National Allied Health Professions Week is being celebrated Nov. 7 – 13, 2021. Allied health professionals are an important part of the healthcare team at Baylor and its affiliates. In addition, Baylor is training the next generation of health professionals, including physician assistants, nurse anesthetists, genetic counselors and orthotists and prosthetists.
Learn more about one of our practicing health professionals, Janie Anders, in this Q&A. Anders is a physician assistant in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, providing care at Casa de Amigos, and the recipient of the 2021 Carl E. Fasser Visionary Leadership Award, which recognizes excellence by a PA in education, research, clinical practice, and service.
Q: What is your educational background and your path that led to your career as a PA?
A: My inspiration to pursue a career in healthcare was because of my love for science and due to the influence of my father who was a pharmacist. He had a friend that was a medical technologist, and I decided that was what I wanted to do. I graduated from Eastern New Mexico University and compelted the Medical Technology program in Amarillo, Texas. I returned to Albuquerque and worked at Lovelace Clinic; however, I constantly felt the need to further my career. A colleague told me about physician assistants. I was intrigued; this had all the elements that I wanted and the opportunity to grow. I researched the field and the programs and applied. The first place to offer me an interview was Baylor College of Medicine, which went well, and here I am 37 years later.
Q: Describe your responsibilities in your role at Baylor College of Medicine?
A: I am assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and work at Casa de Amigos Health Center, which is an affiliated Harris Health clinic. My primary responsibility is to provide the best healthcare possible to my patients. I manage diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, women’s health and other adult acute and chronic illnesses. I also do office procedures such as joint injections, excisions of cysts or skin lesions and laceration repair. Preventative medicine is also emphasized in outpatient settings and takes up part of the time spent with my patients, focusing on the benefits of screening and vaccinations. My other duties are to step in as medical director in the absence of my medical director. I assist my colleagues with everyday IT issues and communicate updates of electronic medical records programs. Unofficially, I am the social organizer for events inside and outside of the clinic. I believe that is the key to continue good team work with our medical staff.
Q: What is the best thing about your career? What is the most challenging aspect?
A: The best thing without a doubt is the feeling of helping my patients by making a difference in their health. The most challenging is to manage time and still get the clinic visit your patient expects and needs. I have told my students that the best way to know your patient is go and live with them for a week. But since you can’t do that, I have found that if you can, at least find out some aspect of their life that you feel will help their health. Not always an easy thing to do. There are limitations with financial and housing issues in our indigent population.
Q: What would you tell others that are considering this career?
A: I would tell them that it is a rewarding and flexible career that demands compassion and understanding. You are able to practice in almost every field of medicine, change from specialty to specialty or back to general medicine. There are opportunities to go into academia and research. You are able to travel, go to any state and practice.
Q: What are the benefits and opportunities of working in an academic health center?
A: I took the job in community medicine with BCM in 1985 right after graduation due to being able to continue learning from people that were involved with the college and were willing to continue my training. I was thinking that in about 5 years I would have enough experience and knowledge to return to New Mexico, not realizing that I found the job I felt was most rewarding. I am surrounded by people that instill the love of medicine and are accomplished clinicians and researchers. I had the opportunity to get my patients included in trials through Baylor. I have precepted students for at least 25 years through the PA program at Baylor. That is one of the greatest “perks” of my academic career. The students from Baylor impress me each year, and I am proud to be their preceptor.
Q: What is the environment at Baylor?
A: Baylor honors diversity and rewards and encourages hard work, both clinical and academic. Diversity is very important to me. I was critical at first of the lack of PAs at Baylor, but as the number of PA graduates grew, I saw more of them being hired at Baylor. Also, Baylor encourages serving as a volunteer in the community and has supported me in my efforts at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as a member of their Health Committee for 9 years.
Q: How has the pandemic impacted your role and the healthcare you provide?
A: When I first started practicing, I had to deal with AIDS, HIV and watch my patients and friends die due to no treatments being available. This was how the pandemic initially was. Never did I think I would have to see a pandemic that has quickly changed the way we deliver healthcare. We had staff diverted to cover hospitals that were overwhelmed with patients as we worked with reduced support as well. We learned new ways for delivering healthcare through telemedicine. Now video and telephonic visits are a regular part of my schedule. Dealing with misinformation and encouraging vaccinations is exhausting, as many know. Supporting mask wearing and social distancing in and outside of the clinic has become a way of life and probably will continue for an extended time.