Madeline Miley, a first-year physician assistant student, distributed flyers about her chosen profession outside the Feinberg Pavilion cafeteria in Northwestern Memorial Hospital during lunchtime on Oct. 8. Along with her peers in the Physician Assistant program (PA), she was raising awareness about the training and career of PAs as part of National Physician Assistant Week.
“It was heartwarming to have patients talk about their experiences with physician assistants in the hospital,” she said. “I was also able to answer questions and talk about the profession.”
The week, held every year from Oct. 6-12, recognizes the graduation of the first class of PA students from Duke University. Throughout the week, students from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine program and from the Physician Assistant Studies Program at Rush University shared their knowledge about the profession and discussed the future of this healthcare field.
Wednesday marked the week’s main celebration, a lecture featuring keynote speaker Gordon Eggers, Jr., PA-C, president and CEO of Crusader Community Health, a non-profit community health center.
That event began with a welcome by Program Director Michael J. MacLean, MS, PA-C.
“Here we are 46 years after the graduation of the first class of students with 90,000 PAs in the country and each year we have 6,000 people graduating from PA school,” he said. “It is important that as we develop more and more programs, and develop more and more trained PAs, that we continue to set the bar high to maintain a sustainable growth for our profession.”
MacLean then introduced student speaker and class president Ilan Breit, who discussed how his background in engineering contributed to his current goal of becoming a physician assistant. He emphasized that each student has a unique and valuable skill set.
After Breit, keynote speaker Eggers, spoke about his 36 years as a PA and shared advice with students.
“It is a privilege to be a PA. That privilege comes with knowing that in your treatment plans, one size does not fit all, and that your personality is a part of the plan,” he said. “You are putting your belief system and the patient’s belief system in a ven diagram. In that overlap, you always have to be aware of what is going on. So as you put your arms around the clinical problem side… [also]put your arm around the patient and fully understand them; think about the patient beyond just the clinical problem, and you will be highly successful.”
For first-year student Monica Muzzin, hearing Eggers’ keynote was the highlight of the week.
“It’s nice to know there are leaders in the profession who are public figures,” she said. “His commitment to service throughout the world is inspiring. There are so many ways I can apply the advice he gave. What really struck me was his advice on emulating the personalities of who you want to be and learning from your patients.”
A reception followed the speaker.