Steve Wilson saluted for 40 exemplary years in medicine

A Salisbury physician’s assistant who was among the first in the country to be validated has been honored by the National Commission on Certification of Physicians’ Assistants.

Swilson 1teve Wilson, who has been employed by Peninsula Regional Medical Center since 2003, is one of 224 PA’s in the country who began practicing 40 years ago.

Members of the Eastern Shore Delegation plan to honor him and he will be presented with a citation from the national commission.

A native of West Virginia, Wilson took the first exam given to certify PA’s in 1975.

He graduated from Alderson-Broaddus College, now a university, in his home state.

The program began in 1968, with students who completed requirements receiving certificates. Most were former corpsmen or had previous medical experience, and studied for two years, he explained.

Wilson, though, has a bachelor of science degree in medical science, with physician’s assistant certification. He is required to complete 100 hours of additional training every two years and pass rigorous exams.

Being honored, he said modestly, is the result of officials looking at the records of all the PA’s who sat for the original exam in 1975 and marking the decades. He’s the only one among them on the Eastern Shore, although there might be a few others in Baltimore, he said.

At PRMC, Wilson practices in the cardiovascular department, regularly operating with surgeons, seeing patients and making rounds. He assists doctors with heart surgeries and harvests veins from legs that are used in bypasses.

“I’ve been involved in surgery since I graduated. The director of my program is a surgeon. Most PA’s are encouraged to go into primary care. I found jobs as a PA in surgery. I worked for two years at the shock trauma center in Baltimore. I had 10 years in general trauma surgery in Western Pennsylvania, in Greensburg,” he said.

“Being honored is so unusual because PA was such a change from the way health care was delivered in this country. It’s more because  I was one of the first ones. It’s an historical event, having been involved in the exam when it was first given,” he said.

At the time of his graduation, PA’s weren’t permitted to prescribe medicine, as they now are. “That is one of the single most import changes that has occurred,” he said.

“There were hospital staffs we couldn’t get on. It wasn’t totally embraced. Not all doctors embraced it. The whole idea originated with the Johnson administration. They were trying to get health care providers in places like Appalachia, for example.

“It was hard to attract doctors to go to medically underserved areas. They decided if they preserved the PA idea, it would help fill a void and help people. To a degree that was successful,” he said.

He credited physicians for having several more years of education than PA’s, but said he has gained knowledge through experience. “We have to work as a team. I’m here to help them take care of their patients. My title isn’t doctor. I’m just Steve or Mr. Wilson,” he said.

“What I enjoy most is going into surgery and working in surgery. I also like seeing the patients, especially when they come back to the office after you’ve done surgery and you see how it’s changed their lives,” he said.

“I am most proud of providing quality patient care in and out of the surgical suite, continuing to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to address health care needs, and working with a team of health care providers just as committed to patient care,” he said.

Wilson, who, with his wife, has two children and four grandchildren, thoroughly enjoys his career. No party or dinner was planned to celebrate him being honored,  he said, laughing, just the joy of continuing what most appeals to him.

“I think when I walk into work some morning and I’m not excited anymore, it will be time to retire,” he said, but in four decades, that hasn’t happened.

“When I sit down to think about my career sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. It’s a lot of water over that dam, as they say. I just look forward to working every day and doing what I do,” he said.

“I’ve been very fortunate.”

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