Interview with Varnell McDonald-Fletcher, PA-C, of the NC Medical Board
Why did you decide to pursue service on the NC Medical Board?
I would like to state that I am truly honored to have been appointed by Governor Roy Cooper as a board member to the North Carolina Medical Board.
I graduated from the Duke Physician Assistant Program in 1994, and the Norwalk /Yale PA Surgical Residency in 1995. After graduation, I entered the health care profession unaware of all the entities that grant me the privilege to work. I knew I needed a license and certification to practice, but other than completing forms and taking a test, I was unaware of the responsibilities of the medical board and certification commission. In addition, I was unaware of the contributions of Accreditation Review Commission (ARC-PA), American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), or of state and local associations to the PA profession.
In 2008, I was appointed PA Director at Large to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). My eight year tenure on the commission enabled me to learn the infrastructure of the organization, and deepened my understanding and appreciation of the role and responsibilities of a certifying organization accountable to the public. The wealth of knowledge I attained afforded me the opportunity to develop and demonstrate my leadership skills. I served on the following committees: Research and Test Development, Finance, Certification, Nominating, Review Panel (Chair), and the Search Committee. In addition, I served on the Foundation Research Summit and the Research Discussion Team. Serving as Chair of the Review Panel of NCCPA afforded me the opportunity to become familiar with state medical boards. After completing my term at NCCPA, I envisioned using my knowledge and experience to contribute at the state and local level. My goal was, and is, to serve in a capacity that ensures quality medical care and preserves the integrity of the medical profession. Applying to the North Carolina Medical Board is a logical extension of my commitment to both public and professional service.
What is the most rewarding aspect of this work?
Every aspect of serving on the board is rewarding. As a new board member, I am continually learning. Leaving each board meeting knowing that I have contributed to the safe and efficient practice of medicine for the citizens of North Carolina reinforces commitment to serving on the NCMB. In addition, the knowledge that I attain has allowed me to provide factually based and accurate information to the many colleagues with whom I interact on a daily basis.
What is the most surprising element?
The most surprising element was the egregious nature of some disciplinary cases that come before the board. I find it astounding, and disappointing, that colleagues in health do not follow the position statements which provide clear and explicit guidance regarding standards of practice, professional ethics, and related legal and organizational policies and procedures.
What do you want practicing PAs to understand about the Medical Board?
The Medical Board not only provides a license to practice medicine but a wealth of knowledge, guidance, and resources to help PAs provide quality healthcare to the citizens of this great State. I hope to also ensure that PAs understand the role of our medical board and the critical part it plays in ensuring patient welfare and safety.
What are the major issues facing PA practice in North Carolina and how can we address them?
I think the top three issues facing the practice of medicine for PAs are as follows: Optimal Team Practice, Scope of Practice, and Reimbursement. These are not only local issues but national issues. As a physician assistant who has been in surgery for 20+ years, I have always experienced a collaborative and collegial relationship with physicians. Scope of Practice expands with the development of clinical skills. I am privileged to experience optimal team practice by working within an interprofessional environment. Reimbursement has and continues to be a challenge. To resolve these issues, more PAs should serve on organizational boards to impact corporate and legislative decisions. The focus should be on continued collaborative practice with physicians to optimize the present health care system.
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