July 30, 2021
PA Brings Expertise to AAPA
Ocotber 8, 2020
By Kate Maloney
Andrea Lowe, MHA, PA-C, has a lot of ideas about how to raise public awareness of PAs, and how to increase career opportunities. Lowe practiced as a PA in emergency medicine and then transitioned to increasingly visible leadership roles. She has a unique understanding of what both PAs and employers are looking for, and experience on both sides of the table. She joined the staff of AAPA in February 2019 to provide employer advisory services and lead the organization’s employer strategy efforts. Lowe was recently appointed “AAPA DEI Business Partner.” She will serve as staff liaison to the DEI Commission, external partners, and will also lead an internal staff DEI task force to identify and support DEI efforts within AAPA.
From PA to PA Leader
Lowe became interested in the profession when working at her mother’s healthcare company HIP over the summers during high school. At the time, this company was one of the first that starting using PAs in their practice. There, she was exposed to many PAs and was intrigued by the burgeoning profession. “PAs took time with patients and they practiced a little differently,” Lowe recalls. “They looked at the patient holistically, had great knowledge of medicine and worked collaboratively with physicians. I was really drawn to the profession.”
She attended Pace University and, after graduation, started working at the North Central Bronx Hospital emergency department (ED). She loved emergency medicine and thrived on its culture: “You got to see everything; it was fast-paced, think-on-your-feet. You took care of sick people of all ages. There were no limits, nothing you didn’t do.”
After Lowe had transitioned to an ED in Connecticut, she identified a problem: the ED had a lot of PAs but no PA was involved in leadership discussions or decisions. Lowe felt strongly that there needed to be a PA advocate, someone voicing the questions, concerns, and ideas of the PAs practicing there. She wanted to be more involved at the decision-making level, so she wrote up a job description, went to the chairman of the ED, and pitched her concept. The chairman was supportive of Lowe’s vision and she was named Chief PA after obtaining her master’s in health administration in 2007.
Lowe found the transition both challenging and rewarding. “One day, you’re this person who’s part of the group, and then you’re starting to lead the group. I didn’t have time to set new boundaries. I left on a Friday as a PA and came back on Monday as Chief PA.” She didn’t shy away from having difficult conversations, and she celebrated her team’s successes. “It was really rewarding to lead people through change and see the result of new initiatives. I really enjoyed starting something from the beginning and watching it work.”
Lowe has been a PA leader since then. She took a job as director of advanced practice providers (APPs) initially for three emergency departments. Later she took a job with TeamHealth as director of advanced practice clinicians that expanded her supervisory role to 13 EDs. She then moved into a vice president of operations role, where she was in charge of staffing, budgets, hospital metrics, engaging with hospital administration and C-suite members, and led over 140 PAs and NPs. She wanted to continue her advocacy efforts for the advanced practice and kept her position managing the APPs as well. “TeamHealth understands the importance of leadership in our profession and so advancing to a VP role and being able to advocate on this level was truly an honor and not something I took lightly. I wanted my PAs and NPs to see that they could have this high-level role. I didn’t want to give up that part of it, and it provided me high-level ways to make positive changes in their practice.”
Like other healthcare providers who transition to leadership roles, Lowe wanted to keep practicing clinically. She kept emergency department shifts on her schedule for 18 years. “I think every clinical leader can attest to struggling from the transition to leadership and trying to balance shifts. It really has to be the right time for that particular person,” she shares. “For me, after 18 years, slowing down and backing off shifts was ok. However, it was definitely a hard conversation to have with yourself and I found that leaning on trusted colleagues who had made the transition themselves is also key.”
Increasing Awareness and Opportunities for PAs
Lowe joined the AAPA staff in February 2019. Her mission: increase leadership opportunities for PAs and overall awareness of the profession. “I want to make sure PAs are practicing at the highest level of their education and experience, no matter what clinical setting we are in,” she says. “PAs will be an important component to filling the gaps across various healthcare continuums in the future. We need to build on the fantastic foundation we have and increase awareness on the national level.”
Lowe sees an exponential growth of opportunities for PAs on the horizon. “PAs can be utilized in multifaceted ways,” she says. “Telemedicine, rural health communities, pharmacology industry, research, informatics, business ownership and operations. There are PAs out there doing great work in all of these areas.” She’s determined to highlight that great work, build awareness, and create more leadership opportunities for PAs around the country.
While Lowe and AAPA work at the association level to increase awareness of and opportunities for PAs, Lowe encourages PAs who are interested in leadership to start now – by building a “leadership toolbox.” Look for healthcare associations to join, and talk to people about classes, groups, and leadership programs to expand your knowledge in these areas. Lowe herself received a graduate certificate in healthcare education from George Washington University and will be completing her MBA there this year. Lowe advises PAs to find a mentor – one you can trust and who has the same vision for your career. “Leadership doesn’t have to be a name in the bubble on the org chart,” Lowe says. “PAs need to remember that they can be leaders in all different ways and at all different levels.”
Kate Maloney is AAPA’s senior manager of corporate communications. She can be reached at [email protected].
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in April 2019.