Happy PA Week!

Every year from October 6-12, we celebrate National PA Week, which recognizes the PA profession and its contributions to the nation’s health. We thank all of our VA PAs for your dedication to providing care to our nation's veterans every day.

This PA Week is especially significant as it falls during a global pandemic. PAs have stepped up in major ways, including serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. Whatever your specialty or setting, you have put your health at risk every day to care for your patients. During this challenging time, PAs have not only proven themselves as flexible, adaptable, and collaborative – but also ESSENTIAL. Essential to healthcare. Essential to patients.

Additionally this year we celebrate the advocacy wins for VA PAs, the success achieved by the hard work and dedication of so many VA PAs. Several of their stories are included in our member spotlights below.

Celebrate PA Week with us by championing our member spotlights, sharing your VA PA story with us, and connecting with us on social media!

VA PA Member Spotlights

Rubina DaSilva, MBA, PA-C, DFAAPA

Rubina DaSilva has been employed by the VA since 2007 working at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in several positions; Primary Care Provider, ER, Occupational Health, and Mental Health.  She currently works for VISN 16 in the Clinical Resource Hub as a Tele-Mental Health Provider since Dec 2019. 

Rubina DaSilva served four years on active duty as a Navy Hospital Corpsman from 1992-1996. Upon completion of her active duty contract, continued to serve as an active Reservist from 1996-1999. She obtained an Associate of Arts degree in 1998 from Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies in 2001.  Post 9/11, she and her husband re-enlisted in the active Navy Reserves.  She continued to work as a PA in West Virginia in a Federally Quality Health Center (FQHC) as the sole provider in a satellite clinic; “It was a great experience both professionally and personally, especially working with coal miners and their families”.  Rubina was granted the National Health Service Corps loan repayment where she had a service obligation of 2 years. She continued to practiced medicine for 5 years in West Virginia until she found the opportunity to go home to Texas and find employment with the VA.  

Rubina is a member for the AAPA, SAPA, Veterans Caucus of AAPA and Chairperson for the National VHA Physician Assistant Field Advisory Committee and serves on the National PA Professional Standards Board.

She has been a VAPAA member since 2008 and served as president of the organization from 2014- 2018.  In May 2015, as VAPAA President, she testified in front of Congress and has submitted written testimony for the record to both the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Subcommittees. Her work has been instrumental in passing legislation in support of VHA PAs nationwide.

Thank you Rubina for your progressive leadership in VAPAA and her continued advocacy for our PA Profession!

Pamela Barter-Chessman, MS, PA-C

Pam is a PA at the VHA Togus Maine Surgical Service, the Lead PA Togus VHA, and Lead PA VISN 1.

What led Pam to become a PA at the VA? That is an easy answer for Pam: The Veterans. Pam shares she cannot begin to imagine a better group of individuals to care for on a daily basis. These men and women sacrificed to serve their country and now trust the VHA with their healthcare for which they are so very appreciative of the care they receive. It is these veterans and a wonderful, supportive group of PA colleagues that makes the VHA the best health care system in which to be employed. “Success is often disguised as hard work”.  This saying reminds Pam of the time and energy that so many of us use to promote our profession and with continued perseverance we will achieve our goals!

James "Jim" S. Cavanaugh, MPAS, PA-C

Jim has been an integral part of the VAPAA team for many years. Jim served his country in the USAF for 24 years, where he first became intrigued by the PA profession and began researching and learning how he could become one. He worked in a civilian practice for about one year after finishing his PA program, but felt strongly compelled to serve as a PA at the VA; he missed caring for his brothers and sisters in arms! Jim was involved in PA education as Air Force Phase II Supervisor-Instructor at Scott AFB ILL 1998-1999, Air Force Phase II Supervisor-Instructor at Andrews AFB MD 1999-2003, Interservice PA Program Faculty and Director of Air Force Phase II Fort Sam Houston Tx 2003-2006. Jim has also been a strong asset to the clinical team at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Audie L Murphey VA Hospital in San Antonio, where he serves as the cancer center navigator. Many VAPAA members at this facility credit Jim as being a wonderful mentor to them in their PA careers. Jim considers it a blessing to work alongside such wonderful military and civilian providers, and to provide care to our nation's wonderful veterans. VAPAA thanks Jim for his service, his commitment to the VA PA profession, and his invaluable friendship to us all. 

Major Thomas A. Zampieri, PA (Ret. Army), PhD

In honor of PA Week, VAPAA is beyond proud to spotlight life member, Major Thomas A Zampieri, PA (Ret. Army), Ph.D.  Tom has been an integral part of the VAPAA mission and particularly its legislative efforts for many years; we are so grateful for his dedication. We invite you to learn more about Tom, his career and his advancement of the VA PA profession.

Tom became friends while in high school with one of the first MEDEX PA program Dartmouth University graduates in 1971, who was a Vietnam War Navy Corpsman, who told Tom about all the things he could do in primary care rural clinic in New Hampshire. Then almost all applicants for the PA profession were veterans so Tom volunteered to join the United States Army. He served for three years as an army medic in military emergency rooms, taking care of many returning wounded Vietnam War veterans. This gave Tom a strong desire to provide care for our nation’s veterans and active duty service members. Upon discharge from active duty he graduated from Hahnemann Medical University Physician Assistant Program in June 1978 and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York. Tom also served in the Army National Guard from 1978 to 2001.  He retired in July 2001 having served 22 years as a VA PA, and 15 years as Army Flight Surgeon PA. Tom served as VAPAA President from 1991 to 1994, and also served on a number of VA committees, including the first PA Field Advisory Group. Tom currently serves as the President of the Blinded Veterans Association.

Tom's long PA and BVA resume outlines professional journal papers, interviews, 36 congressional testimonies and a host of other accomplishments advocating for PAs. As “VAPAA Sherpa”, Tom has helped several VAPAA officers on their legislative advocacy journeys both with congress and within VHA. Tom shares that from 1991 to 1996 VAPAA had a strong reputation of advocacy and once again many of the members of congress now know VAPAA and understand the issues. Tom feels the VAPAA legislative volunteers have done amazing things within the past six years. Tom believes that strength comes from numbers of members and must stress that a few people can’t do this, it takes strong membership to bring about changes.

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