Often times when I tell people that I’m a Physician Assistant (PA) I am met with a blank stare, or I am met with a smile and look of recognition. For those of you identifying with the “blank stare” group, let me fill you in on the role of a PA in healthcare.

Physician Assistants are medical providers who are licensed to practice medicine. They typically undergo intense graduate-level training similar to medical school with one caveat – programs are condensed into two to three years. During this focused time period, they are trained to obtain medical histories, perform physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, interpret tests, perform medical procedures, counsel patients on preventative health measures, assist in surgery, write prescriptions, round in hospitals and many other activities related to healthcare. Even though the “assistant” in our title can be somewhat misleading, PAs provide the same quality and level of service as doctors.

When I first heard about the role PAs play in healthcare, I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue.  I was raised in a community where people pitched in to care for one another, and now my work reflects those same values.

I grew up in on a cattle ranch in Bozeman, Montana. My fondest memories are of riding horseback in the hills with the people I loved most – my family. We took great pride in our cattle and our crops because they were a reflection of our hard work and care for nature. We knew when to gather round after our neighbors crops were destroyed by hail, and we knew how to celebrate after a long and fruitful harvest season.

As I grew older and began to pursue my interests in college, I was fascinated by cell biology and human anatomy. The body is an amazing machine with many parts working together collectively. During PA school, I began to really understand how so much of medicine is about not only treating the body, but the spirit and mind as well. While I may not be working on the ranch anymore, I’m still committed to helping my neighbor, and I believe my purpose in life is using medicine to do that. When a patient comes to see me, I hope they’ll see the PA who is able to take a few extra minutes to talk to them. I also hope they’ll see the country girl inside, who still just wants to help her neighbor.