Providing Medical Care in Liberia Inspires Chicago PA to Continue Global Healthcare Commitment
Two Team Members Hope to Become PAs
August 6, 2019
By Jenni Roberson
As far as “cool PA jobs” go, working for a practice that provides care for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, the Chicago Bulls, and the Chicago White Sox is pretty up there – no matter what team you root for. But Sincer Jacob, MMS, PA-C, RRT, a PA in sports medicine/orthopaedic surgery with Chicago’s Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, recently had the opportunity to take it up a notch – taking his medical expertise and desire to help others to a global level.
In May, Jacob joined a team of eight people on a humanitarian aid trip to Liberia organized by a local church.
Serving people through medicine has always been a passion for Jacob, who founded Circulation in 2016, a medical-based fellowship in Chicago designed to bridge the gap between medical professionals to serve underserved neighborhoods and populations of Chicago.
He knew the Liberia trip would be a rare opportunity to utilize his skills as a PA to help hundreds of people in dire need of medical attention.
“Liberia was ranked by USA Today as the poorest country in the world, and most people can’t afford to travel to the hospital due to the high costs,” Jacob said. “I treated all patient populations of all critical levels in rural Africa, where the only health option for most people was 90 minutes away.”
Jacob said he believes the skill set gained in PA school as a generalist gave him the training and expertise he needed to help treat more than 1,100 patients over the course of 10 days.
“I was blessed to be a part of a team that treated hundreds of patients with malaria, typhoid, dysentery, and many complicated critical conditions. I’m forever grateful that my education and training allowed me to provide medical care and serve as the procedural/surgical specialist, performing bedside procedures including circumcisions, wound care, incision and drainages, pre and postnatal care, fractures/splinting, and more.”
Jacob, a graduate of Northwestern, began his career in healthcare as a critical respiratory therapist in Ohio. While in middle school, he volunteered in a hospital where he observed a surgeon and a PA working together, caring for patients. He valued the PA’s skill set and autonomy and was inspired to become a PA.
Now, as a member of the sports medicine team for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, Jacob treats patients – many of whom are competitive athletes – within the clinic setting and provides surgical assistance in the operating room in addition to formulating diagnoses and treatment plans.
After the trip to Liberia, two team members decided to change their career aspirations and work to become PAs. He said these individuals and others on the team remarked on how they gained a better understanding of the training PAs have.
As the only person on the team surgically trained to treat wounds, Jacob treated a patient whose quality of life was deeply affected by a 24-year-old chest wall abscess, large enough to prevent the man from buttoning his shirt. He believes this was one of the many treatments that opened his team members’ eyes to the full scope of what PAs can do.
“The consensus and feedback was that PAs are often overlooked and can be utilized – especially globally – because of all the advanced training they have.”
The experience gave him the desire to do more. Jacob, who also serves as regional director for South Chicago (Region 3) for the Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants, is planning another trip this October. While traveling in Lebanon, Jacob will work with Syrian Refugees to provide medical care.
Jacob is not alone in his desire to serve in global health. PAs interested in getting more involved in global health can learn about many opportunities through the Fellowship of Christian PAs and PAs for Global Health.
The Fellowship of Christian PAs is the PA section of a larger parent organization called Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA). CMDA has a medical missions branch called Global Health Outreach; they utilize PAs, NPs, PTs, RNs, and MDs for about 50 medical missions trips each year.
PAs for Global Health works to promote and support domestic and international global health activities of PAs and PA students which focus on improvement of medical care, health care systems access, research, academic, and administrative support in areas with health professional shortages.
Jacob encourages any person with a desire to serve globally to get involved.
“You don’t need a specific title, credential, or certain qualification to serve those who are in need,” Sincer said. “The reality is anyone with a heartbeat can help – you just have to be willing to go.”
Jenni Roberson is director, media relations for AAPA. Contact her at [email protected].