In honor of Black History Month, NCAPA is highlighting outstanding Black PA leaders in North Carolina to share their accomplishments.
Elmira Powell, PA-C, is from Raleigh, NC, and shares that for “as long as (she) has been alive,” she has had a desire to practice medicine. Originally planning to focus on pre-med, she changed majors due to some life circumstances and graduated in 1977 with a B.S. in Community Health Education, going on to receive her M.Ed. in Counseling, both from UNC- Greensboro. Elmira then worked as a Family Planning Coordinator at the Sampson County Health Department for five years. It wasn’t until she was presenting information about becoming a health educator at a Career Day when she learned about the PA profession. She heard a PA describe his role and knew that becoming a PA was her “path to fulfill her journey into clinical medicine.” PA Powell completed the Duke University Physician Assistant Program, graduating with a B.H.S. in 1986.
PA Powell’s first role as a PA was with North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where she provided primary care to students. She then went on to work for the Guilford County Health Department in the Family Planning/Maternity Division for five years, providing prenatal and gynecological care. In 1992, PA Powell returned to student health as the Director of Student Health Services at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. It was there that she continued to provide primary medical care while also managing all student health operations and staff. In 1997, PA Powell joined the Guilford Emergency Physicians, where she stayed for the next 13 years. During this time, in 1999, PA Powell began her role at Central Carolina OB-GYN in Greensboro, where she has practiced as a PA in gynecology ever since.
While in PA school, the importance of being involved in the PA profession, outside of practice, was made very clear. PA Powell joined the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (NCAPA) and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and has been actively involved in both since 1987. Her experience has provided her with “a better understanding of the business and politics of medicine as well as the vast opportunities to develop relationships among colleagues. As time went on (her) committee involvement proved to be a way to actively impact policy, promote the profession, and build relationships with other healthcare entities.”
PA Powell received the Richard John Scheele Award from the Duke University PA Program. The award is presented annually to a graduating student who exemplifies Scheele’s academic and professional leadership. PA Powell was also inducted into the Duke University PA Program Alumni Hall of Fame in October of 2005. Her professional affiliations and leadership roles include:
- Fellow member of the AAPA and NCAPA since 1987
- Member of the Guilford County Physician Extenders Association, 1988-1998
- NCAPA Vice President, 1997
- NCAPA Director at large, 1993-2000
- NCAPA Minority Affairs Committee Chair, 1994-1996; Member, 1996-2006
- NCAPA Staff Management Committee Chair, 1997-1999
- NCAPA Government Affairs Committee Member, 2000-2003 and 2005-present
- NCAPA Nominating Committee Member, 2004; Chair, 2005
- First Research Group – Focus Group Moderator, 2005
- Hadassah Breast Cancer/Testicular Cancer Awareness Speaker’s Bureau, 2002-2006
- North Carolina Medical Society Member, 2007-2010
- North Carolina Institute of Medicine Health Literacy Task Force, 2007
- NCAPA President, 2008
- NCAPA Delegate to AAPA House of Delegates, 2007; Chief Delegate, 2008
- NCAPA Diversity Committee Member, 2008-2013
- North Carolina Medical Society Health Care Access Study Committee, 2009
- NCAPA Endowment Trustee, 2009-2016; Endowment President, 2010-2016
PA Powell states that “since NC has been on the cutting edge of PA practice since its inception, I think it is our duty and responsibility to continue to pave the way for future practice. NCAPA has always been at the helm, navigating the regulatory and legislative waters, and at this point in the profession’s maturity, I would like for us finally be regarded as skilled and relevant clinicians on the healthcare team.”
The first African American female President of NCAPA, PA Powell remains involved in the Academy to this day. She faithfully attends every board of directors meeting and helps with the NCAPA Annual Summer Conference beach activities each year, from handing out t-shirts to cheering kids over the finish line during the annual fun run.
PA Powell is also committed and involved closer to home. Prior to COVID, she would mentor 2-3 students each year that were interested in the PA profession. And even though her practice does not provide clinical rotations for students, they have allowed PA Powell to have students shadow her. She has also provided numerous talks on Reproductive Health to teens at the local YWCA and is an active leader at her church as an Elder.
PA Powell currently lives in Greensboro, NC and plays golf every chance she gets. She also enjoys kayaking, board games, particularly Scrabble, and music.