In a move to help physicians and physician assistants work together both inside and outside the hospital, the West Virginia State Medical Association is adding PA’s to its membership lineup.
Through a collaboration with the West Virginia Association of Physician Assistants (WVAPA), the West Virginia State Medical Association (WVSMA) has opened its membership to PAs to further unify the work between them and physicians.
“The care of the patient in the 21st century cannot be solely dedicated to one area. It has to be a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach if we’re going to do right by our patients in our communities,” WVSMA President Dr. Rahul Gupta said. “… So this is actually real work in real time and making it happen on the ground level.”
In order for WVSMA’s work to include PAs—who are medically licensed to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to patients—the organization amended its bylaws so they can become associate members, as well as gave them voting privileges, access to and a voice on the legislative committee, and a council seat for WVAPA’s president. Formerly membership was only open to doctors of medicine (MD) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO).
“We saw so many similarities, that the PA community and the physician community were aiming for the same goals and same results, that this was a natural fit,” Gupta said.
Legislative Committee Chair Dr. Sherri Young explained that the advocacy interests of both associations were already aligned, so the two professions will now be more effective working together. With the collaboration and extended membership, WVSMA will be getting its physician and PA members involved in the community to work on behalf of smoking cessation, obesity, and medical marijuana issues.
The membership changes will also help involve more young professionals in the association’s work, namely by connecting with students. “One of the biggest attributes is that not only are we working together as associations, but the medical schools and the PA schools in our state are well-engaged with each other at an earlier level with the interdisciplinary education,” Young said.
In the hospital, physicians and PAs work closely together in patient care. This alliance extends that relationship to the legislative and advocacy fronts.
Gupta said West Virginia can be a model for medical groups across the country in how to best unify the two professions at all levels. “The state medical association in West Virginia is leading the way to creating pathways where multiple interdisciplinary partners can come in and be part of the same solution,” he said.