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Collaboration extends reach of health-care services in the North: Celebrating Physician Assistant’s Day  

Posted on November 22, 2023

Through a team-based approach, Physician Assistants (PAs) are improving access to health care in Northern Ontario. NOSM University Assistant Professor Drew Gould, a PA who specializes in family medicine, sees the difference his role makes every day in clinic. 

“I love being a PA because I have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on patients’ lives by providing quality care when they need it most,” Gould says.  

As the PA Lead at the Northeastern Ontario Medical Offices (NEOMO), Gould runs the same-day clinic in the family medicine practice. The busy clinic is staffed by a supervising physician and two PAs and sees 90-115 patients per day.  

PAs are a comparatively new addition to the health-care workforce. One of the goals of the profession is to improve access to health care through a team-based approach—and it’s working. At NEOMO, the clinic was able to help meet demands for increased capacity by adding a second PA. 

Following undergraduate study, these health-care professionals complete a two-year bachelor’s or master’s degree PA program, and must then pass the PA Certification Council of Canada exam as a prerequisite to licensure. They are educated in general medicine and perform a wide range of tasks, including taking medical histories, conducting physical examinations, diagnosing and treating medical conditions, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, assisting in surgeries, and prescribing medications. PAs work in various health-care settings, such as hospitals, primary care clinics, specialty practices, and surgery. Their aim is to extend the reach of health-care services, improve patient access to care, and contribute to positive patient outcomes. 

Collaboration is purpose-built into the role of PAs, who must work under a supervising physician.  

The team environment is a big draw to the profession, says Gould. “I enjoy the collaborative nature of our health-care team, which allows me to work with nine fantastic supervising physicians. Collaboration between PAs and their supervising physicians is key as they work together to ensure patients receive comprehensive and high-quality care. I also have the pleasure of working alongside PA Amanda Lapointe, one of my former students.” 

“The level of supervision required often depends on the PA’s experience, the practice setting, and provincial regulations,” Gould continues. “In some cases, a PA may need to consult with or inform the supervising physician about specific patient cases or treatments. In other cases, especially with experienced PAs, they may have more autonomy and require less direct oversight.” 

In collaboration with the University of Toronto and the Michener Institute of Education, NOSM University is part of the PA Consortium. Learners in this program complete a number of their clinical placements in Northern Ontario. Gould has supervised more than 40 PA students during their six-week family medicine rotation. 

“It’s a fulfilling experience to guide and support students as they grow and develop their clinical skills,” he says. “I thoroughly enjoy supervising students because it gives me the chance to discuss challenging cases, give feedback, highlight important teaching points, and witness learners achieve new feats in their medical education.” 

Gould also strives to enhance practicing PAs’ training in mental health care. As the mental health sub-lead for the PA Primary Care Work Integration Project, Gould developed and delivers a professional development module on mental health. He hopes that, through this training, PAs can also help to fill gaps in mental health services. 

Physician Assistant Day is November 27, 2023. To learn more about the PA Consortium at NOSM University, please email