Kwaku Gyimah bedside with patient
Physician assistant Kwaku Gyimah chats with patient Carmela Attanasio on 9B Fell in-patient unit at Toronto Western Hospital. (Photo: UHN Physician Assistant Council)

For patient Carmela Attanasio, the bond is unmistakable.

Asked about the role physician assistant (PA) Kwaku Gyimah plays in her difficult medical journey, Carmela offers a smile and a quick, direct response.

"He is knowledgeable and trustworthy," she says. "I trust him with all of my care."

And, noting the human element he brings to enrich her care experience, she adds:

"His smile makes all of the difference for me."

Nov. 27 is National Physician Assistant Day in Canada, a time to recognize this group of medically-trained clinicians who are committed to providing high-quality medical care, expanding the reach of a supervising physician.

PAs perform histories and physicals, order medications, assist in surgery, attend consults, perform procedures, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and see patients in clinics.

UHN has more than 25 PAs in various specialties, including Emergency, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Multi-organ Transplant, Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Psychiatry, Thoracics, Urology, and in Gynecologic, Hematologic and Radiation Oncology.

"Physician assistants provide a high quality and standard of work that offers a strong leadership role within the multidisciplinary team," says Dr. Fayez Quereshy, Kwaku's supervising physician in General Surgery. "They serve as strong representatives of the medical team and enable learners to focus on educational opportunities while ensuring seamless and integrated patient care."

Dr. Quereshy, a surgical oncologist focused primarily on gastrointestinal malignancies, says incorporating a PA into the medical team has led to a wide range of benefits, including standardizing post-operative protocols for patients, which has helped initiate quality improvements that shorten lengths of stay, optimize perioperative care and enhance recovery.

"This has improved work flow, patient-centered care, and resource efficiency," he says.

 Kwaku in surgery with Dr. Okrainec
Physician assistant Kwaku Gyimah (R) and Dr. Allan Okrainec, Divisional Head of General Surgery at UHN, in the OR. (Photo: UHN Physician Assistant Council)

Dr. Quereshy says Kwaku has ensured patients receive the best possible care with his breadth of understanding of general surgical diseases. He's also been a leader within the multidisciplinary team, providing a voice for the patient and effectively representing the medical team, he says.

"His knowledge and expertise has been critical for medical student and resident education by helping to upskill trainee knowledge with respect to general surgery, metabolic surgery, and surgical oncology," Dr. Quereshy says.

"Kwaku is the consummate professional – unwavering and calm. He advocates for patients, escalates when concerned, and manages challenges effectively and independently."

Kwaku, who has been at UHN since 2014, says what he most enjoys about being a PA is "managing patients throughout their entire surgical course.

"There are times when I can see a patient upon their initial presentation to the Emergency Department (ED), assist with the operation, manage their care on the ward, assist with their discharge and then see them in clinic as an outpatient," he says.

"To be part of the entire course of a single patient's care is quite fulfilling."

PA education programs are mirrored on a medical school curriculum. Further, their clerkship rotations at hospitals as part of their training follow the same path as a medical student.

In Ontario, PA training is offered by McMaster University and the consortium for PA Education at the University of Toronto, Northern Ontario Medical School and the Michener Institute of Education at UHN.

Dr. Quereshy expects in the near future "(PAs) will be an integral part of care delivery in all facets of surgical care.

"They will represent the constant thread in patient care and help optimize handoffs and communication. In many ways, they will help form the backbone of clinical care and facilitate educational experience for medical learners and extend the reach of the physician team."

For more information see the website of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants.


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