Letter to All Physician Assistants

By Elizabeth James, MD, Regional Medical Director


Happy National Physician Assistants Week from all of us at Keystone Healthcare Management! You deserve a very special round of applause and a big thank you as we celebrate your accomplishments and hard work.

I entered the field of medicine in large part because of my father, who is a PA. In honor of National PA week, I’d like to share my very early start as an Advanced Practice Provider advocate and how that ties into our future together at Keystone—and our continued advocacy for all APPs within the hospitals we serve.

In the late 1970’s, my dad accepted a job in Occupational Medicine and became the Director of Healthcare Services for a large nuclear plant located in a rural part of Kentucky. At the time, no one even knew what a PA was (his first name badge calls him a “Physician Associate”). For vacation, he would often bring my family to the annual American Academy of Physician Assistants National Conference. He served the AAPA as a liaison for Occupational and Environmental PAs (and continues to do so to this day). At such a young and influential age, traveling to cities across the nation brought me a clear sense of knowing “there is more out there” and encouraged me to begin to think about setting some early professional goals. Witnessing the excitement of so many medical professionals working collaboratively was the basis of my choice of a career in healthcare. I wanted very much to be a part of the spirit I witnessed at the AAPA conferences. The memories I have from those times have left an undeniable, indelible mark. It’s also one of the many reasons I continue to closely follow the legal challenges of PAs and NPs alike on the regional and national fronts

One experience I distinctly remember at the AAPA was when the delegates rang a bell to silence the crowd and announced that the Mississippi legislation had just voted to allow PAs to practice in the state. Mississippi was the last state in the nation to allow PAs to practice. It was a big win, and there was a lot of applause for Mississippi that day. Little did I know I would help to propagate that change in Mississippi via my role with Keystone over a decade later.

The historical and political climb for your profession (and all APPs) is extensive and ongoing. As physicians, we are committed to making sure that we support you, just as you support us. When all of us work together as a healthcare team (NP, PA, MD, DO, RN, IM, EM, ect.), the result is spectacular. We’ve had several notable accomplishments this year that our lead APP, Dawn Patterson, has worked hard to achieve and facilitate. I am forever grateful to her for all she has contributed to our APPs working for Keystone. She developed an APP training program to help with recruiting, retention and most importantly, providing a good foundation for APPs who want to practice Emergency Medicine and Hospitalist Medicine. We also hosted a recruitment event at the first PA school in Mississippi. We even hired our first PA in Mississippi and were key in helping amend hospital bylaws to make this happen. I guess that bell is still ringing for Mississippi today!

APPs still have an uphill road to climb. However, we are here to help and promote continued success. Have a wonderful week and thank you for all that you do for Keystone, your patients, and your physicians. We will be celebrating National NP week in November!

Warm Regards,

Liz James