Humanitarian of the Year
Carol “Maggie” Snyder, R.N. PA-C, DFAAPA
PA Honored for her Commitment to HIV/AIDS Patients
When the HIV/AIDS outbreak began in the 1980s, patients faced stigma and fear about the previously unknown disease. While many healthcare providers were fearful to treat these patients, PA Maggie Snyder, MHS, RN, boldly stepped up. She has devoted her entire career to the treatment and eradication of this disease. Snyder is the recipient of the 2018 Humanitarian Award.
Each year, AAPA grants the Humanitarian Award to a PA who has demonstrated exemplary service to the community, and enhanced the image of PAs by exemplifying the PA profession’s philosophy of providing accessible, quality healthcare to the medically underserved.
Becoming a PA
During the first major outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s, Snyder went to work as a nurse at the Infectious Disease Unit at Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“People with HIV had no one at the time, and I thought as a nurse, that’s what we were supposed to do – take care of people,” Snyder said.
With only one physician in the state of Utah who would treat HIV/AIDS patients, the hospital was critically understaffed. In desperate need of assistance, Dr. Kristen Ries approached Snyder and asked if she would become a PA to help with the extreme patient load.
“I had always considered becoming a PA,” Snyder said. “Using the nursing model and the medical model broadened the way I took care of patients.”
A Dedicated Provider
Upon finishing PA school, Snyder returned to Holy Cross Hospital to treat HIV/AIDS patients with Ries. Ostracized by the public, their communities, and sometimes even their families and friends, these patients were in desperate need of treatment and support. Snyder put her personal life on hold to fully dedicate herself to her patients. She often spent weekends attending funerals of her patients. To this day, Snyder has kept the obituaries of every HIV/AIDS patient she has ever lost.
As we have learned more about HIV/AIDS, the treatment and prevention measures have significantly improved, but Snyder has continued her fight against this disease. She has volunteered with HIV/AIDS committees, boards, and educational organizations. She has served as an instructor for both PA and nursing students at the University of Utah, and as a lecturer at schools, businesses, and other organizations.
Documenting her Career
In 2014, Snyder and Ries were at a Christmas party reflecting on their careers and wondering what to do with all the materials they had collected over the years. Terry Kogan, a law professor at the University of Utah, happened to overhear them, and proposed creating an archive at the university’s Marriott Library to chronicle the history of Snyder’s and Ries’ practice.
While compiling the archive, Kogan approached one of his law students who he knew was also pursuing a film degree. Jared Ruga was struck by Snyder’s story and pulled together a team to share her amazing work. Earlier this year, the documentary film “Quiet Heroes” premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
As Snyder reflects on her career, she hopes her story inspires others to better serve their patients.
“PAs live the lives of taking care of people,” Snyder said. “It’s not only about making money and providing, but it’s about providing service to those who don’t have good quality medical care.”