What inspired you to do what you do?
I can’t remember ever thinking about a profession other than medicine. My parents tell me that I was one who would place bandages on my friend’s cuts and scrapes. My father is a physician, my mother a teacher, and jointly they inspired me into a career of service. I was always intrigued by the stories of patients that would be discussed at the dinner table. Being active in the Boy Scouts, and achieving the rank of Eagle, taught me about first aid and leadership. It was my father who introduced me to the PA profession. Medical school was my plan, but following advice from a number of people, I chose the PA path. Just to be certain, and to keep options open, I took MCATs. I needed to know that my scores would have qualified me for medical school. Satisfied with my scores, I embraced the PA profession and charged ahead. I have continued with education and earned both a Masters and Doctorate degree. I believe there is no limit on the knowledge one can attain. I am very appreciative of the support I receive from my amazing wife Danielle, and two boys, Jacob and Jesse. I am also thankful for practicing with outstanding colleagues and staff at Pacific Pain Medicine Consultants.
Why did you focus on pain management?
When I entered practice I had never heard of the specialty of pain management. My vision was practicing in emergency medicine or endocrinology. I quickly discovered that training on the east coast and then entering the market in California meant networking relationships were limited. After lost leads, I heard of a pain physician looking to expand the practice with a PA. I was not enthusiastic to begin with, but I chose to interview, and it was that interview which changed the course of my career. I was told that I likely knew nothing about pain management and that what I did know was probably wrong. The physician asked me to shadow him. He highlighted from a career perspective that pain was an amazing balance between medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. Not only did the field involve science, but it also crossed with policy, law, and education, as well as having a profound effect on the patient. That interview was 20 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
Who were your mentors?
William L. Wilson, MD, introduced me to pain management and mentored me into clinical practice. We practiced together for nearly a decade. I was pushed, challenged, and taught to focus on the details, as they all matter. At times we would stay late discussing the most random topics in great detail, trying to better understand our observations, medications, and how to improve patient outcomes. My career transitioned from solely clinical practice to one as a medical educator and leader after I met Marsha Stanton, RN, phd. I have also received mentorship from Gaye Breyman, CAE, the executive director of the California Academy of PAs. Through associations, patient care can be impacted far beyond one individual clinician’s ability to see patients. I feel fortunate to have had opportunities to work on advancing the PA profession, influence policy, and change laws to improve patient care.
If you weren’t a healthcare provider or professor, what would you be?
It is hard to think of not being a healthcare provider, but I think I could have been a park ranger. I think preserving our open spaces and natural resources is really important. Spending time in nature with my family is one of the most relaxing things I do.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Being trustworthy is a characteristic I deeply value, and I hope that others would describe me that way. Whether it is communicating to a patient the concerns I might have or expressing my appreciation to my staff for the incredible work they do, I believe being genuine and trustworthy are really important.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Watching my two boys grow up and show interest in service, education, and leadership is probably at the top of my list. Professionally, I think that expanding the opportunities of what can be accomplished with a pa license has been very exciting. Different members of the healthcare team come with different education, degrees, licenses, roles, and experiences, but the system only works optimally when the members function well together. I was the first pa in California to have his name on a triplicate prescription printed by the state for controlled substance prescribing; the first pa to obtain surgical privileges within the department of anesthesia at a local hospital (a three-year process); and I’ve earned a doctorate degree. I am coauthor of several clinical practice guidelines; a co-owner in my medical practice; a founding president for a local professional association. I served as president for my state’s pa association, hold leadership roles within the American Academy of Pain Medicine, and gave many educational lectures, including a controlled substance regulatory course that has so far reached two-thirds of the pas in California. Certainly, being awarded Pride of the Profession in 2018 from the California Academy of pas is high on my list of achievements I am proud of.
What is your favorite language?
Although I took years of Spanish in school, and live 25 miles north of the US/Mexico border, I still struggle to hold a conversation in Spanish. Currently, I am trying to learn Morse code. Although it might not be a “language,” I enjoy the musicality of the code, and it will expand my enjoyment in my hobby as an amateur radio operator.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
I have been wanting to read “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character so I might bring that along.
Film: The Blues Brothers.
Music: Neil Young’s Decade compilation.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I would hope that my legacy would be that the work I have done has made a positive difference. I further hope that I have in some way inspired others to carry on this work.
Plans for the future?
I plan to continue clinical medicine and further expand my efforts in pain policy, education, and research. At the end of the day, there is a finite number of individual patients I can see. To have a greater reach, the system needs to be changed. Advocating for improved pain policies is an effective means to accomplish this goal. Discoveries in pain reduction strategies that are safe, effective, and affordable are desperately needed. I also plan to continue to work in professional education.
What is your motto?
Although it may lack originality, the Scout motto “Be prepared” has served me well. Even when the work is hard, it is important to seek out a “fun” element to keep burnout at bay.