant programs in the nation in the 2015 U.S. News &World Report Best Graduate School rankings. The program's graduates have achieved a 98 percent first-time pass rate on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam over the last five years. Sixty percent work in specialty practices and 40 percent work in primary care.

Fulfilling the missions means faculty advancement

One of the hallmarks of being a faculty member is the promotion and appointment process. Each year, the dean and members of the School of Medicine Promotion and Tenure Committee host a reception to honor faculty members who successfully demonstrate scholarship, teaching and service.

Dean Sharon Anderson with Dr. Pat Kenney-MoorePat Kenney-Moore, Ed.D., P.A.-C., professor, Physician Assistant Education, is the first P.A. to attain the rank of professor at OHSU. During the recent reception celebrating all faculty promoted and appointed, she credited the flexibility to balance work, professional development and ongoing education throughout her career at OHSU, which began in 1995. Dr. Kenney-Moore is also associate director of the P.A. Program. 

"The importance of service on a local, regional and national level was instilled in me by my first mentor and founding program director, Ted J. Ruback, M.S., P.A.-C. emeritus, as a way in which to support the P.A. profession and shine a light of excellence on OHSU," said Dr. Kenney-Moore. "The current OHSU P.A. Program Director, Glenn Forister, Ph.D., P.A.-C., continues the tradition, and our faculty are actively encouraged to contribute to the advancement of medical education through service activities."

Claire Hull, M.H.S., P.A.-C., associate professor, Physician Assistant Education, was also among the 120 faculty members receiving promotion this year – 55 percent of whom are women. As the clinical coordinator for the P.A. Program, Hull oversees the curriculum and assessments of the clinical phase of the 26-month program.

Physician assistants are clinician leaders

More than 140 physician assistants are members of the OHSU Practice Plan – a group of 1,800 licensed independent clinicians making up the largest organized clinical practice in Oregon. They work across specialties in the hospital, intensive care units, outpatient clinics, operating rooms, and in clinical research areas. They are also leaders on executive boards and committees, helping make decisions about clinical strategy and practice issues.

Alex Nydahl, M.P.A.S. '15, P.A.-C., instructor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine, was elected to a two-year term on the OPP Board of Directors and OPP Management Committee as a result of the June 2018 at-large member election. This was the first time an advanced practice provider member of the OPP was elected to serve. In another first, Dr. Kenney-Moore was named earlier this year to the Oregon Medical Association Executive Committee, a two-year service appointment.

Photos, top to bottom

Sign says. P.A. Class of 2020 students and faculty celebrate P.A. Week 2018 outside the Robertson Life Sciences Building.

Restoring Forest Park. P.A. students and faculty teamed up with Portland Parks and Recreation to remove invasive ivy from one of Portland's most beloved natural areas.

Taking the oath. Ted Ruback, M.S., P.A.-C. emeritus, founding director of the OHSU P.A. Program and associate professor emeritus, led the recitation of the Physician Assistant Professional Oath during graduation in August. It includes a commitment to effective patient care, continuous improvement, collaboration and equity, as well as using their knowledge and experience "to contribute to an improved community."

Commemorating a first. Dr. Kenney-Moore, left, is the first physician assistant to attain the rank of professor at OHSU. Dean Anderson savors the milestone with her during the 2018 Promotion and Tenure reception.