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Alumni Anniversary Series: Leading by Example

Meredith Wold headshotMeredith Wold is a 2007 graduate of the Augsburg PA Program. Since graduating, she has worked with the HealthPartners Hospital Medicine team at Regions Hospital.  While at Regions, Meredith co-founded the HealthPartners Hospital Medicine APC Fellowship program, co-chairs the Regions APC Committee, and serves on the Regions Medical Executive Committee. Additionally, she maintains an adjunct faculty role at Augsburg and is a past president of the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants. Last fall, Meredith was promoted to Central Director of APC Fellowships across the HealthPartners system. Shortly after this announcement, we met with Meredith to dive deeper into her experience as a PA.

She was drawn to hospital medicine due to a combination of experiences while on her clinical rotations as well as her desire to have a career that reflected the breadth of what she had learned in PA school. Meredith remembers a specific preceptor at Fairview University Hospital, Dr. Rod McFadden, who was “a wonderful, wonderful hospitalist.” She recalls that Dr. McFadden “not only showed me the fun that came with the diverse clinical conditions in hospitalized patients,” but also demonstrated the curiosity and commitment that is integral to life-long learning. Meredith recalls, “He would sit down with me every day and deliver bite-sized lectures over lunch. He said it kept him learning, too.” After 3 years of PA school and this intriguing inpatient internal medicine rotation, Meredith knew hospital medicine would be a good match for her. Continue reading “Alumni Anniversary Series: Leading by Example”

Year in Review

academic lecture room with rectangular desks, two projection screens in background, couch in foregroundDuring the end of the year, and especially at the closing of a decade, the PA program looks back on 2019! One of the most significant changes occurred this past fall as the program relocated back to Augsburg main campus. A newly remodeled space in Riverside Plaza is the heart of the program. While faculty and administrative offices occupy the fifth floor, the lower level is home base for our students. The academic lecture hall was designed for our growing cohort size and the expanded footprint of the clinical skills lab now holds 15 exam bays, including 2 inpatient bays. groups of students sit working collaboratively around room

In 2019, we launched two new blog series to shine a light on the great work our alumni do. We celebrated anniversaries of being in the PA profession: Omar Fernandes’ one-year, Joy Adams’ and Kelsey McFarlane’s five years, Miranda Schoenecker’s ten-year and Peter Lindbloom’s twenty-two-years. Scroll through the blog feed and look for the “Alumni Anniversary Series” heading in order to read more. More recently, we started the “Living the Mission” series that highlights alumni working to provide medical care to underserved populations.

group of five students with Sandy who is holding a cakeIn November, we celebrated Sandy Fevig’s fifteen plus years of service to Augsburg. Sandy always looked after the students’ every need and was a friendly face to all department guests. We wish her well in her future endeavors! November also marked the program’s 23rd commencement for the Class of 2019. Clinical preceptor Vinh Dang, PA-C delivered the keynote speaker address, Nathan Kleppe gave the Student Commencement Speaker and Dr. Farhiyo Abdulle was honored as the Clinical Preceptor of the Year.

At the beginning of December, the program welcomed two new staff members: Emily Gomez and Sherrie Luetgers. Emily will lead the administrative team and work with department leadership as the program manager. She has a history of working in program management in several healthcare realms including hospice, epilepsy and oral health. Sherrie joins the team as another administrative assistant. She is no stranger to the world of healthcare after working for 18 years in roles as an HUC, EKG tech, and ER Tech. Ryane Lester comes to the PA department as another faculty member. Ryane practices clinically at Twin Cities Orthopedics. She is looking forward to contributing to the excellence of the Augsburg PA program and its students to help them gain a foundation to become confident clinicians.

Head shot of EmilyHeadshot of Sherrie Luetgershead shot of Ryane wearing blouse

Several of our students were recognized with scholarships of their own. For the second year running, an Augsburg PA student was selected as part of the Health Professional Scholarship Program through Veterans Affairs. Brandon Cottrell knew about the scholarship prior to PA school admission from his medical professional acquaintances while in the army. After graduating from Augsburg, he will work for at least 2 years at a VA healthcare center. The CVS Health Foundation Advance Practice Nurse and Physician Assistant Scholarship Program selected Augsburg as one of its grant recipients. The Augsburg PA Program was then able to award Miranda Lacroix, PA-S1, Taneasha Muonio, PA-S1, and Kamini bose Sundar bose, PA-S2, with $1,000.00 scholarships.

This past spring, the Augsburg PA Program was awarded a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) grant. Through the grant, our program is committed to expanding rural and urban underserved primary care clinical education sites, partnering with clinics like the People’s Center Clinics and Services, who focus on team-based practice and community health care. Through this grant, our students will also receive substance use and opiate addiction training, through a ground-breaking program with CHI-St. Gabriel/Little Falls, MN tele-ECHO program. This training prepares Augsburg PA students for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) certification waiver through the DEA, making Augsburg PA students even more practice-ready upon graduation. We are excited that MDH has funded our efforts to continuously develop clinical education partnerships and improve PA training throughout Minnesota.

We look forward to the New Year and the next decade!

Alumni Anniversary Series: Serving Veterans in the Twin Ports

Miranda Schoenecker in an exam roomMiranda knew during freshman year of college that she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. Although registered as pre-med, she was unsure of which profession. For a while, she thought physical therapy but it didn’t seem to be the right fit. During this time of indecision, her uncle was being cared for at the Fargo VA for esophageal cancer.  He asked her what she wanted to do and Miranda mentioned she had not yet decided. He said, “Be a PA! They treat me better than any of the physicians here.” Her immediate response was, “What is a PA?” After returning home, she researched the profession and realized “this is it, this is what I want to do.”

After deciding that PA school was the next step, she needed to prepare her application. Fortunately, she had been accruing patient care hours as a certified nursing assistant for quite some time. During high school, the local nursing home was desperate for help so she received a crash course from a family friend. When she turned sixteen years old, she signed up for the exam, passed and began working immediately.  By the time she applied, Miranda had six years’ worth of experience. Her degree in cell biology was a testament to her academic readiness.

Miranda applied to about 8 schools across the country, but Augsburg was her first choice. She was thrilled when she was accepted as she wanted to remain close to family. During her second rotation, she was placed at the Twin Ports VA Clinic in Superior. Even though this was only the beginning of her clinical education, her preceptor encouraged her to reach out if she was interested in a job. Throughout the clinical phase, Miranda constantly compared other rotations to her experience at the VA.

At the time of her PA graduation, the 2008 economy had crashed leaving few options for employment. Miranda wanted to return to the Northland but jobs were limited there as well due to the local health system laying off employees. Her options were a posting at a convenience care clinic and one at the Twin Ports VA.  Miranda was hopeful she could return to the VA and serve the patient population she fell in love with.

Even after ten years in the same clinic, Miranda finds joy in being a PA serving veterans. Working with this population inspires her and gives her a purpose to serve patients who Miranda says have all been brave enough to do something she couldn’t. She appreciates the real sacrifice her patients have made so that she can live her life in the United States. Every day she is able to establish rapport, gain trust and surprise people. She loves when a new patient is referred to her and they decide to transfer their care.

Veteran medicine is challenging, but it is so rewarding. She believes she is able to practice medicine in the most ideal way. Patients do not need to worry about prior authorization which translates into patients receiving prescriptions, surgeries and referral services.  Miranda is able to control her schedule and has incorporated telephone clinics, secure messaging, group visits along with various patient panel management tools. She can pull specific lists based on patient populations such as diabetics with an A1c greater than 9 and then implement ways to improve their overall health. In October, COPD patients attend an annual group appointment and Miranda can do the same for patients diagnosed with hypertension, DMII, or prediabetes. The Twin Ports VA Clinic has integrated mental health within the primary care setting as well as operates a “medical home” model that is called Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs). All of these capabilities lead to nearly 100% continuity of care.

Throughout her tenure she has seen great strides in the roles PAs occupy including a clinic director, as well as in upper management and administration. Miranda was promoted to chief status in the fall of 2018 and she appreciates the recognition that her clinical skills have grown and the administration noticed.

When asked what advice she would give current students, Miranda says, “Know that it is okay not to know everything.” When a patient comes in with a question, concern or new condition she is honest and says “I don’t know, let’s look it up together.” This helps to establish rapport with a patient and the relationship-building can begin.

 

2019 Health Professional Scholarship Program Recipient

For the second year in a row, Augsburg PA is proud to share another student has received the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) from Veterans Affairs. The goal of the scholarship program is to increase the supply of PAs within the VA but also for the nation.Brandon in a light blue shirt, grey suit coat and matching plaid tie

Brandon Cottrell served in the United States Army from 2010 to 2016 with a deployment to Afghanistan. After his six years of service, he pursued a bachelor’s degree from Augsburg. Prior to being accepted into PA school, Brandon worked as a radiology technician. Now in his second year in the Physician Assistant Studies program, he is rotating through clinical experiences.

While Brandon was working in radiology, Brandon realized that he wanted to do more; understanding that he had medical capabilities that would be useful beyond his current license. Through researching advanced positions, the PA profession seemed a good fit. Even before admission into PA school, Brandon knew about the scholarship. Several of his medical professional acquaintances had received financial assistance in exchange for service. Continue reading “2019 Health Professional Scholarship Program Recipient”

July Program Highlights

It’s been a busy summer for the Augsburg PA program! Many notable events and updates occurred in the month of July.

Yesterday we welcomed new program manager Conrad Carlozzi! Conrad previously worked for Project for Pride in Living in various roles. The department is excited to have him join our team. Stay tuned for more about Conrad and what brought him to Augsburg PA.

We are excited to announce that Eric Van Hecke, PA-C has moved into a full-time faculty position. When he initially joined the team earlier this year, he expressed his commitment to assisting students to develop into dynamic, professional and competent medical providers in a constantly changing clinical environment.

Augsburg University hosted the Urban Scrubs camp at the beginning of July. This week-long day camp allowed high school students to be exposed to 25 different careers in healthcare. The PA program closed out the last day with hands-on demonstrations of splinting. Current PA students, staff and faculty helped students learn exam skills and how to splint an arm.

participant applying splintPA student modeling how to splintparticipants doing exam after splinting

 

As second-year students transition into the clinical phase, they are diligently working on master’s projects. During their second summer in the program, students have the opportunity to conduct independent research to answer a specific question. Students may also elect to complete a course within Augsburg University’s Master of Arts in Leadership, Masters in Business Administration or Masters in Music Therapy departments. Our PA students also have the chance to participate in a range of experiential learning courses within local and international communities.group photo of participants at heme camp playing dinosaur break

For yet another consecutive year, a student accompanied adjunct faculty member and Augsburg PA alumna, Skye Peltier, PA-C to Children’s Minnesota and the Hemophilia Foundation of Minnesota/Dakotas pediatric camp for patients that have hemophilia and other chronic bleeding disorders. Chelsea Johnson, PA-S2 is seen on the right as a captured dinosaur while playing dinosaur break with camp attendees.

A group of 19 made their way down to Costa Rica with Medical Director Holly Levine. Students are encouraged to develop their own perspective on what universal responsibility means to them and how they integrate it into their career. Throughout the course of 12 days, students visited important sites relevant to government, healthcare, and social services. The group immersed themselves into local communities and participated in cultural experiential learning. A highlight of the trip was hearing personal stories and experiences of Nicaraguan and Venezuelan immigrants.

group photo of students with immigrants and chlidren rainforst trek and group photostudents participating in soccer, mask making, coffee roasting

Alumni Anniversary Series: 22 Years in Practice

Peter Lindbloom, PA-CAs part of our alumni anniversary series, we go all the way back to the first graduating cohort. The inaugural cohort graduated in 1997, which means our featured alumni, Peter Lindbloom, PA-C, will have been practicing for 22 years. Over the course of his PA career, Peter has worked in various practice areas and settings. Peter has been at North Memorial for the past 5 years in Trauma, Emergency General Surgery, and Surgical Critical Care. In his free time, Peter keeps active with his growing family. He has 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Peter precepts Augsburg PA students during their general surgery rotations. The Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants recognized Peter in 2008 as their PA of the Year.


As a freshman at the University of Minnesota in Morris, Peter attended a Sports Medicine Club meeting that had invited a PA guest speaker. Until that point, he was unfamiliar with the PA profession. Peter was an EMT with an ambulance service during his undergraduate years and obtained his paramedic license following his undergraduate studies. His decision to apply to PA school was driven by a desire to have a bigger scope of practice, more stable hours, better compensation and more responsibility in patient care.

Peter worked in family medicine for five years and had a full scope practice, excluding obstetrics. It was a good chance to practice the full breadth of medicine from infants all the way to geriatrics. The practice ran the whole gamut from dermatology to orthopedics. When he first started, it was at the time of health maintenance organizations (HMO) so the practice had a set number of insures. As time went on, there came to be increasingly more time commitments but fewer hours in the clinical workday to complete those tasks. He began a per diem position in a level II trauma emergency department. He subsequently left family medicine to practice emergency medicine full time with Mille Lacs Health System. They had just started staffing the night shift with PAs so that physicians would have the opportunity to sleep and then attend to patients the next day. Peter remembers receiving one of the best compliments while at Mille Lacs. The Chief of Staff at the time noted that since implementing E.D. staffing with full-time PAs, the amount of complaints decreased while the overall quality of patient care increased. Mille Lacs decided to permanently staff its emergency department 24/7 with PAs.

In the years since Peter graduated, there is significantly more access to information. He says that many students are not aware of how quickly, almost immediately, information can be available. Students should proactively be reading and staying up to date on the latest in technology and medicine.

Peter advises soon to be graduates to not sell yourself short! The nature of your clinical education is to give you a well-rounded experience. These rotations are an opportunity for both yourself and the health system to “kick the tires” and see if this might be a good fit. Often connections made during a rotation, or a preceptorship, can lead to a job, even if it is years down the road. For example, a mentor had called Peter to start up an emergency general surgery service at North Memorial 17 years after he had completed an elective rotation at North Memorial in Trauma and Surgical Critical Care.

The nature of healthcare is quickly changing. In the coming years, health systems will be grappling with the aging baby boomer population as well as a physician shortage, among other healthcare factors. Due to these pressing issues, the PA role may further evolve and develop. Peter notes that it is still up to PAs to recognize and understand their limitations while employers demand more autonomy of PAs. The practicing PA needs to be confident yet humble enough to ask for help when necessary. He would encourage PAs to develop expertise in a specific area and be the “go-to person” in their practice for questions in that area. This is value added to the health care team and benefits the patient. Pete says “we can’t lose focus of patient care. While patient satisfaction is the buzzword, we need to be evidence-based and measure outcomes all the while providing quality, cost-effective care.”

Healthcare is a team-based profession and there are various avenues to realize a career in this field. It is detrimental to the team to speak ill of another profession. When we recognize the value and merit of each health profession, the team succeeds and so does the overall care of the patient.

EdTalk – How PAs Think: A Glimpse into PA Education

As part of Augsburg’s EdTalk series through the Center for Teaching and Learning, Professor Jenny Kluznik spoke on how students are trained within PA education to step into the role of health provider, advocate, and leader. Jenny Kluznik is an Assistant Professor and the Academic Coordinator for the PA Program and joined the faculty in 2014. She serves as the course director for the Clinical Medicine course series in the didactic phase of the program. In addition, she is a graduate of the Augsburg PA Program and excited to be back teaching. Below you can watch the full EdTalk!

Alumni Anniversary Series: One Year in Clinic

This year we are highlighting Augsburg alumni that are celebrating their first, five, ten and twenty-year anniversaries! In the first blog post in this series, we talk with a graduate from the class of 2017, Omar Fernandes. Omar recently celebrated his first-year work anniversary with HealthPartners as a PA in family medicine. He currently practices in Eagan, MN in an outpatient clinic with two physicians, two other PAs, an ob-gyn/midwifery group, a chiropractor, a pharmacist, a certified diabetes educator, and a dietitian. With one year of experience under his belt, Omar has quite a lot to share with currents PA students about the first-year transition.


Why did you decide to pursue family medicine?

I chose family medicine because I thrive on patient and disease variety, and understanding human development holistically. I see a lot of different signs and symptoms playing out in various and sometimes, very complex rhythms. In clinic, there is not always the classic presentation of a case. I also get to work with an amazing range of patient personalities. You also get to establish amazing relationships. The lessons I’ve learned, especially from older patients, can be life-changing. Your patients are just as much of your teachers as you educate them about their health. Being a PA means lifelong learning that happens every day.

My advice for pursuing family medicine is to know that it is constant and never ends. There will always be something needs to be addressed. After the patient leaves, they should feel assured their concern has been addressed and there is a plan in place.

What was the biggest transition between PA school to your first job?

It was scary having a 3-month break between school and starting my job. You feel like you are forgetting what you learned and that can cause some anxiety. However, once you start, the knowledge comes back fast and you eventually find your stride! At HealthPartners, I ramped up to a full schedule within about five months.

What was a major challenge in your first year?

Staying on time is still my biggest challenge. There is a whole separate world of “electronic patient care” that is closely intertwined, yet also very independent from face-to-face care. You always need to keep a handle on your EMR in-basket because you can really get behind; there’s always a million labs, patients, and forms to address.

Coming up on your first-year anniversary, what are areas you feel more comfortable in now compared to when you started?

Procedures! I’ve gotten to do quite a few, and learned some new ones, too. They tend to come in waves, and there are always opportunities to learn more.

I also love managing certain conditions. Hypertension is one of my absolute favorites!  It is chronic, multifaceted and can sometimes be tricky to diagnose. There are so many moving parts to hypertension including various treatment options and still, it can be very difficult to manage.  It also requires a lot of patient cooperation.

What tips do you have for students on applying and interviewing for their first job?

Use your networks from school and rotations to advise you on jobs and contract negotiation. If you have multiple eyes look at your contract, you have that many more ideas on what type of compensation package makes sense for you.

While you should apply broadly, be sure you are applying to practice areas you enjoy.

Now that you have more spare time, what activities do you enjoy?

I’ve been doing some traveling and going to different national parks around the country.  I was in Death Valley, California over the New Year and that was really spectacular. I also really loved Zion in Utah. I joined the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus last September and our next show is this weekend. I also love doing CME stuff. My next conference is in Santa Fe, NM on wilderness medicine. In general, I think it is important to have a professional advancement goal to work towards.

On a side note, you can catch Omar singing in action at Unbreakable showing March 29th and 30th at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the University of Minnesota West Bank campus! Purchase tickets to attend the show.

Highlights from Annual 5K

Every year the Augsburg PA Program hosts an annual 5K run benefiting local organizations around the community. Participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations in order to earn raffle tickets. It was a very successful year as 78 participants turned out for the event. A wide variety of companies donated prizes to be raffled off at the end of the race!

The non-perishable food items gathered this year were donated to Augsburg’s Campus Cupboard. Campus Cupboard is a food shelf run by and for Augsburg students. The Cupboard is run by volunteers and hours are often variable in the summer; however, during the academic school year, it is open 5 days a week. The free food shelf was founded 5 years ago as a joint venture between the Fighting Poverty at Augsburg special interest group and the Creating an Inclusive Campus conference. Donations from the 5K totaled 130 lbs! Janet Nguyen, of the Campus Cupboard, noted this will keep the cupboard fully stocked for the summer months as well as into the fall semester!

A special thank you to all the donors that partnered with us this year:

Tin Whiskers Brewery
Guthrie Theatre
R.F. Moeller Jeweler
Surly Brewery
Minnesota Twins
Theatre in the Round
Minnesota Lynx
St. Paul Saints
Kwik Trip
Aveda Body & Sol Salon and Spa
Commodore Restaurant
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Three Rivers Park District
TRUCE Juice Shop
Wild Mountain Taylors Falls Recreation Area
The LOOK Salon