For Immediate Release July 12, 2016

UM Shore Regional Health has undertaken an exciting initiative, the Physician Assistant Rotation Program, which brings physician assistant students to work and learn in the health care system’s five-county region. 

Physician assistants play an increasingly important role in making quality, patient-centered health care accessible to the growing U.S. population. A physician assistant can conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive care, assist in surgery and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes.

Offered in partnership with Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) and University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMB), the year-long rotation program enables UM SRH physicians to serve as preceptors for students in the AACC and UMB combined Physician Assistant/Master of Science in Health Science program. The physician preceptors are: Walt Atha, MD – Emergency Medicine, Kim Herman, MD – Family Medicine, Mark Langfitt, MD – Pediatrics, Elena Tilly, MD – Medicine, Andrew Pelczar, MD – Surgery, Eric Anderson, MD – Psychiatry, and Aisha Siddiqui, MD – Obstetrics/Gynecology.

"Our physicians are delighted to engage in the training and development of a new generation of health care providers -- and equally important, to share with them the outstanding physician expertise, clinical resources and career options available here on the Eastern Shore," explains William Huffner, MD, UM Shore Regional Health’s chief medical officer and senior vice-president of Medical Affairs. “Many PA graduates make employment choices during their clinical rotation. Our hope for these students is that their experience with us -- and the relationships they develop with our physicians and clinical staff -- will encourage them to seek employment in our five-county region.”

Seven PA students arrived last March and completed an intensive orientation that covered key clinical areas, including risk management, infection control and medical records. Since then, the students have been working with their preceptors on a rotating basis, which ensures that they receive broad experience in varied medical specialties and health care settings.

“I quickly found the PA rotation to be a really great program,” says Dr. Tilly, who practices internal medicine at UM Shore Medical Center at Dorchester. “I’ve been very impressed with the quality of these students and their preparation, and more than one has seemed like a ‘good catch’ if they decide to come work for Shore Regional Health.”

Dr. Langfitt, a pediatrician based at UM Shore Medical Pavilion at Easton, agrees. “This class of PA students is highly motivated,” he observes. “Working with students brings a freshness to my practice as they ask me questions that make me review how and why I practice the way I do. They are always interested in learning, even something as simple as how to hold an otoscope in such a way that you won’t hurt the child. The physician preceptors were given guidelines to cover during the rotations and we factor those guidelines into our daily workload to tie the students’ ‘book learning’ to the treatment of patients.” 

The PA students are equally enthusiastic. Melissa Hastings, who grew up in Dorchester County and attended Saints Peter and Paul High School in Easton, had always been interested in sports medicine. After college, she spent a year working at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School as an athletic trainer. While working with various doctors and their staff who were treating the student athletes, she recognized that she wanted to continue her studies to become a physician’s assistant.

“Everyone here at Shore Regional Health has been very welcoming, and the hands-on experience has been so valuable,” says Hastings. “I still love sports medicine but I want to get farther along in my rotations before deciding what area I’d like to work in once I finish the program. My family and my roots are here, so I definitely want to stay on the Mid-Shore where I can take care of people in my home community.”  

Upon completion of the year-long rotation program, the students will graduate with a Master of Science in Health Science from UMB and a Certificate of Physician Assistant Studies from AACC, and will be eligible to sit for the national certification exam for physician assistants. 

Mark Langfitt, MD, a UMMS pediatrician whose office is at Shore Medical Pavilion at Easton, with physician assistant student Shivangi Patel.

Melissa Hastings, physician assistant student, pauses with Fallon Bauer, a physician assistant with UM Shore Regional Health’s hospitalist program, while the two make rounds in the Joint Replacement Center at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton. Both are Eastern Shore natives – Hastings grew up in Hurlock and Bauer, originally from Easton, now resides in Queen Anne.