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Letter: PAs are not assistants to physicians, and should be empowered to help expand access to health care

SHARE Letter: PAs are not assistants to physicians, and should be empowered to help expand access to health care
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Hope Clinic physician assistant Matt Pierce talks with a colleague while examining patient Luis Hualinga at the clinic in Midvale on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Two bills to be considered by the Utah Legislature would broaden the role of physician assistants to let them offer mental health therapy and respond during a health emergency.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

I read “Inside Utah fight to expand the scope of physician assistants amid health care shortage,” published Jan. 17, and “Letter: Physician assistants should remain just that — not independent practitioners,” published Jan. 27, and felt compelled to write.

Certified physician assistants go through rigorous training and, over the last 50-plus years, have evolved as licensed medical professionals to become integral members of health care teams in every medical and surgical specialty. But unlike the physician assistant profession, practice laws and regulations have not kept up with the times, limiting physician assistants’ capacity to make a maximal impact in alleviating the current and projected shortage of healthcare workforce by preventing physician assistants from practicing at the fullest extent of their training and experience.

The two bills in consideration would remove unnecessary barriers for physician assistants to do what their training and education prepares them to do. As an early career physician assistant and mental health advocate, I support the Utah Legislature and Utah Academy of Physician Assistants taking action to improve access to emergency/disaster and mental health care for their communities.

Physician assistants, as with persons of any occupation, should be valued and respected for their unique contributions, and not based on individual perceptions of the professional title.

Hwal Lee, PA-C

Roanoke, Virginia