2024 PA of the Year is Dedicated to Providing Care in Addiction and Maternal Fetal Medicine

‘One by One, Voices Can be Found, and Lives Can Be Saved’

May 16, 2024

By Sarah Blugis

Jasmin Charles, MPAS, PA-C (Photo Credit: Pepper Nix)

In the third grade, 2024 PA of the Year Jasmin Charles, MPAS, PA-C, made a t-shirt for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day class assignment. Across the front of the shirt, she wrote, “I have a dream to deliver babies in Africa.” As it turned out, Charles would follow through on the spirit of that dream—one that would lead her to becoming a PA.

Throughout high school and college, she volunteered with marginalized and underserved populations. She began her career working as a community domestic violence advocate, as well as running an inner-city Boys and Girls Club. But Charles was distressed by the tremendous lack of access to healthcare she was witnessing.

She’d seen PAs in action. A rural clinic she accompanied migrant farmworkers to was run by PAs—and Charles knew that they were doing the kind of boots-on-the-ground, grassroots work that she knew was her calling. After returning to her home state of Utah, she began her journey to become a PA, focusing her education on rural and underserved communities.

The PA of the Year Award honors PAs who demonstrate exemplary service to the community; exemplify the PA profession’s philosophy of providing accessible, quality healthcare to all; and furthers the image of the profession in a positive, meaningful way.

Charles was the first PA in the University of Utah OB/GYN department, and is the co-founder and clinical director of the Substance Use & Pregnancy – Recovery, Addiction, Dependence (SUPeRAD) Clinic at the university. SUPeRAD is a multi-disciplinary, integrated clinic specializing in perinatal addiction. In this role, she wears many hats: clinician, trainer, researcher, advocate, and community partner.

“At the end of every day, I am privileged to say that I made a difference,” Charles says. “Some days, I’ve made a difference for one—a patient, a student, or a colleague. Some days for systems, or the PA profession. Some days, I’ve taken steps toward improving the greater whole.”

(Photo Credit: Pepper Nix)

Since Charles helped to found SUPeRAD in 2017, the clinic has served over 1,300 pregnant and postpartum individuals during their journey navigating substance use disorder (SUD). As clinical director, she oversees 15 staff members, four attending providers, an entire research entity, and community collaborations with more than 10 organizations, along with a team of volunteers. Despite the long list of responsibilities included in her day-to-day work, Charles is passionate about teaching her colleagues to address their fears about caring for individuals with SUD, to destigmatize and recognize biases.

“On any given day of clinic, I’m supervising three to six medical learners, mental health learners, and various other trainees and students,” she says. “This learner cascade, as designed and implemented by me, has informed sessions, an application process, structured feedback, and a built-in project component.”

Along with her work at SUPeRAD, Charles oversees the learning schedule and objectives of the University of Utah PA students during their OB/GYN coursework and practicum. She is also a co-investigator for the ELEVATE Maternal Center of Excellence—an NIH-sponsored, multi-million dollar grant to reduce perinatal morbidity and mortality in peripartum individuals with SUD. In conjunction with these roles, Charles is the sole contracted provider in Utah caring for pregnant patients incarcerated in state prison and jail systems.

“Even in their most vulnerable times, my patients have empowered me, taught me, and invited me in. Selfishly, I can honestly say that being a PA continues to make me a more whole person,” Charles says. “There is truth to the statement that those who work with a marginalized population face marginalization. As an individual who identifies as cisgender, female, Latinx, queer, and mother of an adopted child, it can be exhausting. However, I am proud to be a trailblazer PA and to have built an empire for a population that is so frequently marginalized.”

Charles is also involved in clinical research, working as the lead medical clinician for several phase I-IV clinical trials. It’s fulfilling work, she says, because she and her team can offer patients the chance to be a part of medical research to change the future of medicine.

Between speaking engagements, presentations, research, educating future PAs, and treating patients, one might assume that Charles doesn’t have time for much else. But she makes it a point to advocate for the PA profession and to make sure everyone knows what “the letters behind her name” mean. PAs, she believes, are here to decrease healthcare disparities, and are the model of what healthcare should look like.

“If we, as providers, would treat individuals as people—not as a condition, status, disease, circumstance, race, religion, or gender—then individuals can start to see past their trauma, begin to see value in themselves,” Charles says. “This is why I show up to work every day: so that one by one, voices can be found, and lives can be saved.”

Sarah Blugis is AAPA’s Internal Communications Manager. She can be reached at [email protected].

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