A delightful dozen: PAs celebrate 12 years of reaching out to the community

October 11, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Physician assistants play a vital role in patient care, practicing in nearly every specialty both at the academic medical center and in ambulatory care clinics across the region.

Among their many tasks, PAs work in collaboration with licensed physicians to diagnose and treat illnesses and to perform exams and procedures. While collaboration is important, PAs function autonomously within the scope of their education, training and experience.

At Michigan Medicine, PAs are committed to making an impact outside the four walls of their clinic. In fact, this is the 12th straight year that physician assistants have carried out a community outreach project. 

“This has become a tradition that we are extremely proud of,” said Marc Moote, chief PA at Michigan Medicine. “When one of us volunteers, we can certainly make an impact in someone’s life, but if more than 350 PAs work together as one team, we can help reshape the community at large for years to come.”

In honor of PA Week 2021, here’s a closer look at the incredible work the PAs have done to help those in need.

Improving social determinants of health

For a decade, the PAs partnered with Habitat for Humanity. The group raised money and renovated homes, allowing the home to be sold to low-income buyers who can’t afford costly mortgages.

With safe housing a major social determinant of health, the partnership seemed like a no-brainer for a team of clinicians.

But COVID-19 changed the tradition for good.

“While we loved our partnership with Habitat for Humanity,” Moote said, “the pandemic required us to rethink our approach given the limited opportunity for us to volunteer in person and thinking about the greater needs within our local community.”

With that in mind, Michigan Medicine PAs partnered with Food Gatherers last fall and donated food and toiletries in addition to financial donations. Food Gatherers, a local food bank and food rescue program serving Washtenaw County, channeled the donated supplies and funds to more than 170 local organizations serving those in need across the area, including the Meals on Wheels operation based at Michigan Medicine. 

Throughout the pandemic, those organizations have seen double- and triple-digit increases in the number of people seeking assistance. Forty percent of the increased demand were individuals seeking food support for the first time in their lives.

In total, the PA group donated $6,096 in 2020, the equivalent of 18,288 meals for Washtenaw County. 

This year, the PAs have thus far raised more than $4,000, bringing the running 12-year total for all causes to more than $70,000.

2021 also marks the return of in-person volunteering, as PAs have safely worked together at the Food Gatherers warehouse.

Carrying out our core values

The geographic separation of physician assistants sometimes makes it difficult to come together across departments.

“Prior to COVID-19, we were able to connect outside of a typical work environment during our Habitat for Humanity projects,” Moote said. “And last year, despite the fact that we couldn’t come together physically, our outreach projects allowed us to virtually connect and know that collectively we were making a huge difference for people.”

In the end, whether they come together in person or collaborate virtually, the PAs have proven to be committed to the Michigan Medicine core values of caring and teamwork.

“We may work in every area of Michigan Medicine, but we will always work together to make other people’s lives better,” Moote said. “We’ll continue to do these types of projects as long as we can.”

This week, be sure to thank the PAs in your area!