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Meet some of our PAs

Chances are, you probably see a physician assistant as often (or even more) as your doctor. 

They’re playing an increasingly important role in managing your care, so we’d like to introduce you to some of them.

Interesting PA facts:

  • PAs diagnose and treat patients with a supervising physician. They can prescribe medicines and perform some procedures.
  • There are 260 accredited PA programs across the country, requiring more than 1,000 hours of direct hands-on patient care. 
  • According to research from the American Academy of PAs, half of PAs have tested, treated or diagnosed COVID-19 patients.

Erika McCarthy, Willamette Urology

First, tell us just a little about yourself.

I was born in what is now Building B. I have worked at Willamette Urology and been associated with Salem Health since 2013.

Why did you decide to become a PA?

I decided to become a PA to be a part of the health care team in a way I found meaningful in helping patients and their families. After graduating PA school, I wanted to work in a surgical specialty with physicians who would take time to teach me well, which is why I chose to become a urology PA. 

What is something you think the average person would be surprised to know about your job?

Although most urology patients are men, people are often surprised to learn that about 30 to 40% of urology patients are women. One of my favorite reports from patients is when they regain the ability to go do their favorite activities again and not have their urologic condition dictate their life. 

 

Samantha Pacheco, Cardiology

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I work for Cascade Cardiology and have been in my position for almost five years. 

Why did you decide to become a PA?

I chose to become a PA after shadowing an inner-city primary care PA who provided care to underserved populations in downtown Tucson. It was the close relationship she had with her patients that sealed my decision, you could feel how much she cared about them and how they trusted her with their whole families. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I particularly enjoy figuring out ways to educate patients on their condition that leaves them empowered to make choices for their health with a fuller understanding.  

What is your average day on shift like?

In the clinic, Dr. Patel and I work as a team and share both new evaluations and established patients. We frequently discuss treatment strategies to come to agreement which is fulfilling and fun to debate.


Julie Allstot, Cascade Infectious Disease and Infusion

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I joined Salem Health in 2004 I went through the CNA program at Salem Health and started in the float pool. I later made the intensive care unit my CNA home floor. I also worked in care management doing discharge planning. I kept working as a CNA through PA school, and when I finished, I joined Salem Health as a PA in 2010. In 2019, I transitioned to working for Salem Gastro. After COVID happened in 2020, I transitioned again to working for Cascade Infectious Diseases, seeing patients at Salem Hospital. 

Why did you decide to become a PA?

One evening when I was working as a CNA in the ICU, we had an organ donor patient. I asked the donation team if I could go to the OR with them and, after we got all the consents, I was able to go and watch. A PA from an out-of-state hospital was flown in to take the organs, assisted by a medical student. It was so cool to see a PA in that role. After that experience, the more I explored the profession, the more I felt like it was a good fit. 

What is something you think the average person (or even staff) would be surprised to know about your job?

Many infectious disease PAs only treat HIV and hepatitis in their practice. Here I have the opportunity to treat many other conditions, such as prosthetic joint infections, bloodstream infections, lung infections, abdominal infections, and skin and soft tissue infections. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like sitting down with a patient who is scared or doesn't understand their diagnosis, and helping them to understand and be more at ease with their situation. I like being a trusted health care professional to patients and my peers. I also enjoy the staff that I work with. The nursing staff at Salem Health are top notch. The Care Management team works very hard on tough situations our patients find themselves in. We have great providers on the hospitals and other consulting teams — all of this support and collaboration makes my job more enjoyable. 


Sarah Dyckman, Salem Pulmonary Associates

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I work with Salem Pulmonary Associates in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep medicine. I do an equal mix of inpatient ICU/pulmonary, and outpatient pulmonary/sleep. I've been with SPA and Salem Health since 2017

Why did you decide to become a PA?

I've loved the world of medicine since I was a child. I first got medical experience working as an EMT for four years in Delaware. I chose to become a PA because I wanted to advance my knowledge and practice direct patient care sooner rather than later. I've always been a very hands-on, learn-on-your-feet type of person so the training and mentality of PAs really appealed to me.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

In the ICU setting, I enjoy being there for my patients on the sickest days of their lives, and being a part of a brilliant, compassionate team that is dedicated to saving those patients. In the outpatient setting, I love educating my patients and providing them with the tools they need to improve their lives long-term. 

What is something you think the average person (or even staff) would be surprised to know about your job?

PAs in the ICU do a ton of procedures! We also respond to all the codes hospital-wide and are the primary team that runs them. 

 

Joseph Esfahodi Rad, Salem Pulmonary Associates

Why did you decide to become a PA?

Aside from loving medicine and wanting to be there for people in their most critical time of need, I specifically chose to become a PA because of our intense medical training, and the ability to work as generalists and switch into any specialty that we want, whenever we want. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made me realize the value in this. It has forced some PAs to work in specialties they’ve never trained in, on the front lines, to help battle COVID-19. That makes me respect our versatility as a profession even more. 

What do I enjoy most about my job?

The procedures. From central lines, to a-lines, to intubations, to chest tubes. I love working with my hands and my job allows me to practice at the height of my scope. 

What is your average day on shift like?

I work night shift. It consists of rounding on the patients already on the unit and filling in needs throughout the night. On average, we get 5 or 6 new admissions each night, take care of any emergency procedures on consults, and often times have hard discussions with family members about the clinical status of our sickest patients.


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