With National Physician Assistant Day coming up on November 27, BScPA alumnus Drew Gould reflects on his time in the program and his career as a PA in Northern Ontario
“To me, National Physician Assistant Day is a day of reflection and appreciation. It's an opportunity to acknowledge the incredible work done by my fellow PAs across the country and to celebrate the impact we collectively make on patients' lives.”
Drew Gould is the Physician Assistant (PA) Lead at Northeastern Ontario Medical Offices (NEOMO) in Sudbury. After moving to Northern Ontario in 2009, Gould was first introduced to the Department of Family and Community Medicine’s (DFCM) PA Program by a cousin-in-law and military PA who suggested he apply.
In addition to the flexibility and being able to take some classes remotely, Gould was drawn to U of T’s unmatched reputation in healthcare education and the program’s generalist focus.
“Given the shortage of primary care providers in Sudbury and Northern Ontario,” he says, “I appreciated the program's focus on generalist medicine, as I believe that a strong foundation in primary care is essential for providing well-rounded patient care.”
Gould was hired at NEOMO in 2013, during his final rotation of the two-year PA program. He works closely with the practice’s family doctors and—within his first few years there—launched a PA-led same-day clinic to increase patient access to urgent and acute care. He also established a system for in-person care during the COVID-19 pandemic wherein NEOMO patients were assessed in their cars outside the building. The success of this system, he says, is the biggest highlight of his career thus far.
Early into his time at the clinic, he took on a faculty appointment at both DFCM and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) University, which is part of the Consortium of PA Education. Through these roles, he began facilitating courses in Behaviour Medicine and a PA Scholar course, which focuses on training students on evidence-based medicine and quality improvement practices.
“Being a faculty member has also allowed me to become a primary supervisor for second-year PA students during their four- to six-week family medicine rotations,” he says. “I am fortunate to have supervised 40+ students to date and I’ve truly enjoyed being a mentor to them.”
Despite a successful and fulfilling career, Gould—like many others—is deeply affected by the ongoing shortage of family doctors in Ontario, particularly in Sudbury and other northern cities.
“Many Northern Ontario residents struggle to access timely primary care,” he says. “PAs play a vital role in bridging this gap. We are trained to provide high-quality generalist care and can work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive the care they need. The PA-led same day clinic is our way to increase access to our patients for their urgent care needs.”
But increased pressure, longer work hours, and heavier workloads are still a reality.
NEOMO currently has nine family physicians, two PAs, and three nurses serving more than 15,000 patients—almost 10% of Sudbury’s population.
“Family physicians and primary care PAs can address a wide range of medical issues, provide preventive care, and manage chronic conditions,” he says. “These skills are essential in delivering comprehensive and patient-centered healthcare, as it ensures that individuals receive holistic care that considers their physical, emotional, and social well-being.”
Medicine is an ever-evolving field, he says, so he advises new and aspiring physician assistants to embrace continuous learning and collaboration.
“Staying up-to-date with the latest research and best practices is crucial,” he says. “Additionally, building strong relationships with your healthcare team and taking your holidays to refresh and refocus are important wellness strategies to enable you to provide high-quality patient care.”
For Gould, National Physician Assistant Day on November 27 is a day to reflect, appreciate, and acknowledge the work done by all PAs across the country.
“I always take a moment to recognize the milestones and achievements of the PA profession,” he says. “Even if it is just expressing gratitude to the physicians I collaborate with, or taking a moment to reflect on the privilege and responsibility of being a part of this vital healthcare team.”
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