November 27 is Physician Assistant Day! While PAs are appreciated each and every day, we are taking this moment to celebrate the integral role they play health care, and the valuable contributions they make to patient care.

Physician Assistants receive a two-year graduate degree and are licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba. There are now over 140 PAs licensed in Manitoba, working in a variety of settings. This includes surgery, psychiatry, primary care, internal medicine, emergency and various other clinical settings. 

Take a moment to meet a few Manitoba PAs below and hear how physicians value their contributions to the health care team! And, if you work with a physician assistant, take a moment to thank them and celebrate their contributions.

Meet PA Steven Piotrowski

Steven Piotrowski was born and raised in Winnipeg. After completing his Master of Human Anatomy and Cell Science degree, he pursued a Master of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Manitoba and graduated in 2016. Steven began his career practicing family and emergency medicine in Beausejour. After the birth of his son and daughter, he accepted a position closer to home, and currently practices comprehensive family medicine as a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Access Fort Garry. Steven loves working as part of an interdisciplinary team to provide the best quality of health care to his patients.

In addition to clinical work, Steven has a passion for teaching and advocacy. He is currently the academic administrator for the Master of Physician Assistant Studies in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba where he is both a lecturer and mentor to first- and second-year physician assistant students. He served on the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants board of directors from 2019 to 2021 and is currently on multiple committees advocating for proper utilization of physician assistants in Manitoba and Canada. 

In his spare time, Steven loves to spend time with his wife, son and daughter outdoors exploring different camping and hiking sites in Manitoba.

Dr. Jessica Lezen is a family physician working at Access Fort Garry with Steven. I am fortunate to work with a wonderful team of PAs at Access Fort Garry. I have always found PAs to be a great asset to the team. The PAs are able to get to know my preferences and get to know my panel. When I am away I know patients will continue to receive good care. Patients enjoy being able to see PAs, having quicker access, and able to get appointments while I am away. In a group practice, it is great to draw on other physician’s skills through the PAs, improving care to niche services such as dermoscopy.” 

Dr. Bernard Cox also works at Access Fort Garry. I am a physician who splits my clinical time between family practice and the WRHA Palliative Care Program. As such, I rely on my PA colleagues to cover urgent issues for my family practice patients while I am working palliative care. The quality of the work performed by our PAs is excellent, and I am never worried about the care that my patients receive in my absence.” 

Meet PA Daniel Fillion

Dan Fillion is a graduate from the Master of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Manitoba. His former career was in physical therapy, working in both inpatient and outpatient settings. In 2017, he was hired as a PA into the Adult Mental Health Program at Health Sciences Centre with a primary focus on Crisis Response Services and Health Sciences Centre Emergency Psychiatry. Dan functions in a model where he works collaboratively with a team of PAs and psychiatrists to serve individuals experiencing acute mental health crises.

Dan’s clinical work is positioned mainly at the Crisis Response Centre (CRC) in Winnipeg. His role is primarily to extend the expertise of the psychiatrist, for example by conducting psychiatric assessments, formulating diagnoses and creating disposition plans for his patients. Similar to the CRC, he also provides psychiatric care through Telehealth Psychiatry to peripheral healthcare centers, including the Grace Hospital Emergency, Concordia Urgent Care, Seven Oaks Urgent Care and the Crisis Stabilization Unit. Together with a psychiatrist, decisions are made to enhance patient outcomes, which may include referrals to community mental health resources, connecting to outpatient psychiatric follow-up, or hospitalization in some cases. In conjunction with the Regional Psychiatric Bed Manager, Dan is directly involved with the facilitation of inpatient hospital admissions. Functioning in a team-based model with PAs, he believes, has greatly enhanced the provision of acute psychiatric care to Manitobans.

For psychiatrists working in this area, it has made all the difference. Dr. Michael Harrington, a psychiatrist in Winnipeg, describes it as transformative. Working with psychiatric emergencies is always a challenge. But working alongside a physician assistant with mental health expertise has allowed me to improve all parts of my work, and ultimately boost care for patients. Even in the most chaotic situations we are there to assist each other – whether it’s managing cases separately to allow treatment to begin more quickly, or as a second set of eyes for a complex problem when it is most needed. In these cases and more, PAs raise a psychiatrist’s ability to work to another level. Over our time working together, it has been possible to add more and more exciting aspects to the collaboration. We now coordinate our team with community resources more effectively than ever. When I’m asked what has been the most rewarding part of working with a physician assistant, there are too many benefits to single one out, but I am most grateful for the improvement in my own work, the increased strength of our team, and the improved care we give patients.”

Meet PA Vishnu Persad

Vishnu Persad was exposed to rural practice during my clinical rotations while studying at the UManitoba Master of Physician Assistant Studies. He notes that rural medicine can be challenging but is extremely rewarding as it truly gives a generalist experience. He has spent the past three years as a PA in Beausejour where he works in emergency, inpatient acute care, inpatient intensive rehab, and the urgent ambulatory outpatient clinic. When he’s not in the ER, his mornings are spent rounding on inpatients and afternoons in outpatient clinic. As a rural physician assistant he has had the opportunity to learn a wide array of skills from the physicians he works with, ranging from minor procedures to chest tubes and intubation. He is always in communication with his physician colleagues to ensure they can extend a high level of care that is not only expected by CPSM but also the public. He is incredibly fortunate to have supervising physicians who sees the value in PAs.

The Chief Medical Officer at Beausejour District Hospital, Dr. Joseph Partyke, agrees wholeheartedly. As a PA educator I am clearly a supporter of the value of a PA in any health care team. Our entire team is privileged to have a PA as a colleague. Our patients are blessed to be cared for by a PA. PA Persad’s technical skills, whether in routine minor office surgeries or invasive emergency procedures, are a valued asset to our team. He practices rurally and excels at what I call being a true generalist”. He has the ability and aplomb to shift gears seamlessly from clinic to hospital and emergency department repeatedly in the same day.”