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What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Within the physician-PA relationship, PAs exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.

What is the difference between a PA and a physician?

PAs are educated in the "medical model"; in some schools they attend many of the same classes as medical students. One of the main differences between PA education and physician education is not the core content of the curriculum, but the amount of time spent in formal education. In addition to time in school, physicians are required to do an internship, and the majority also complete a residency in a specialty following that. PAs do not have to undertake an internship or residency. A physician has complete responsibility for the care of the patient. PAs share that responsibility with the supervising physician.

Where do PAs "draw the line" as far as what they can treat and what a physician can treat?

What a PA does varies with training, experience, and state law. In general, a physician assistant will see many of the same types of patients as the physician. The cases handled by the physician are generally the more complicated medical cases which require care that is not a routine part of the PA's scope of practice. Referral to the physician, or close consultation between the patient-PA-physician, is done for unusual or hard to manage cases.

(all information taken from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) website at www.aapa.org)

I am menopausal and am scared to take hormone replacement with all of the recent negative press. What are my options?

There has been a lot of information presented in the media with regards to hormone replacement. Unfortunately for the general public, there is much more updated information and ongoing clinical trails that are not covered by the media, so it is hard to make an informed choice with the limited information that you may have. There are many pros and cons to traditional hormone replacement that we should go over together as well as alternate options, such as over the counter products, bioidentical regimens, dietary and lifestyle changes, and other non-hormonal prescription medications. In order to make an appropriate choice that is specific to your needs the goods and bads of all these choices should be reviewed.

I want to start birth control and I know about the pill, but are there more updated choices?

There are many options for birth control that satisfy different lifestyles and needs. Hormonal methods of birth control include oral contraceptives ("the pill"), a weekly birth control patch, a monthly vaginal ring, Depo Provera injections, and the Mirena IUD. Barrier methods include condoms, the contraceptive sponge, contraceptive film, foam, and suppositories, and the diaphragm. Female sterilization is a "permanent" method of birth control. On the horizon is a birth control pill that allows for a yearly period and a subdermal implant that is effective for up to 3 years. At the Emerald Bay Center for Women's Health we are well-versed in all of these options and can help you pick the best one for you.