PA Apathy: Why Voting for PA Leaders Matters

Physician Assistants often work very hard to become the amazing clinicians they are, yet statistically, only a fraction are involved in the advancement of our profession. Right now, there are important decisions you should be making as a PA, but let’s be honest, have you put in the work? Have you voted for AAPA leaders or your state PA leaders? If you are reading this after the year’s election, do you plan to vote next year?

Fair warning, there is a little bit of “tough love” headed this way. It comes from a good place, a place where I want to EMPOWER you as a Physician Assistant. I want you to see through the cloudy haze of frustration.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m sick of the whining. I see complaint after complaint in PA forums and it infuriates me. I ask, “what have you done to change it” and sometimes, all I get is crickets. I believe NOW is the time for us to band together instead of complaining. I believe WE can make a difference if WE put in the work. Sick of other professions taking your jobs? Get involved. Tired of being told it’s easier to hire an NP? Go to your state and start working on solutions. We are professionals, there are some things we cannot control, but there are some things that we CAN control. Would you rather roll over and give up or try and make a difference? Do you want to look back at your career and realize you could have made a change but chose not to? You can’t bury your head in the sand, there are real issues threatening our profession, are you just going to ignore them?

If you want to give up, then you have your reasons but then I’ll ask that you STOP the complaining. Don’t disempower those that are actually working to make a change. Don’t be a keyboard warrior either, put your money where your keypad is and pay for your professional membership. If you can’t afford it, ask your employer to. I would be willing to bet they pay for the physician or nursing professional memberships. If that’s not a solution, save up and plan for it next year, or consider joining the less expensive grassroots groups like PAs for Tomorrow (PAFT).

I am not saying it will be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. All I’m asking is a real commitment to give back to your profession you worked so hard for. You deserve it, your PA colleagues deserve it, and your patients will benefit from it.

I am not saying it will be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. All I’m asking is a real commitment to give back to your profession you worked so hard for. You deserve it, your PA colleagues deserve it, and your patients will benefit from it.

Courtney Titus, PA-C, MPAS, EMT-P

Politics and favoritism aside, if you aren’t involved in these decisions, other people are making them for you! The PA Leaders in AAPA are our spokespeople on the national level, and it is important to have the right people in those positions. If you don’t like the trajectory the PA profession is headed, you DO have a say. Stop the complaining and DO something about it. Those PA leaders are elected by the PA constituents, and by definition, they are supposed to work for YOU.

Physician Assistant apathy is like the cancer of our profession. It’s slow, insidious, and in its early stages, only presents with vague symptoms like fatigue and denial. The more advanced stages of PA apathy include symptoms like anger, frustration with the profession and ultimately, looking for a way “out” of the PA profession altogether. If left unchecked, the consequences can be devastating.

Physician Assistant apathy is like the cancer of our profession. It’s slow, insidious, and in its early stages, only presents with vague symptoms like fatigue and denial… If left unchecked, the consequences can be devastating.

Courtney Titus, PA-C, MPAS, EMT-P

The real key to prevention of PA apathy is early detection, checking in with yourself. Think of it as a PA “screening exam”. Ask yourself WHY you aren’t involved? If it’s time, then pay the dues. If it’s money, then give the time. If it’s apathy, then its time to wake up. When asked why we aren’t part of our PA professional groups, we can quickly provide excuses like “I’m too busy” or “I can’t afford it this year”. I know, because those were MY excuses. After several grueling years of PA school and loan accrual, these excuses seemed completely reasonable. As life moved on, the honeymoon phase ended. Taking care of patients became easier, but the shiftwork became harder and interrupted family life.

I often put the topic of getting more involved quickly out of mind. I attended a FAPA and SEMPA conference, but I didn’t understand the issues until I started noticing a trend in PA forums. I noticed that my once happy group of PAs were being told things like “it’s easier” to hire NPs, and were losing job opportunities. Then, I found that many PAs were not working at the top of their license, and being treated more like scribes than professionals. What was worse, I found that some physicians didn’t really understand our training or our laws which means they didn’t understand our value. Some hospitals had antiquated bylaws preventing PAs from practicing to their scope. Other hospitals had nurses making executive decisions for PAs without understanding our training. Clinic PAs were being abused, seeing high volumes of patients, well past the end of a shift without getting paid for the overtime. Some PAs were getting paid less than their nursing staff. Reimbursement challenges started popping up, prescriptive restrictions favored NPs over PAs.. the list goes on and on.

These are just a few examples of the challenges PAs face. Some are at the local level, some at the state and national level. The purpose of my rant is to highlight that you are not alone. These issues exist in every state, and country, and that if we do not stick together they will not be resolved. The first step is to elect PA leaders who understand the challenges we face, and have solutions. This is where you come in.

This is the year I want to invite you to think outside your patient population, outside your clinic or hospital and even outside your state. We are at a crucial point in our profession, and if you’d like it to be around in 10 years then there is some serious heavy-lifting ahead! As working professionals, parents, caregivers and humans, we do not always have the time to do the work, but there are many who do, this is why voting for PA Leaders is so important. Get involved in our PA community. Start by joining the professional associations and attending local, state and also national conferences. Inform yourself about the issues. Vote for your PA leaders. Be an active member of the PA community, it is OUR responsibility to protect our investment.

Be an active member of the PA community, it is OUR responsibility to protect our investment.

Courtney Titus, PA-C, MPAS, EMT-P

Below, you’ll find my suggestions for the 2019 AAPA General Election but if you are reading this and the election has ended, it doesn’t mean you can’t get involved! If you aren’t an AAPA member, sign up. You can start planning for the next year’s AAPA Conference in Nashville, TN right now. Request the time off, make childcare arrangements, make it a priority. I intend to be there, I hope you will join me.

It’s Time to “Show Up” in 2019.

Click here or on the image above to go and VOTE in the 2019 AAPA election! If you don’t know which candidate to choose, you have two options:

  • Take 35 minutes to watch their “Meet the Candidates” video
  • View to their candidate profiles, review their CVs, platform statements, short answer questions, and videos
  • Find these candidates on social media! This is the easiest way to digest their message, get to know them and understand where they are coming from.

EmpoweredPAs Favorites for 2019 AAPA Elections:

If you still are unsure who to vote for in the AAPA election, I can help. Of course, you don’t have to take my advice, it truly is more important that you get involved as a PA then to vote for “my” favorite candidates. You are in control, you are EMPOWERED to make the decision. All of the AAPA candidates are Physician Assistants, and all are willing to step into a role that will be challenging, which I commend them for.

There are two people that have connected with me and Empowered PAs that I believe represent the values that I want to see in an AAPA Candidate. Both are already PA leaders with amazing track records. For full transparency, you should know that they have not paid for endorsements, these recommendations come simply from my interactions with them.

AAPA President: Beth Smolko

I met Beth at the CHLM Executive Leadership Conference last fall. She was warm, engaging and friendly, but when it gets down to business, I realized that she’s the type of person to get things done. She has experience and passion and is dedicated to advocating for OTP. She, like I, believes PAs belong at the C-suite level and encourages PAs in leadership. She is also endorsed by Dave Mittman. Below is her platform statement.

Beth R. Smolko, DMSc,
President-elect Candidate

“Hi, I’m Beth Smolko and I am running for AAPA President-elect.
I offer over a decade’s worth of experience fighting for your right to work at the top of your license, education, and experience.
Our profession has been changing rapidly but we still have a lot to do.
As one of the authors of OTP, I am excited to see so many states pursuing practice legislation that meets some or all of the pillars of OTP.
The AAPA needs to continue to offer logistic and communications support for these state initiatives, along with helping to “lift all boats” by offering support to states that face more restrictive practice laws.
The Title Change Investigation is very important. We need to learn how our title impacts our ability to practice, legislative efforts, and public perceptions of the care we provide.
We also should have a list of 1,000 or 10,000 PAs that sign up to respond to all legislation impacting PA practice. An email from the AAPA slips by you, but imagine one of your colleagues telling you how important it is to send a note to your legislator. We could move mountains with this approach.
We also need to stop the “hidden provider” syndrome for PAs. We need to always bill under our own NPI and have direct reimbursement. Without this, there is little understanding for the PA contribution to healthcare in the U.S.
We need to forge new relationships with industry leaders like AARP. We also need to have strategic discussions with the AANP and state NP leaders. We are often fighting each other when we should be fighting…together to achieve progressive legislative changes in our states.
We need more PAs in the C-suite and encourage leadership development for PAs. Without this presence in hospital and healthcare administration, PAs are facing discriminatory hiring practices based on misinterpretation of PA scope of practice.
We need more PAs in Virtual Health. This is one of the fastest growing areas of medicine but it has largely left PAs behind due to restrictive practice laws. We need to make sure every state has PA listed as an approved Virtual Health provider.
Lastly but not least, I am an educator and founding PA program director. I have heard my educator colleagues ask for better transparency in policies that will impact educators. As President-elect, it will be a priority for me to have improved collaboration with our sister organizations.
Thank you for listening. Please vote for me, Beth Smolko, for AAPA President-elect.”

AAPA Director-at-Large: Jennifer Orozco

I also was lucky to meet Jenn at the CHLM Executive Leadership Conference (thanks to Dave Mittman!). Jennifer was engaging, friendly and incredibly passionate! We’ve connected on the phone several times and it is clear to me that she is willing to fight for our profession! She is currently already in the position as Director-at-Large, legislative chair for IAPA and is the APP Director in her workplace. She’s busy, but excited to continue her role. Below is her platform statement.

Jennifer M. Orozco, MMS, PA-C, DFAAPA Director-at-Large Candidate

“Hi, my name is Jennifer Orozco and I am running for AAPA’s Director-at -Large position. I’ve been a practicing PA, PA administrator, and PA faculty for more than 16 years. Currently, I am the Director of Advanced Practice Providers for a large, academic medical center in Chicago, Illinois where I am responsible for more than 320 PAs and nurse practitioners across the system.
Those that know me, know that I am a passionate PA advocate, a hard-working mom, and a dedicated leader who has fought tirelessly on both the state and national levels to help advance the profession. Last year my platform statement included, “If you want change, then you have to change something.” And I still stand by that today. As current AAPA Director-at-Large and Legislative Chair of the Illinois Academy of PAs, I have fought hard for progress and voted “yes” to OTP-positive legislation, as well as Title Change Investigation, marketing and advancement of the PA profession, and so many other changes that we so desperately need.
As a profession, I am proud of the progress we have made in the last few years but there is still a lot more work to be done and tough decisions to be made. Now more than ever we need strong PA leaders who will work collaboratively with PAs and key stakeholders to advance the profession. As your AAPA Director-at-Large, I know that I can and will be that leader. That leader who understands not only what it’s like to be a practicing PA, but one who understands the challenges we all face as a practicing PA, a PA administrator, a PA faculty, a PA researcher, a PA mom.
Today, I humbly ask for your support as AAPA Director-at-Large candidate so that I can continue to make the changes we so desperately need, the changes we want, and the changes we deserve. Thank you for your support.”

Thanks to both ladies for being strong PA Leaders, amazing role models, and for advocating on our behalf. Thanks to all the amazing PA Leaders who have contributed to this website, and who have gone beyond the bedside to advance our profession, make us better clinically and professionally!


Physician Assistant, Owner and Blogger at EmpoweredPAs.com. Currently practicing in a Pediatric Emergency Department, overseeing and developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines with teams of amazing people, supporting and mentoring Pre-PA and PA Students, with a hope to advance our profession and give PAs the tools and resouces they need to advance their careers.