|Q&A with Marcos Vargas, Orthopedic PA at Hurley Medical Center in Michigan|
|Marcos A. Vargas, MSHA, PA-C, is a cross-trained physician assistant focusing on orthopedics at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. He has a master's in Science Administration from Central Michigan University, a BS in Health Sciences from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and a BA in Biology from Saint Thomas University in Florida. In the past, Marcos has worked in cardiology, emergency medicine, general surgery, and cardiothoracic surgery. He now works happily in orthopedics after a three-year stint in cardiology.
Q: What motivated you to become a physician assistant?
A: A passion for the biomedical sciences and the well-known recession-proof reputation of the healthcare industry motivated me.
Q: What is the mission of Hurley Medical Center?
A: The mission and values of HMC epitomizes the highest level of patient-centered care by emphasizing the need and mandate of all staff members to engage in the empathetic bond that must be created and maintained by all serving the inpatient and outpatient communities through self-accountability of service and clinical excellence in the formation of the trusted therapeutic alliance.
Q: How do you like working at HMC?
A: Working at HMC is very refreshing and exciting because our collaborative organizational culture allows us to bring together many talented, experienced, and prestigious professionals—all who are willing to network and share their up-to-date expertise and patient care-giving responsibilities, all while providing their insights selflessly.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as an orthopedic PA?
A: Unlike most ortho positions, this one does not require my intraoperative participation (1st assisting, etc.). However, it holds my interest because it requires a great deal of fast multitasking.
As a liaison for my department, which I'm the only PA covering 14 orthopedic surgeons and two senior orthopedic residents, I usually provide consultative services. Plus, I'm responsible for the inpatient post-op management of our patients.
Q: What kind of patients do you see?
A: The whole gamut of orthopedics: from trauma (fractures due to gunshot wounds) to sports injuries (strains and sprains) to oncologic-related fractures to pediatric fractures, along with the management and septic joint cases and the crystal-induced arthropathies (i.e., gout, pseudogout), which at times, could include inmates from our local county jail.
Q: Do you have any special plans for the future of your career?
A: I have been toying with the idea of advancing my credentials, either obtaining a terminal degree (i.e., a PhD or a Doctor in Health Administration) vs. a master's in Health Law since I have performed medico-legal consulting advisory services for the past 15 years.
Knowing myself, I may pursue both. It's just a matter of finding the time to juggle these extra responsibilities.
Also, I have been considering becoming involved as the state chapter CME Chairperson at the request/invitation of some of my peers. Per their reasoning, which I feel humbly flattered, they have expressed my energized views and dynamic enthusiasm would be great assets that I would bring to the position.
Q: What do you like most about being a physician assistant?
A: Basically, everything! There are no areas—as of now—that I prefer over another.
Q: Do you feel that the role of physician assistants has changed over recent years?
A: As a PA for the past two decades, I feel that we've gained significant respect and are more valued today than when I first started. Our presence in some circles of the medical community is more noticeable while in other instances, our voices are being heard more and more.
As a testimony to our great heritage and "business" value that we bring to the table, we are seeing the PA concept accepted internationally. Much like the fall of the Berlin Wall, this worldwide embracement of PAs would not have been on my watch when I first started…so, let's keep the momentum.
Q: What do you feel is a concern to PAs today?
A: From the grumblings in the PA community, it does appear that the "latest villain" to rear its head is the controversial specialty certification. And I must say, rightfully so for a myriad of reasons.
Basically, this sort of trade restriction (naturally, one side of the coin) does not bode well nor resonates positively for the great majority of us, despite the so-called inherent benefits.
Also, over the last few years as we (the PA community) have become more assertive, recognized, and accepted, some constituencies are feeling threatened. Thus, the emerging subtle movement (among some physician groups and some non-physician groups) seem to be growing and attempting to restrict or curtail our diligently earned expanded scope of practice through disguised PA practice impositions.
For instance, using coding/reimbursement issues and/or specialty certifications—all mostly under the disguised mantle of patient safety is something that we know about and in fact, do very well compared to other medical providers when one looks at the medical malpractice statistics from the National Practitioner Data Bank.
I may be overreacting to these trends, but I just can't agree with their justification of restricting PA practices nor should we be complacent about this.
Q: What is the most rewarding part about working in your hospital as a PA?
A: I get to be perceived (by the hospital staff) as the effective, caring, and trusted physician extender that I strive to be while feeling like an associate among my attending supervising physicians when we are on a one-to-one basis discussing the events/details or needs of our service.
Q: What is the most significant advice you can give to your peers?
A: Always, always, always be the ultimate patient advocate, regardless of the clinical, social circumstances, even in the toughest situations. In the end, the bottom line is all about the patient. Keep this in mind time after time and you will reap the dividends and out of courts.
Q: How has working in multiple specialties allowed you to grow professionally?
A: By having to gain consensus when communicating with key stakeholders while interfacing almost on a daily basis with all organizational levels, involving individuals of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, I have learned how to hone my ongoing leadership and people skills more than I would have anticipated.
Being less one-dimensional, professionally-speaking, is one of those improvement rewards I have derived from this position.