South College alumnus Greg Cain, a graduate of the inaugural class of the School of Physician Assistant Studies, is on the front end of two emerging medical trends – operating his own practice and delivering health care to rural areas.
“Even when I was in school at South College, I knew I’d eventually open my own clinic,” Cain, who graduated in 2009 said.
Cain is the founder, CEO and clinical director of both McMinn Primary Care and Madisonville Primary Care Group. This puts him in a growing field of physician assistants (PAs) who operate their own practice.
Cain believes in putting the patient first, just as any business would approach serving its customers.
“If you put the patients and medicine first, people see that and appreciate it,” Cain said. “They’ll come back and recommend you (to) the community.”
The U.S. Navy veteran and former stockbroker and financial adviser made high-quality service the priority when he opened Madisonville Primary Care Group in September 2011. McMinn Primary Care in Athens followed in October 2014.
The trend of PAs running clinics is expanding across the country, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) offers information on state laws, as practices can be set up as sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and cooperatives.
The academy also noted that in some cases a PA working in a rural area can assume ownership of a clinic from a retiring physician, which allows the practice to remain open for patients. In other cases, physicians have offered PAs the opportunity to join as partners or shareholders. The flexibility is needed because, as AAPA points out, physician assistants are filling significant gaps in health care.
“It’s been challenging, because of the current state of the healthcare field,” Cain said. “I look back, and I still wonder how I’ve made it work.”
It worked because Cain’s clinics fill a much-needed niche by delivering access to health care in underserved, rural areas. The shortage of medical doctors has a pronounced effect on rural communities. Practices such as Cain’s address that issue.
“Especially in rural areas, there aren’t enough (doctors) to meet the demand,” Cain said. “Physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists all are focusing more on patient care.”
PAs and nurse practitioners are able to monitor and treat symptoms and make referrals just as a doctor would. Cain has found that many of his patients aren’t concerned about whether or not he is a medical doctor.
“Occasionally, I’ll have a patient mention it as they are checking in, but only one or two of them haven’t kept me as their provider after their initial office visit,” he said. “If you provide good care, patients will come back to see you.”
The South College School of Physician Studies will celebrate the sixth anniversary of its first class’s graduation at its first reunion on Aug. 14 at The Foundry on the Fair Site. The School of Physician Assistant Studies also is marking its 8th year of operation of the 27-month program.
“We’re proud of the success that our graduates have achieved,” South College School of Physician Assistant Studies Dean Ken Harbert said. “It’s exciting to welcome back Greg and his colleagues to Knoxville where their health care careers took root.”
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