Celebrating PAs Who Work for AAPA

In Honor of PA Week, Get to Know Our Staff PAs

October 3, 2019

We Heart Our PAs graphic with Sondra DePalma, Marie-Michele Leger and Andrea Lowe

AAPA celebrates all PAs during PA Week, October 6-12, but we’re especially proud of the four PAs who work on staff at AAPA: Director, Regulatory and Professional Practice Sondra DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA; Director, Clinical Education, Marie-Michele Leger, MPH, PA-C, DFAAPA; Director, Employer Strategy, Andrea Lowe, MHA, PA-C; and Director, Education, Alison Moore, PA-C.

We’ve asked them to tell us a little about their experiences as clinicians and consultants on staff.

Why did you become a PA?

DePalma: I was interested in medicine and liked the collaborative nature of how PAs practice with physicians and other healthcare providers.
Leger: I was always interested in the medical field; when I was a kid, I wanted to be a nurse like my mother. I studied to be a bilingual medical secretary and interned in a hospital and transcribed pathology reports. While working as a medical assistant for four years, I came upon a brochure from AAPA about the PA profession. The rest is history.
Lowe: I became a PA because I recognized early on that it was a growing profession that would significantly impact in the healthcare arena.
Moore: Working as a PA is very rewarding, and you can make a big difference in people’s lives.

Where did you attend PA school?

DePalma: Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. I later earned a Doctor of Health Science degree from A. T. Still University.
Leger: George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Lowe: Pace University – Lenox Hill PA Program. I also earned a Master of Health Administration from Pace and expect to get an MBA from George Washington University next year.
Moore: George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Where have you practiced?

DePalma: I’ve practiced in a variety of cardiology practices in inpatient and outpatient settings. I have advanced certifications in both cholesterol and hypertension management and have been involved in cardiovascular disease risk reduction and treatment guideline development.
Leger: Always in DC; my first job was at two community health centers, followed by an academic health center.
Lowe: I have always practiced in emergency medicine.
Moore: Commonwealth Orthopaedics (now OrthoVirginia) and National Spine and Pain Centers, both in Northern Virginia.

What did you enjoy most about your clinical practice?

DePalma: I really enjoy helping people – getting them correctly diagnosed, treated, and avoiding worsening of their health problems. You also get to hear some interesting life stories from patients! One gentleman’s wife (his girlfriend at the time) “smuggled” him out of East Berlin 40+ years ago. She managed to get a U.S. army uniform to him, he put it on, and just walked right out!
Leger: My patients were sheer joy; I still run into some of my patients from GWU who wonder when I will be back to take care of them. I left in ‘96!
Lowe: I always enjoy the impact you can have as a clinician in just one ER shift. Emergency medicine enables you to see all kinds of patients and use a variety of your medical skills.
Moore: Orthopaedics is my passion! I loved helping patients get back to their active, healthy lifestyles.

What do you appreciate about working as a PA for AAPA?

DePalma: In addition to my amazing coworkers, I appreciate the ability to help advance the profession and make it easier for PAs to provide the high-quality care they offer patients.
Leger: I am a resource to staff as I have a first-hand perspective of what is like to be a PA.
Lowe: I appreciate the camaraderie and everyone’s commitment to the PA profession. AAPA staff are intelligent, fearless, and can truly get anything done. This year I got a behind-the-scenes look at AAPA Conference. I took for granted the amount of planning that goes into making Conference great, and then how many balls have to stay in the air when you’re actually there!
Moore: Through continuing medical education and helping PAs improve their clinical skills, I’m able to impact a greater number of patients than I would be able to impact by myself as a practicing PA.

How do you feel you can help PAs the most in your staff role at AAPA?

DePalma: I help ensure favorable regulatory and reimbursement policies for PAs to practice at the top of their training and license. I also help PAs advocate for themselves and their profession at their own practices and in their local communities.
Leger: As a PA advocate.
Lowe: I think my clinical, leadership, and business background give me the ability to work really well with all our teams. I’ve personally experienced being everything from a pre-PA to a PA transitioning out of practice, so I can contribute a lot. My role is very dynamic, and I enjoy having an impact and being a resource.
Moore: I can help develop educational content that is relevant and applicable to PAs, and education that is hands-on, fun, and engaging!

What is one of the weirdest questions you have gotten from a member?

DePalma: The weirdest question probably came from a member’s employer. They wanted to know if a PA wasn’t authorized by state law to do something, could the PA still do it and just bill it as if the physician did it. The answer, of course, was NO!
Leger: “Can you vouch for me since you knew me as a student?”
Lowe: I am a believer that no question is weird or silly. The most profound question that has stuck with me is ‘When you think of your career, what have been your biggest achievements, regrets, and most surprising aspects?’
Moore: Having gone through PA school recently, I answer a lot of questions about the PA school application process, life as a new PA, life as a PA working in a non-traditional PA role, etc. And I love helping PAs and prospective PAs with these questions too!

What is one thing you’d like to share with other PAs during PA Week?

DePalma: Advocating for yourself and your profession is advocating for patients and the US health system. Get involved!
Leger: After 36 years as a PA I still get asked ‘Why are you a PA and not an MD?’ I have no regrets on my decision.
Lowe: ENJOY and live in the moment. From PA school to your first year to mid-career, it all flies by so quickly. Enjoy your classmates and colleagues. There are many people who do not have the means and opportunity to go to school, much less PA school. Reflect on the fact that what we do is unique. The impact that we make on our patients and communities should never be taken for granted.
Moore: Don’t become weary in doing good. You are very needed in today’s society. However, taking care of people every day can be very draining as well. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Rest. Spend time with family and friends. Make yourself a priority, and your work career will be more rewarding as well!