PA Foundation Recipients Give Back with Time and Expertise
Foundation Funds Allow Others to Pay it Forward
December 15, 2021
During this season of giving, PA Foundation (PAF) program recipients are now giving back and paying it forward. Melodie Kolmetz, PA-C, and Karey Davis, PA-C, have each benefited from PA Foundation programs. These PAs (physician associates/physician assistants) have chosen diverse ways to give back to others in the PA profession and in their communities. They’re sharing their stories in hopes of inspiring others to consider giving their time, talent, and treasure to the PA Foundation.
Mental Health First Aid for PA and paramedic practices
Melodie Kolmetz says the PA Foundation’s Mental Health Outreach Fellowship, which trained PAs to lead Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses in their communities, has enhanced her career. Kolmetz currently serves as a PA and clinical director at Northern Star Mobile Health Facility near Rochester, New York, and as director of didactic education and assistant professor at Ithaca College.
She originally became aware of the MHFA program through a public safety colleague who was a MHFA instructor and another emergency medical services (EMS) colleague who had taken the course and gave it rave reviews. Several colleagues, including her EMS colleague, told her she should definitely get involved. She applied for the Foundation’s Mental Health Outreach Fellowship and was selected as a member of the Fellows cohort.
“I was excited to share the MHFA message with my colleagues in higher education, EMS, the fire service, and law enforcement as well as the public,” says Kolmetz. “As a PA in occupational medicine and who also practices as a paramedic, I see the consequences of acute and chronic mental health issues on a regular basis. I had long felt a need for better overall awareness of the issues and for education about the management of acute mental health crises.”
She says the MHFA action plan has been a good foundation to use in her clinical practice as a PA and as a paramedic. It is a simple algorithm that can be applied in both acute and chronic mental healthcare settings. She has also become much more comfortable sharing information about mental health diagnoses and the importance of self-care while working to break down the stigma associated with mental health.
As a new educator, Kolmetz was trying to define her interests and strengths. “Becoming a MHFA instructor through the PA Foundation allowed me to develop my interest in mental health education and gave me a tool to utilize in my home community, my work community, and my academic community. I have become a resource for others seeking education and guidance and I love that people feel comfortable reaching out to me.”
Her work as a MHFA instructor has led to an interest in trauma-informed care and education. She presented a session on trauma-informed educational practices this year at the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Forum.
“I now view many of my educational offerings and leadership responsibilities through a trauma-informed mental health lens, which is very different from many of the classical andragogical and leadership principles,” Kolmetz explains.
Positive fellowship experience leads to Women in Philanthropy engagement
Her positive experience with the Foundation’s Mental Health Outreach Fellowship led Kolmetz to join the PA Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy (WIP) group. Kolmetz says she was honored to be invited to participate and wanted to give back and provide opportunities for others as a way of demonstrating her gratitude for the opportunities that were given to her. She also moved just before the pandemic, and the Women in Philanthropy network helped her develop a new online community. She is grateful for the discussions and connections provided by the group and realizes that her fellow WIP members may be encountering many of the same personal and professional challenges she is experiencing.
“These are trying times and I appreciate the opportunity to feel like I am not alone,” Kolmetz shares.
Her inclination for giving and philanthropy stems from her family. Growing up in a small town in western New York, her family encountered many economic challenges. Kolmetz was the first in her family to attend and graduate college.
“Despite the fact that we were poor, my parents emphasized the benefits of being involved in your community,” says Kolmetz. “They gave their time by volunteering for many roles in community volunteer organizations and local government. Giving time and financial support to the PA Foundation allows me to support others and model good community member behaviors for my own children.”
She encourages other PAs to give to the PA Foundation this year. “We know that the healthcare system has many challenges, and it often feels like we are Sisyphus continuously pushing the boulder of the health system up the hill,” Kolmetz observes. “Supporting the PA Foundation allows me to have a much greater impact on the healthcare system than I would have working alone.”
Nutrition Outreach Fellow gives back through community presentations
Karey L. Davis, PA-C, a PA at Interventional Spine & Pain in New Castle, Indiana, also wants to learn from others and have an impact on her community. Although she got involved with the PA Foundation years ago, she says it’s important to her to stay updated on current events, learn about those excelling in the PA profession, and find ways to incorporate innovative ideas into her current practice.
“When I first learned about the Nutrition Outreach Fellowship,” Davis says, “I immediately began thinking about how I could improve my current practice. I have always had a passion for nutrition and have incorporated my current knowledge into practice with my own family as well as with patients. I felt the Nutrition Outreach Fellowship would be an excellent opportunity to learn from other Fellows and their experiences as well as share the information in the community to promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle.”
She says it has been a great experience leading presentations on enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS), type 2 diabetes, and healthy aging. She is now leading a program at her community hospital to promote ERAS and help reduce hospital stays as well as post-operative complications.
“The Nutrition Outreach Fellowship has broadened my knowledge of ERAS and the importance of nutrition and wellness as a whole picture,” Davis explains. “I have been able to share with providers, community members, healthcare students, and patients as well as co-workers the importance of proper nutrition to prevent chronic illnesses, to aid in post-operative recovery, and to age in a healthy way! I loved sharing the handouts with each of them as they were easy to read and follow, colorful and very resourceful.”
Implementing changes and seeing improvements
Davis’ outreach through the fellowship has benefited providers as well as community members through education on malnutrition, ERAS, and the overall importance of proper nutrition. “It has been awesome watching changes implemented within our hospital and seeing improvements,” says Davis. “I have been working with our orthopaedic, OG/GYN, and general surgeons with ERAS – carb loading, increased protein, and improved nutrition for patients pre- and post-operatively. It is also refreshing to hear from patients who have been to a community presentation followed by a procedure at our hospital. They are receiving similar information on nutrition indicating the importance of properly fueling their bodies!”
Davis would definitely recommend the Nutrition Outreach Fellowship program to others, especially those interested in enhancing their knowledge on nutrition and implementing it in their practice. She feels it is important to give back to the PA Foundation to support its work in offering programs and opportunities for PAs to grow in their professional careers and serve others.
Davis concludes, “I would love to encourage all PAs to donate to the PA Foundation to help support continued programs like the Nutrition Outreach Fellowship, scholarships, service opportunities, and resources. Please donate today!”