Pacific celebrates National Physician Assistant Week

The Department of Physician Assistant Education at University of the Pacific joined the National Physician Assistant Week celebration, Oct. 612, to recognize the important contributions that PAs (physician assistants) make to California's health care system.

In honor of National Physician Assistant Week, we sat down with some of our PA alumni for a Q&A about their chosen profession.

Nicola Juri

Nicola Juri, PA-C, MPAS is a physician assistant in a family/sports medicine practice

Nicola Juri, PA-C, MPAS

Where do you currently work?
I work as a physician assistant in a family/sports medicine practice in Santa Clara, California, as well as one day a week at an OB/GYN office.

Why did the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program appeal to you?
I was excited by it being a new program with state-of-the-art facilities and a faculty that had a lot of experience. I also have seen Pacific’s commitment to other health professions being so successful including dentistry and physical therapy.

Why did you choose Pacific?
I chose Pacific because of the fantastic faculty. I felt that they were committed to knowing me as a person and felt that they genuinely wanted me to succeed in my career ambitions.

How did the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program prepare you for your career?
From day one the education program was focused on how to be successful in clinical practice and how to think through complex medical issues. There was also a strong focus on interpersonal skills, communication skills and teamwork that is fundamental to a successful career as a PA.

How have things changed for you at work since the COVID-19 pandemic?
Santa Clara County was particularly hit hard by COVID-19. I work in a small private practice and as a result of COVID-19 we limited our hours initially, but have subsequently returned to normal functioning. Telemedicine has taken off and has been a great tool during this time. The main change has been adjusting to life with PPE, doing testing, and helping to reassure and educate our patients. As a primary care practice, we have also maintained focus on general well-being both physically and mentally despite being in a pandemic.

How did Pacific prepare you to make adjustments during this historic time?
My time at Pacific instilled a passion for lifelong learning that is necessary for a profession in health care. The program taught us to be able to adapt to any different situation and utilize resources to stay up to date on clinical information and evidence-based medicine. That focus has been crucial during this pandemic.

Janet Lechuga

Janet Lechuga, PA-C is a physician assistant at Comprehensive Cardiovascular Medical Group

Janet Lechuga, PA-C

Where do you currently work?
I work in Bakersfield, California, as a physician assistant at Comprehensive Cardiovascular Medical Group.

Why did the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program appeal to you?
The major appeal to the program was its faculty. Beginning with my interview at Pacific, it was evident that the faculty were highly committed to the program and the success of the students. Although the program was new, I was confident given the faculty had previous experience with other programs and many still worked as clinicians.

What is special about a Pacific education?
The incorporation of interprofessional education. As PA students we shared classes with physical therapy students and worked on several projects with pharmacy students. This allowed us to have a better understanding of their roles in the health care system.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Pacific?
During my didactic year in the program, my classmates and I practically lived at the Muddox building. We would stay up late studying and come in on the weekends. One time we set up an enclosed area for my classmate’s son, who was 10 months at the time, while we studied all day around him and took turns keeping him distracted. As a mother myself, I know the struggles of motherhood all too well and I was happy to help.

How did the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program prepare you for your career?
My capstone courses tied directly into the work I have been doing as a physician assistant. For example, my capstone project was cardiology related and provided insight into many trials that have changed the way we practice medicine. I use evidence-based medicine to manage and treat my patients daily. It is vital for me to be able to interpret research data correctly to provide the best quality of care.

What do you want the public to know about the fight against COVID-19?
There is so much misinformation, but at the end of the day, the fight against COVID-19 is real. Regardless of the numbers being reported, precautions need to continue, especially as we enter the flu season. I urge the public to practice social distancing, wear a mask appropriately, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, avoid indoor or large gathering, get tested as needed and get the flu vaccine.

Pacific’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program
Pacific's Department of Physician Assistant Education within the School of Health Sciences, produces compassionate professionals who will be leaders in transforming the delivery of health care. Pacific's full-time, 27-month program on the Sacramento Campus leads to a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree. All PA students complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, which cover every major specialty, from family medicine to general surgery to emergency medicine.

Visit the PA program’s website for more information or to apply.