The new chief of the Hospitalist Service at the Maine Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center at Togus is a graduate of the University of New England’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant (M.S.P.A.) program, the only such program in Maine.
Not only that, but he is the first physician assistant (PA) in the Maine VA system’s history to hold the job.
Jeffrey Crowder, M.S.P.A. ’11, PA-C, was recently offered the permanent position after a year in an acting role helping the nation’s oldest VA facility navigate the trials and tribulations of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As the chief of the Hospitalist Service, Crowder is responsible for overseeing 13 physicians and nine PAs who provide inpatient care for Maine veterans. His group staffs the 10-bed intensive care unit, a 28-bed medical-surgery unit, and provides the medical care for a 24-hour acute inpatient psychiatric ward. His group also provides night and weekend medical coverage to a 60-bed nursing home.
It may seem like a daunting task, but Crowder said he is excited to tackle the role head-on.
“This is sort of a new avenue for a PA, and it’s going to be a bit of a creative process,” said the Bronxville, New York, native. “This is an interesting time in medicine, and things are changing very rapidly. I think everybody that works as a chief, in some way, tries to improve processes and what can be done for the hospital.”
As a PA, Crowder is used to rapid change. As a UNE graduate, he is prepared to thrive in it.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact Maine, Crowder was part of a large team of professionals overseeing the VA facility’s response. He helped manage the inpatient provider response, which entailed training an additional 10 primary care physicians on treating hospitalized patients and working with nursing leadership and facilities management to set up additional acute care wards – an effort that resulted in the addition of 50-plus extra beds to the medical center should there be an inpatient surge of COVID-19 cases.
“It took a huge number of people to do that,” Crowder said, referring to the effort. “The biggest thing was to come to the table as a representative of my group and work with the team so that everything flowed.”
Crowder urged those studying to become physician assistants – including those studying at UNE – to keep open minds about their field upon graduation.
“I think this is an exciting time to be a PA and to be become a PA,” he expressed. “Be willing to experience different aspects of medicine, and try some things you might not have thought you’d be interested in, because you might discover the branch of medicine that becomes the path you really want to follow.”
He also urged them to have fun.
“Just enjoy the job,” Crowder said. “I think being a PA and doing medicine is one of the most fun and rewarding jobs I’ve had amongst the many, many jobs I’ve had in my life.”