Visits to the Stead Center are by appointment only. Please call the NCAPA office for more information. Read More »

Visits to the Stead Center are by appointment only. Please call the NCAPA office for more information. Read More »

The Pulse | December 2013

In this issue:
President’s Message
Win an Apple iPad Air!*
Call for Nominations
From NCAPA’s Next President
Interested in Serving on the Medical Board?
Time to Renew for 2014!
Commercial Driver Medical Examiner Training
Holiday Blues
First PA Ever Selected to Serve as CEO of NCCPA
NCTracks Provider Help Center
Medicaid Reform Advisory Group
New Medical Director of NC Medicaid Named
NC Revised Paper Death Certificate
Project Lazarus Training on Opioid Prescribing
NCAPA Holiday Hours


President’s Message

By Don Metzger, PA-C

As winter arrives, my term as your president draws to a close. It has been a rewarding year for the NCAPA on so many fronts. We have reached tremendous milestones including paying off the construction loan for the Stead Center. We have hired a new Executive Director, Cathie Feild, who has tightened up our ship and will be a driving force as we continue to be your voice in North Carolina.

I want to say thank you to all of the committee chairs and members for their hard work this past year. We have a solid foundation and an exciting plan for next year. I also want to thank the Board of Directors for their cooperation, guidance, and tireless commitment. Finally, I want to thank our central office staff members, Lee Busselman and Carin Head. They have been faithful during our transition and were instrumental in coordinating committee work and assisting members.

Soon, the days will start to lengthen and spring will bloom signaling new beginnings. Your next President, Charlene Morris, is able and ready to lead your NCAPA as we advocate for your right to practice in North Carolina. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your president.


Don Metzger, MHS, PA-C


Win an Apple iPad Air!*

28th Annual NCAPA Recertification Exam Review Conference

Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center
Durham, NC
February 24-28, 2014

*NCAPA is giving away an Apple iPad Air! All registrations that are received and paid by December 31, 2013 are eligible to win. Drawing will take place on January 7, 2014. NCAPA Offers Big Savings for Early Birds…

  • NCAPA Early Registration Rates: $400 for NCAPA members if registered by December 31, 2013
  • Sheraton Hotel Early Bird Discount: Reserve your room by December 31 and take advantage of discounted hotel rates!

Click here for conference information and registration

Click here for hotel information and reservations


Call for Nominations

The NCAPA Nominating Committee will begin working next month to identify candidates for open positions on the Board of Directors and Nominating Committee in 2015.

The NCAPA has been the primary guardian of our profession at the local and state level and a key supporter at the national level. The physician assistants that comprise our leadership emerged from our general membership—YOU!

The Nominating Committee asks that you exercise your choice by nominating yourself or a colleague to leadership.

All terms begin January 1, 2015. Nominees for officer positions (President-Elect, Vice President, and Secretary) must have been a Fellow member in good standing of the NCAPA for the calendar year prior to election. All other nominees must have been a Fellow or Associate member.

The following positions for elected offices are open for nominees:  President-Elect, Vice President, Secretary, Director-At-Large (two positions), and Nominating Committee Member. To read more about these positions and to nominate yourself or a colleague, click here. While the deadline for submitting nominations is not until May 30, 2014, the Committee will actually do much of the work to create a ballot before then, so get your nominations in early!


From NCAPA’s Next President

A Leap of Faith

By Charlene Morris, DFAAPA, MPAS, PA-C


After over three decades of practice as a PA, the changes I have observed are both remarkable and heartening.

My career choice was based on a leap of faith; at the time, no one knew if the PA profession would succeed. In the 1970s we were as driven as students today but, perhaps, not as academically prepared. Computers were used rarely and then only for select course projects such as biostatistics.

Today, jobs are abundant and pay extremely well. PAs are trained in master’s and PhD programs. Although employed in more specialty settings, PAs still maintain the ability to change practice setting or locale if the opportunity arises. PAs run their own practices and companies; find employment worldwide; and are commissioned officers in all branches of the military. Furthermore, PAs participate and exact change in government affairs. Truly, PAs have become a powerful and productive part of the health care workforce.

PA students and fellows: I would like to share with you the “three Vs credo” I developed and follow.

Value: PAs offer worth beyond augmenting a practice. Our abilities, training and compassion equate to high-quality patient access and care.

Visibility: For professional strength, PAs must be well-known and respected. Become involved in your community, state or even internationally. Write, mentor, speak and volunteer—explore talents you may not have yet discovered.

Viability: With burgeoning numbers of practicing PAs, the public should know who we are and understand what we do. Changes to health care in the 21st century must include PAs. Indeed, PAs will survive, thrive and drive the future of medical practice.

Charlene M. Morris, DFAAPA, MPAS, PA-C, is a physician assistant at Pamlico Medical Center, Bayboro, N.C., past president of the Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants and past CME manager for the Society for PAs in Pediatrics. PA Morris will become NCAPA’s President on January 1, 2014.


Interested in Serving on the Medical Board?

Physician assistants practicing in North Carolina enjoy a superior practice environment in a number of ways. One of these is that we have the opportunity for direct representation to our licensing body, the North Carolina Medical Board. It is important for all members to note that this seat will again be up for reappointment in late 2015. Although the NCAPA does not have a direct role in determining who will fill this seat, we do consider it part of our mission to help identify, advise, and prepare PAs who might be interested in this important role.

Since the mid-1990’s, one seat on the NCMB has been designated to be filled by either a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Board members serve three-year terms, and are eligible to serve only two consecutive terms. North Carolina PAs are fortunate to have had three pioneering individuals represent us by serving in this capacity: Wayne VonSeggen (who also served as president of the NCMB during a portion of his tenure), Robin Hunter-Buskey, and Peggy Robinson. Currently, the seat is held by nurse practitioner Diane Meelheim.

The process for choosing NCMB candidates is more complicated than most providers realize. First, an application must be submitted to the North Carolina Medical Board Review Panel. This application includes a personal statement, curriculum vitae, and several personal and professional references. Then, applicants meet with the Review Panel for an individual in-person interview (the NCAPA is currently represented on the panel by Marc Katz). Based on applications and interviews, the Review Panel then recommends two candidates to the Governor for each open NCMB seat. The Governor either appoints one of these two candidates, or asks the Review Panel for two more candidates to consider. This continues until a candidate is appointed to each open seat.

So, if the PA/NP seat isn’t going to be reappointed until late 2015, why are we discussing this issue now? The reasons are simple: it takes time to determine who is interested in filling the seat, and the ideal candidate will also want to take time to learn more about the position. Over the next few months, the NCAPA will begin actively soliciting candidates and, if they desire, helping them to prepare for the selection process. Our assistance to interested candidates could include advice regarding personal statements and professional recommendations, preparation for interviews through practice sessions with feedback, and recommendations for learning more about the job of an NCMB member. Again, it is important to emphasize that the NCAPA has no role in choosing who will occupy the seat (beyond sending a representative to the Review Panel), and that eligible PAs may submit applications without our involvement. We hope, however, that we can serve as a knowledgeable resource for those members who are interested in this important position so that they can be as thoroughly prepared as possible for the application process.

If you are interested in this seat and have questions now, please feel free to contact us at Additional information may be found about the application process at the North Carolina Medical Board Review Panel’s website at


Time to Renew for 2014!

The NCAPA membership year is the same as the calendar year, so if you signed up for a one-year 2013 membership, it will expire on December 31, 2013—just a few days from now! Continue to support your profession by taking a minute now to renew online.

Your participation in NCAPA helps make this organization a powerful advocate for PAs, and we thank you for your commitment. We look forward to working with you in 2014! If you have any questions regarding your membership, please contact Lee Busselman, Member Services Coordinator.


Registration Open! Space is Filling Fast!

Commercial Driver Medical Examiner Training

Sheraton Imperial Hotel, Durham, NC
Friday, February 28, 2014

Ready to get certified? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all medical examiners who wish to provide DOT/CDL exams to be trained and certified by May 21, 2014. The NCAPA training course is designed to follow FMCSA training guidelines and will prepare the medical examiner to pass the national certification exam. This course will offer 6 hours of Category I CME*.

Click here for more information and registration

*The NCAPA has requested 6 hours of AAPA Category I CME credit from the PA Review Panel. The total number of approved credits is yet to be determined.


Holiday Blues

By Charlene M. Morris, DFAAPA, MPAS, PA-C


It’s coming near Christmas, they’re cuttin’ down trees
They’re puttin’ up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river, I could skate away on —–Joni Mitchell


Winter holidays bring with them expectations and memories sometimes tied in with the best and worst of our recollections. With the bright lights and beautiful music comes intensified sadness to some.

The big question is, is this okay and an expected emotion or something that needs medical attention?

Sadness is part of who we are as people. When everyone else appears happy, we may feel alone and lonely. Many other things may have occurred.  A loved one’s death may be forefront in our thoughts. We may not have relatives near or those who live by us may not seem to understand the pain we are experiencing. Demands of schoolwork can be daunting and difficult to young and old students alike. A lost job and financial woes may amplify the concerns. Illness, whether our own, a child’s, or a spouse’s often changes how we think things should be. These are real and individual and may result in personal pain.

Any and all of these situations can result in severe depression. This depression can sometimes progress to thoughts of suicide.

We in healthcare must be vigilant to changes in our patients, but also ourselves. Ask patients if they are depressed. If so, have they thought of self-harm? Review medications and consider substance use, both self-administered, such as alcohol, as well as prescribed. If suicidal, we MUST refer this person for medical and psychological care. It can save this person’s life.

If it is you who are experiencing sadness, please seek help from a trusted provider. Remember, it isn’t just the “holiday blues” that can cause severe depression. Medical problems such as anemia and thyroid disease or other occult illness have to be considered.  In recent years, Seasonal Affective Disorder has also come to light. Less sunshine can make us less energetic than in seasons with longer days. Even if it is for a short time, I encourage everyone to get some daylight for at least 10-15 minutes each day. Studies have shown that even more sunshine can be more valuable! There are community resources for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Compassionate Friends is a wonderful resource for those whose child has died:

I also recommend people become involved with something they love that is without direct stress. Volunteering at the local animal shelter provides unconditional love from canines and felines that can sooth a saddened heart. I encourage gentle exercise, such as a daily walk or meditative activities like prayer, yoga or T’ai Chi.

Healthy eating and cooking or baking for others can be therapeutic and benefit others during the holiday time. Contributing to an Angel Fund, donating to or offering a shift at a food bank or meal mission can change the focus from us personally to nurturing and caring for others. If religious, talking with a leader or trusted member of the congregation may also be helpful.

Regardless, I encourage all to take a breath, enjoy what we can and get through the Holiday Blues!  A poet named Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote centuries ago:

If Winter comescan Spring be far behind?


First Physician Assistant Ever Selected to Serve as CEO of NCCPA

The Board of Directors of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) has selected Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., PA-C as the organization’s new President/CEO. She is the first physician assistant to serve as CEO of the organization in its 38-year history.

Morton-Rias joins NCCPA at a time when the PA profession is experiencing rapid growth. More than 92,000 PAs are currently certified by NCCPA, and the number of new entrants to the profession is projected to increase dramatically in the next five to 10 years as scores of new PA educational programs become accredited.  To read more about Morton-Rias and the NCCPA, click here 


Get Assistance at the NCTracks Provider Help Center

The NCTracks team is again offering an in-person Provider Help Center.  NCTracks staff from provider enrollment, provider relations, claims, and prior approval will be on site to assist NC providers with questions or concerns regarding NCTracks.  No appointment is necessary.  Providers will be assisted on a first come, first served basis.

For providers to get the most out of these sessions, please bring specific examples of issues. The more details that can be provided about the problems, such as screen shots, NPI numbers, TCNs (claim numbers), denial codes, etc., the more help the NCTracks team will be able to provide.

Two Provider Help Centers will be offered in Wilmington—one on December 17 from 9am – 5pm and one on December 18 from 9am – 4pm at SEAHEC, 2511 Delaney Avenue.  For more information, contact Dewey Cassell, Communications Manager, CSC – NC MMIS at 919.786.6411.


Medicaid Reform Advisory Group

Governor Pat McCrory has created a Medicaid Reform Advisory Group that he stated will “work with DHHS as it explores all options to come up with the best plan for North Carolina.” The group consists of three medical experts and two legislators. The members of the advisory group are: Chair, Dennis Barry of Guilford County, CEO emeritus of Cone Health; Peggy Terhune of Randolph County, executive director/CEO of Monarch, a behavioral health non-profit; Richard Gilbert, MD, MBA of Mecklenburg County, an anesthesiologist, who serves as chief of staff for Carolinas Medical Center; Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake County); and Sen. Louis Pate (R -Lenoir, Pitt and Wayne counties).

According to the Governor’s office, “The Medicaid Reform Advisory Group will schedule public meetings to obtain broad stakeholder input and ensure the transparency of the process of developing the reform proposal.” The group held their first meeting on December 5. To read more about the meeting, follow this link to access an article from the News and Observer:

Materials from the first meeting are available at this NC DHHS website: The meetings of the Medicaid Reform Advisory Group are open to the public. The next meeting will be held on January 15.


New Medical Director of NC Medicaid Named

Nancy Henley, MD, has been named the new Medical Director for the North Carolina Department of Medical Assistance and will start her new job on Thursday, December 19. Dr. Henley, an internist at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, is an active member of the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) and is an NCMS Foundation Leadership College 2013 alumna. She has been heavily involved with the Toward Accountable Care Consortium (TACC), which is spearheaded by NCMS. Dr. Henley also serves on the Board of the Durham Orange County Medical Society.  


NC Revised Paper Death Certificate to be Used Starting January 1, 2014

For information go to NC Vital Records and click on Medical Certifiers (located on the left side in the red box).  In the login box, enter this username: vrdeath.  In the password box, enter: death.  Specific instructions for reporting Manner of Death are included on the website.


Project Lazarus Training on Opioid Prescribing

NCAPA has promoted and supported the work of Project Lazarus throughout the year. Community Care of North Carolina is holding Project Lazarus Training: A Guide to Rational Opioid Prescribing for Chronic Pain in January. The training sessions will help prescribers of pain medications to understand the multi-dimensional character of chronic pain as a distinct clinical entity; identify the role of opioids in the safe and effective management of chronic pain; use rational prescribing to provide adequate pain management while minimizing the risk of abuse of controlled medications and intervene effectively when misuse or abuse of medications occur. Training sessions will be held in Pinehurst on January 23rd and Concord on January 30th. To register, click here.


NCAPA Holiday Hours

The Board of Directors and staff members of NCAPA wish all of you a wonderful holiday season! The NCAPA office will be closed on December 24 and 25, and December 31 and January 1. We will be here to serve you at all other times. Best wishes for a great year in 2014!