Connecting in the community: PAs team up, give back during annual community outreach project

October 7, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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At Michigan Medicine, more than 350 physician assistants have made it their mission to give back — aiming to improve the lives of those around them.

“We do that in the clinic, hospital, emergency and OR settings every day as we deliver patient-centered care,” said Marc Moote, chief PA at Michigan Medicine. “But for the past decade, we’ve aimed to make an even bigger impact outside the organization, as well.”

With that in mind, the PAs have made it an annual tradition to participate in a community outreach project during National PA Week. For the past 10 years, the PAs have partnered with Habitat for Humanity in these efforts. The group raises money and renovates homes, allowing the home to be sold to low-income buyers who can’t afford costly mortgages.

To date, Michigan Medicine PAs have raised more than $55,000 for Habitat for Humanity.

This year’s project — which is the 10th for Michigan Medicine PAs — will take place this Saturday and Sunday in Ypsilanti.

“Up to 40 PAs or pre-PA students will be helping renovate a home and make it habitable and affordable,” Moote said. “Safe housing is a major social determinant of health — if it’s available, people tend to have better outcomes. So there’s no greater feeling than seeing all of our PAs coming together to change somebody’s life.”

Building camaraderie

Physician assistants are spread throughout the organization, practicing in nearly every specialty both at the academic medical center and in ambulatory care clinics across the region.

They work in collaboration with physicians to provide medical care to patients. That could entail diagnosing and treating illnesses, or performing exams and procedures. A doctor does not need to be present in order for the PA to carry out their work.

It’s a vital role at Michigan Medicine, but the geographic distribution of PAs across the health system makes it difficult to come together as a team on a regular basis. That’s what makes the annual Habitat project so satisfying.

“Part of what I love about this event is that we get to meet new people from other departments and connect with them on a personal level,” said Darren Freeland, PA-C, who has participated on all nine previous projects. “What we always find is that we’re a small group of like-minded individuals who have the common goal of giving back.”

Moote agreed with that assessment.

“Our team has a blast with this project,” he said. “We can connect outside of the typical work environment where there is less stress involved and potentially learn a new skill in the process, all while making a huge difference for people.”

Learning new skills

It’s not just camaraderie that manifests itself during the annual project. PAs get to learn other important skills as well.

“There’s definitely a teamwork element, because you may be tearing out drywall, installing siding or insulation, planting a garden or painting a wall with somebody you’ve never met or worked with before,” Moote said.

Patience and determination are integral as well, two skills that can be translated directly into clinical care.

Beyond that, Freeland has found the project to be satisfying on a personal level.

“I’ve learned interesting new skills that have helped me not only improve at work, but to better take care of my own home,” he said. “Our PAs all have different talents, and to spend a few hours with them and learn from them, it’s a pretty cool opportunity.”

Looking ahead

With this being the 10th consecutive year assisting Habitat for Humanity, Moote said the PA team is open to changing course or adding other volunteer opportunities in the years ahead.

“We’ve loved our partnership with Habitat for Humanity,” Moote said. “But we recognize that there are countless organizations out there who need help right here in Washtenaw County. As long as we’re giving back to the community and reaching out to those who need assistance, we’re open to anything. It’s part of what we do.”

It’s National PA Week! Be sure to thank the physician assistants in your area of the organization for their hard work and dedication to Michigan Medicine.