Military Service PA of the Year
COL Pauline V. Gross, U.S. Army, SP, PA-C
COL Pauline V. Gross, U.S. Army, SP, PA-C, could have stayed in her comfort zone as a clinician and retired after 20 years of service, as many others in her field have done.
But after more than 40 years in the Army, 32 of which as a PA, Gross has never let off the gas. From the moment she graduated from PA school, the recipient of the 2017 Military Service PA of the Year award continually sought new ways to improve the care of soldiers, while simultaneously advocating for PAs in the Army.
“When I first began working as a PA, I was amazed by how often large-scale decisions were being made without including input from all of the groups that would be impacted, particularly the PAs,” Gross said. “That made me quickly realize we needed to expand our role so that we could consistently have a seat at the table.”
Gross immediately volunteered to join one of those decision-making committees. And from that moment on, she continued to volunteer for whichever opportunities would have an impact on the health and safety of her fellow soldiers.
Trailblazer for Others
“Whenever I had the chance, I tried to put myself out there,” Gross said. “I volunteered to be chief of clinic, to chair committees, to teach the medics. There were countless times when I thought that if we [PAs] aren’t going to do it, who else will?”
Her can-do approach of always stepping forward led her to a wide variety of assignments that blazed a path for other PAs to follow. She became the first female PA deployed to Palmerola (now Soto Cano) Air Force Base in Honduras. A decade later, she became the first PA to be a clinic “Chief in Charge” in South Korea. And later, she became the first PA assigned to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
In her current role, Gross is the first PA ever to become installation management command surgeon for the U.S. Army, traditionally a physician-held position. She works with a variety of civilians and former military members, and they all typically have the same reaction when they discover Gross is a PA.
“As soon as they find out, they immediately get excited because they all have such fond memories of the PAs who served in their units,” Gross said. “That’s because PAs are so unique. The way we talk with our patients and interact with them is on a different level than other providers, and everybody seems to recognize that fact.”
Earned Respect for Army PAs
Gross is always amazed by the respect PAs have earned throughout Army. She says every time someone shares a favorite story about a PA they knew while on active duty, it reminds her of how she must live up to a very high standard.
“When she accepts a job, she takes it head on to ensure it gets done and that it’s done right. She won’t ever just sit on the sidelines if she knows of a better way to do something,” said LTC Amelia Duran-Stanton, SP, PA-C, Ph.D., who served under Gross’ command while the two were stationed at the Army Medical Department Center at Fort Sam in Houston.
Duran-Stanton said that no matter how high up the ranks Gross was, she always kept an eye out for the junior PAs who were doing great work and she sought ways to give them the recognition they deserved.
“You might assume that people at her level don’t often think about those kinds of things anymore, but not COL Gross,” Duran-Stanton said. “That only adds to the amount of respect people have for her, and you see that whenever she speaks because everyone stops what they’re doing and listens intently.
“That’s a sign of a great leader.”