Emory Report
January 22, 2008
Volume 60, Number 16

Mayfield forecasts
‘good things’ for PAs

“The whole health care environment is changing. As we move closer toward universal health care, we will have to reassess how health care is organized and delivered. There is already a physician and nursing shortage. Also, the population is aging and many Iraq veterans will need life-long services. The demand for medical services will increase.

In addition to making access to health care available, the United States has to have enough providers. I think physician assistants will play a key role in the addressing some of the manpower issues. The M.D.-PA model has proven to be efficient and effective in amplifying the physician’s ability to serve more people and to deliver quality services.

I see good things in the future for PAs.”

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January 22, 2008
Building healthy communities: Physician assistant pioneer chronicles diverse career path

By alison amoroso

Marquitha Mayfield nearly took her National Merit Scholarship to Georgia Tech to study architecture. She came to Emory College as a freshman with plans to transfer to Tech her junior year to become one of the few minorities and female students on campus. Instead, she became interested in Emory’s pre-med curricula and stayed to graduate in 1976 with a Bachelor of Medical Science in Emory’s fourth class of physician assistants.

Mayfield hasn’t given up her interest in architecture. She and her husband, whom she married while they were both college students, set up a partnership to provide housing for homeless veterans. Over the years, they have built several houses. Mayfield is the construction manager.

Their first construction project involved buying and remodeling a fixer-upper in Decatur, says Mayfield, who pursued a remodeling hobby all the while raising three children, pursuing degrees and working. Mayfield appreciates the options the PA profession affords, and chronicles a diverse career path.

“My first position was in clinical research at Emory Clinic with an outstanding physician, Dallas Hall,” she says. “He was involved in clinical research in hypertension, which was becoming recognized as a major risk factor in cardiac disease.” At the time, oral contraceptives were new and hormone dosages were higher, which meant doctors were seeing more women with hypertension. As a PA, Mayfield assisted Hall in his research, performing histories, physical exams and monitoring patients.

“This position gave me clinical skills in gynecology,” says Mayfield, “which opened the door to directing a family planning clinic for teens in a community health center. While there I worked closely with the ob-gyn physicians and expanded my clinical skills.”

Mayfield’s research and clinical experience also landed her a job at the then “new” Morehouse School of Medicine working with the now renowned doctor, David Satcher. Satcher, who was at the time chair of the Department of Family Medicine, once asked Mayfield to give a lecture. “At the end, he said, ‘You’re a good communicator. You should become more involved in the academic side,’ and he encouraged me to teach. So I did.”

Years later, one of the physicians left the Morehouse faculty and offered Mayfield a position in vascular surgery. Mayfield says her remodeling experience helped with surgery: “It’s the same skill set. You look at something three-dimensionally in your mind’s eye, painting a picture about how the wound — or cabinets — should look.”

After earning a master’s in education, specializing in training clinical professionals, Mayfield returned to her alma mater, of which she is immensely proud. “Emory’s PA program was the third program in the nation, and we’ve been consistently ranked in the top five over the years.”

Mayfield is currently assistant professor and academic coordinator for the Emory PA program, where she is course director for clinical medicine courses. She also teaches students physical exam skills and how to evaluate and manage common diseases. “My responsibility is to get students through the didactic curriculum,” she says.

Emory’s program was one of the first to offer a master’s degree for PAs. “As a profession, we have come a long way in a short time — only 38 years,” says Mayfield. “Now all programs are graduate level and PAs have more clinical responsibility than ever. We are intimately involved in all specialties, not only diagnosing and treating common disorders but also assisting in the management of extremely ill patients.”

“The PA profession provides an enormous amount of personal and professional flexibility along with job satisfaction, diagnosing and treating diseases with physician supervision,” adds Mayfield. “I hope that more Emory students will consider becoming a PA.”