AAPA Past President Josanne Pagel Urges PAs to ‘Just Say Yes’

Long-serving Leader Seeks to Pass Passion for Volunteering to the Next Generation of PAs

August 5, 2022

Josanne Pagel, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, credits her career-long volunteerism to her upbringing in Ohio. Pagel grew up in a large, blue-collar family, who worked hard at their largely manual jobs just to make ends meet. Though no one else in her family had gone to college, Pagel was determined at a young age to break this mold. “I knew I had to get an education in order to be able to do more,” she says. And do more, she did.

From Ohio to the Philippines – And Back

After Pagel received her PA degree – taking on student loans and multiple jobs to graduate – she joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to the Philippines for two years. Working as a PA in a rural town, Pagel took on her first volunteer projects, inspired by the fact that her work would make things easier for the people she’d come to know and care about. Additionally, she was able to see her volunteer projects through from conception to implementation, which empowered her with the knowledge that her volunteer efforts could successfully impact others.

When Pagel returned to her home state of Ohio, she brought her experiences from the Peace Corps and her own innate desire to grow, learn, and serve. She worked as a PA, manager, and administrator in a number of different specialties and workplaces – experiencing the ins and outs of being a practicing PA in Ohio, beholden to the state practice laws, which, in the early ‘80s, were terribly limiting. “As I worked across specialties and different practice environments, I realized there was so much more to be done to change practice laws in Ohio,” she recalls.

Rising Through the Volunteer Ranks

So, in the early ’90s, Pagel attended a meeting of the Ohio Association of PAs (OAPA). When a state leader asked if anyone had fundraising experience, Pagel raised her hand. Her enthusiasm, her willingness, and her ideas quickly led to her appointment as the Chair of Fundraising. From there, Pagel progressed through the leadership ranks of OAPA, eventually serving as president. She continues to serve today as the chair of the governmental affairs committee where she has written and amended multiple pieces of legislation to improve PA practice in Ohio.

As a senior state leader, Pagel felt it was a natural progression to start getting involved at the national level. She began attending large regional events, where she met other state leaders and AAPA Board members, all working together to advance the PA profession around the country. The sitting Board members encouraged Pagel and her fellow state leaders to get officially involved with AAPA by volunteering for a committee. Pagel joined the Planning for PA Progress committee in 1997, kicking off more than 20 years of dedicated volunteer service to AAPA, which ultimately resulted in Pagel’s election as Secretary/Treasurer (2012-2016) and then AAPA President for the 2017-2018 leadership year.

Giving Back as a Mentor

When reflecting upon her career and her volunteering, Pagel sums it up in just a few words: “I just said yes.” She looks at this willingness to get involved – to participate, to say yes – as what moved her from an early-career PA practicing medicine in high-need city neighborhoods to, eventually, the Executive Director of PA Services at the Cleveland Clinic. “Every time a door has opened for me, I’ve said yes, and I’ve walked through it,” she says. “I know the value of opportunities like that, since I came up in my career without many of them – I didn’t have a mentor, there weren’t many other PAs working in Ohio, we had limiting practice laws. I am pushing and pushing so that doors are opened for those who come after me – and that PAs have the opportunity to say yes, to get involved, to advance the profession.”

For PAs and PA students who are willing to say yes, Pagel is always willing to offer her advice, and make connections on their behalf. She advises those who are interested in formally volunteering to first join a committee that’s of interest, then spend your first year listening and learning. Once you’re familiar with the work of the committee, you can identify how your own personal strengths can contribute most meaningfully to the committee’s work. “Volunteering exposes you to ideas, people, even pathways, you wouldn’t have necessarily been aware of,” she says. “It’s a great way to grow as a person and as a PA.”

Pagel is passionate about mentoring the next generation of PAs – and encouraging them to explore leadership opportunities. “It’s so important to me,” she says. “The bottom line of mentoring and networking is to strengthen our profession. The best way we can do this is to seek out those who would be great for our profession.” Pagel’s enthusiasm has certainly inspired many PAs, but she has a particular fondness for two PAs who have followed in her footsteps: her great nephew, Nathan, and her great niece, Melissa, who are both practicing PAs at the Cleveland Clinic. Other than conversations about the PA profession and her participation in their white coat ceremonies, Nathan and Melissa landed their spots at the Cleveland Clinic without Pagel’s involvement. They, like other PAs around the country, followed a trail that Pagel had blazed.

Pagel officially retired from the Cleveland Clinic on June 1 but remains committed to volunteer work. “Volunteering for the PA profession has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life,” Pagel says. “I can’t wait to see what our dedicated volunteer leaders continue to accomplish.”

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