Asthma CME Helps Address Provider Challenges and Barriers

Why PAs Need to Stay Updated on Pulmonary Care

May 8, 2018

By Abby Boshart

Asthma and other pulmonary disorders are serious and common in many patients, but few go directly to a specialist at the first sign of difficulty breathing.  PAs in primary care or family medicine are often the first to see these issues but can face challenges in diagnosing and treating them.

In recognition of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, Susan Stempek, MMSc, PA-C, FAAPA, FCCP, shares her experience in pulmonary medicine and why it is important to stay updated on new asthma guidelines.

Susan Stempek
PA Susan Stempek talks about her course titled Critical Skills for Critical Care.

Stempek is a Medical ICU PA and the director of advanced practice at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington,Massachusetts. She has spent her entire 12-year career in pulmonary and critical medicine and often serves as a lecturer at seminars and courses for both fields.

Stempek was first exposed to this field as a PA student at Emory University. She completed a rotation in pulmonary medicine at Georgia Lung Associates and was offered a job upon her graduation in 2005. She credits the practitioners she worked with during her rotation for fostering her apprecitation of the field.

“I developed a love for pulmonary medicine very quickly with excellent mentorship from experienced PAs as well as very dedicated and engaged physician colleagues,” she said.

In her line of work, Stempek often sees patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. This disease is common in smokers and is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. With proper management by providers like Stempek, COPD can be a manageable condition.

“The chronicity of pulmonary disease is both one of the most challenging things in this field and one of the best things,” she said. “We are able to develop longstanding relationships with patients and develop a depth of knowledge about very complicated physiologic processes.”

COPD and other pulmonary issues are prevalent and become dangerous if left untreated. PAs in every specialty may see these patients, so it is vital that they are up to date on the latest advancements and procedures in pulmonary medicine.

“Understanding basic pulmonary diagnoses and physiology no matter your subspecialty is critically important,” Stempek said.

PAs attending AAPA18 have the chance to learn about these basics from Stempek herself. This is an amazing opportunity to learn the fundamentals from an experienced practitioner and lecturer.

Along with Christy Wilson, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA from Piedmont Health, Stempek will lead an educational workshop Sunday, May 20 at AAPA 2018 on pulmonary function.  This session will include a presentation on the basics of spirometry, a lung function test. Participants will then get the chance to visit stations around the room where they will review case studies and even get the chance to use a spirometer themselves.

Stempek will also host two other sessions at conference. She will be one of the leaders of the chest radiology workshop on Saturday, May 19 that will walk participants through interpreting chest CTs and CXRs and give them a chance to review case studies in small groups. Stempek’s ICU lecture will provide an overview of various common critical care diagnoses and treatments.

There are other great sessions for PAs looking to expand their knowledge on asthma and pulmonary care, including:

For those not attending conference, you still have the opportunity to learn about the basics of pulmonary medicine. Earlier this year, AAPA launched a new free CME featuring Stempek and Wilson for PAs everywhere. Clinical Dialogue: Addressing Challenges and Overcoming Barriers in the Care of Patients with Asthma offers an overview of current guideline recommendations for diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care.

Abby Boshart is AAPA’s communications coordinator. Contact her at

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