For the last edition of #IamNCAPA Member Highlights for 2023, the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (NCAPA) spoke with Family Medicine PA, Julia Niemi, DHSc, MSPH, PA-C, CHES, CPH, BC-ADM. With her role as a board-certified PA in Advanced Diabetes Management, PA Niemi also teaches quarterly diabetes education classes at the community health center where she works. Additionally, she has recently received her Doctor in Health Science (DHSc) from Campbell University, with her thesis focused on comparing diabetic-related care and complications between rural and urban North Carolina residents.
As a graduate of Campbell University’s dual-degree program, PA Niemi received both a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) and Master of Physician Assistant Practice (MPAP). Niemi tells the NCAPA, “I love working at the community health clinic because I can use both of my degrees.”
The NCAPA asks PA Niemi, “What made you decide to be a PA?”
“I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field,” she says. “In college, I was required to shadow different medical professionals and shadowed a handful of PAs. They were able to provide similar care that doctors at the same clinic provided and had more freedom in changing careers/fields compared to other medical professionals. I felt like they had a great work-life balance.”
What is your favorite thing about being a PA?
“My favorite thing about being a PA is being able to help my patients reach their health goals,” PA Niemi says. “This is why I like working in family medicine so much. I can build relationships with my patients, working with them and cheering them on as they work towards improving their health.”
What made you want to become a member of the NCAPA? Why do you think NCAPA membership is valuable?
“Campbell University’s PA program offered an NCAPA Membership while we were in PA school, and I was able to attend a job fair and a few educational sessions offered at a past NCAPA Conference. As a student, I felt so supported by NCAPA, that I wanted to continue to be a member once I graduated! Not only do they offer great continuing education programs, but they also provide networking events where I have been able to make connections with other PAs. NCAPA also fights for PAs and their needs and advocates for them to continue to provide care to all North Carolinians.”
How do you want the PA profession to change in the next 5 or 10 years?
“I hope to see optimal team practice (OTP) finally implemented in North Carolina. PAs have so much to offer their communities and OTP will allow us to continue to provide the amazing care we do.”
And finally, the NCAPA asks, “If you weren’t a PA, what would you be doing?”
PA Niemi shares, “I always joked that if being a PA did not work out, I would want to own a food truck! Realistically though, I do think I would be working in public health. I enjoyed the course work and community work that was part of my MSPH program. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how important public health is across the work. Working in public health, I would still be able to help communities grow and improve their health.”