ClassNotesMEDEX Northwest Alumni

Anchorage | Seattle | Spokane | Yakima

New job, award, move or family addition? Your classmates want to hear from you! Let us know how you’re doing.

The ClassNotes below were received through August 2012; any received afterward will appear in the next issue.


Brad Newhart, PA-C (Anchorage Class 1), writes, “I find it really incredible to have experienced the change from being a medic in the combat zone to a civilian provider, and I am happy that MEDEX remains a huge advocate for the original vision of the PA. Since graduating from Anchorage Class 1, it’s been quite a whirlwind. I married another MEDEX PA, Kindra Newhart (née Freedom), PA-C (Seattle Class 43), and we both work in the UW system in the Department of Neurological Surgery. I work in the inpatient setting at Harborview, where the acuity and volume of patients is certainly a challenge for a new grad, but credit my past experience and fantastic training opportunities in Alaska to my success. Right now, I am focusing on gaining more experience before hopefully taking on some PA students in the coming months, and I am especially excited to see more veterans entering MEDEX and continuing their service to others.”

Newhart, PA-C
Back from the combat zone: Brad Newhart, PA-C (Anchorage Class 1)

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Robert J. Woodruff, PA-C, ’70 (Seattle Class 1), and a Vietnam veteran, writes, “I retired July 6, 2011, after 41 years of working as a physician assistant in Washington. During my 41 years, I worked for Cheney Medical Center in Cheney, Wash., and most recently for Kaiser Permanente in Vancouver, Wash. Retirement plans include traveling, doing some volunteer work at the free clinic in Vancouver, improving proficiency in my adopted second language, Spanish, and hopefully some backpacking and fishing.”

Ruth Ballweg, MPH, PA-C (Seattle Class 11), associate professor and section chief for MEDEX Northwest, is the 2012 recipient of the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ (AAPA’s) Eugene A. Stead, Jr. Award of Achievement; Ballweg is being recognized for advancing the PA profession both domestically and globally, and for her dedication to creating paths to the PA profession for military servicemen and women.

Elmer Sisneros, PA-C (Seattle Class 27), writes, “It’s hard to believe, but 17 years ago in October I graduated from MEDEX. I currently live in Heber City, Utah, with my beautiful wife and six children. Over the last four years, we embarked on the concept of delivering affordable healthcare. We own and operate two urgent-care centers in northern Utah. We offer affordable healthcare to the uninsured and high-deductible patients; nowadays, that seems to be everyone. We serve a large Hispanic and uninsured population in this resort town. As healthcare innovators, we have gained a lot of attention in our community and throughout the area. Without the costs of billing insurance, we are able to reduce our overhead by 60 percent, therefore passing the savings on to the patient. We are able to achieve quality healthcare outcomes and high patient satisfaction because we are not pressured or confined by time. We are now turning the corner on our fifth year and growing. The best thing of all is that a physician assistant has set an example of how to deliver affordable, quality healthcare. Visit us at”

Randall Dickson, PA-C (Seattle Class 29), writes, “I am working in urgent care at Group Health in Seattle but live on Lopez Island. We built our new home last year and have been enjoying it greatly. Over the past few years, I have become a gardener of both flowers and vegetables. I also love spending time cooking, especially if I grow the food. Ron and I have been together now for 21 years, and we are hoping to get married next year, assuming that Washington approves Referendum 74. Last year, our family grew with the birth of our granddaughter, who lives in San Francisco with our son and his wife. I am the immediate past president of WAPA, and, for the past year-and-a-half, I have been working hard to improve PA laws in our state. Last month, some friends and I organized a welcoming event for the Long Road Home Project, a group of five veterans who are riding their bicycles across the U.S. from Washington to Washington, D.C. to raise money and awareness for wounded veterans and their families.”

Martin (Marty) Buccieri, PA-C (Seattle Class 31), writes, “I still work inpatient psychiatry at Harborview, lecture for MEDEX and precept MEDEX students. Also still living on the houseboat. When I’m not at work, I try not to come ashore.”

Gayle Brannon, PA-C (Seattle Class 32), writes, “After six years at Madigan, I decided to take some time off and played a lot of golf. I’ve been working as a locum since then and love the freedom and travel it affords. I’ve been to Haiti twice since the earthquake and spent several weeks there working in a clinic. I’m planning to go back this winter. I’m currently working for Group Health, and staying home for a few months gave me time to grow a huge veggie garden, and, of course, play more golf. The grandkids are grown — they don’t have sleepovers with me anymore, they just want the car keys — and the oldest will head for college in another year.”

George Wise, PA-C (Seattle Class 35), writes, “I am a retired Navy chief hospital corpsman who graduated from MEDEX Northwest in 2003. I am currently working as a civilian PA in the Army at a battalion aid station and at a family medicine clinic on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I am married to Dianna, my lovely wife, and we have two cats: Amber and Thor, the wonder cat.”

Scott (Scotty) Light, PA-C (Seattle Class 38), writes, “Hello from Grays Harbor, Wash. Marcos Chavez, PA-C (Seattle Class 42), Niekol Hall (née Pixton), PA-C (Seattle Class 42), and I are the three MEDEX alumni currently here on the hospitalist service. Niekol Hall will be leaving us this fall, and Brian Goody, PA-C (Yakima Class 17), joined us in October. We have really enjoyed the throngs of MEDEX students over the past few years. They give me energy, and it is one of my favorite parts of the job — when we aren’t too busy! Aries gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Judy Mei, right here at the community hospital four years ago. I hope everyone is doing well, and I’m looking forward to running into everyone sometime soon.”

Taj Mahalia Rock, PA-C (Seattle Class 38), writes, “I am currently happily employed at Petrin Dermatology in Redmond, Wash. We do a lot of very interesting work with psoriasis patients and skin cancer. Dr. Petrin is a Mohs surgeon. I am thankful every day to be a PA. Thanks, MEDEX Northwest and Ruth, for all that you have done and continue to do for our profession.”

Martin Muy-Rivera, PA-C (Seattle Class 39), writes, “The good news is that I just passed the PANRE; it was a little more complicated than the PANCE because I had to study while I was working. Hence, there was little time to study. Besides, one loses the ability to take tests after five years of not being in school, but, thank God, I passed it well. I am working at Valley Medical Center in Renton, Wash., in urgent care, and in the near future, I am looking forward to precepting a PA student. I also have been more involved in athletics. I swim twice a week and also bike (spin) once a week, depending on the time, which is limited. I continue visiting my mom in Mexico every six months and keep in contact with friends in Mexico.”

Morgan Maier, PA-C (Seattle Class 40), writes, “I am starting my third year in dermatology at Seattle Children’s and continue to love my job. I recently moved to View Ridge from West Seattle, and now I am really enjoying my 1.5-mile commute, which I plan on walking and/ or biking via the Burke Gilman Trail. I have precepted nurse practitioners, doctoral-level nursing students and medical students from multiple colleges and universities in the area, and I continue to love to teach and mentor mid-level providers.”

Barbara Inglin, PA-C (Seattle Class 40), writes, “I am currently working in rural Minnesota for the year in a VA community-based outpatient clinic. I am learning a lot about primary care in rural communities and its special challenges. I enjoy the work and feel that I’ve been able to connect with my patients and make a difference.”

Howard Chaitoff, PA-C (Seattle Class 40), writes, “I served as a medic from 1987–1991 at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was there that I was first introduced to a physician assistant. He was the officer in charge of the acute care clinic and my supervisor for the next four years. He was as eager to teach me everything he knew about medicine as I was to learn it. He is why I became a physician assistant. So I now find myself, after multiple reincarnations, serving again as a medic for the military. I am the primary care manager for the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Richardson, Alaska. I manage the care for all soldiers evacuated out of theatre for physical illness, injury or psychological trauma. I manage very complex patients with very difficult diagnoses that include PTSD, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain. These men and woman have answered the highest calling, protecting our country with their lives. It is the most rewarding work a veteran can do, taking care of soldiers. I feel very fortunate that a very new and untested civilian physician assistant like myself was given the opportunity to lead a team of healthcare professionals to care for these soldiers. I knew practically nothing about managing psychiatric trauma and chronic pain. Now I use my expertise to help other primary-care providers avoid poly-pharmacy and dependence on narcotics and to develop safer and more sustainable medication regimens for our soldiers. I could not have left teaching to start a new career in medicine without the support of my wife, Kimberly. I would not be able to work through those difficult times without the resilience afforded me by the unconditional love that is heaped upon me by my children: Kathryn (24), Harrison (19), Madison (4) and Camden (1). I had a midlife crisis about two years ago and took up bass guitar. I feel certain it is only a matter of time before I can leave medicine to pursue rock stardom. In the meantime, I will re-certify in 2014, just to be safe.”

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Anthony Walker, PA-C (Spokane Class 1), writes, “I retired in January 2010 with a total of 24 years’ uniformed service, 12 with the U.S. Army and 12 with the U.S. Public Service. I worked in family practice after retirement, but have taken a position with the Army as a civilian, back working with my military brothers and sisters and their families, along with other area retirees. It is rewarding practicing as a staff PA in the urgent-care portion of the emergency room on Fort Riley, home of the Big Red One [First Infantry Division].”

Joseph Joslyn, PA-C (Spokane Class 7), writes, “I moved from Montana last year and live in Madison, Wis. I now commute to work at a smalltown hospital (Portage, Wis.), splitting my time between ER and urgent care. I’ve been in the Air National Guard for 19 years, which included a tour in Afghanistan in 2010. In Afghanistan, I was the first PA assigned to an aero-medical evacuation squadron at a NATO base (Camp Bastion), part of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Kandahar. In addition to my regular duties, clearing patients for air transport, I volunteered to practice in a U.S. Navy aid station and helped the U.S. Navy concussion treatment team based out of Camp Leatherneck. Prior to being deployed, I was clinical director for an urban Native American clinic in my hometown of Great Falls, Mont. As a PA with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, part of my duties include being the triage officer for an emergency response force unit, comprising Army and Air National Guardsmen who can be deployed with 12-hour notice to any terrorist-related event or natural disaster in our FEMA region. My wife, Bonnie, and I are ready to celebrate 20 years of marriage in September. We have three children yet at home, Kathleen (17), Aaron (13) and Samantha (11). We also have three grown children, Matthew (29), Melissa (27), and Mark (25), and one grandchild, who all live in Montana. Hope to hear from other classmates.”

Amber Bell, PA-C (Spokane Class 12), writes, “Has it really been two years since graduation? I have been working at Summit Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine for two years and love coming to work each shift. I love our career field and am so thankful to be where I am today. I miss the camaraderie and excitement of the military from time to time, but enjoy the flexibility and control I have over my civilian life. For now, I’ll continue to travel in my spare time and finish my most recent read, Paradise General: Riding the Surge at a Combat Hospital in Iraq. I still run often. My most recent events included the Publix Half Marathon in Atlanta, Ga., and a Wounded Warrior Project-sponsored 5K in Kennesaw, Ga. I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of my classmates are doing this year and wish everyone the best!”

Cari Rodgers, PA-C (Spokane Class 12), writes, “I am currently employed by Community Health Association of Spokane and have had the unique opportunity to open the first schoolbased medical clinic in the Spokane area. I am working as the medical provider at Sunset Elementary Health Clinic in Airway Heights. It has been a wonderful learning experience. We just opened last April and re-opened for the 2012–2013 school year in August. It is a pleasure and joy to serve the underserved children in the community, providing easier access to care for families whose children attend the elementary school. There is a lot of talk about expanding. However, as with any new clinic, baby steps are the key to success. Life is busy, and my daughter keeps me on my toes. She is beginning kindergarten this year, a new chapter in her life (and mine)!!”

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Margaret Hale, PA-C (Yakima Class 4), writes, “I am an officer in the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), assigned to an inpatient unit in a federal prison. I am attending school online at A.T. Still University for a master’s degree, and I draw and read in my spare time, when I have any. I went to Cuba last year with Friendly Planet, and am hoping to go to Italy next year with my church.”

Brian Callier, PA-C (Yakima Class 4), writes, “My first three years after graduation were spent working for the Paiute Indian Reservation in Las Vegas and Moapa, Nevada. This was a great learning experience. From the get-go, I was a new grad with a lot of autonomy. Very scary at times, but a great experience overall. After the reservation, I went into ophthalmology for one year, working with a corneal specialist and learning about the eye. I was able to assist in some awesome surgeries, including traumas and corneal transplants. For the last eight years, I have been working as an urgent-care specialist with Southwest Medical Associates/United Healthcare. PAs here have a lot of autonomy, performing numerous procedures and care for all types of patients. The particular urgent-care site I work for is considered a high-level, 24-hour facility, complete with a 24-hour observation unit. I work three 12-hour shifts in a row, which gives me a four-day day weekend every week. For the last four years, I have been doing swing shifts, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. On a more personal level, I have been married for 13 years now, having met my wife while in PA school on one of my rotations. My wife is a PA as well. We have two children, a boy who is 13 and a daughter who is 11. We have lived in Las Vegas since we both graduated 12 years ago. I’m an avid runner — I participate in 5K races — and I weight train and practice mixed martial arts. My current fitness goal is to run a sub-20-minute 5K.”

Carlos Caso, PA-C (Yakima Class 7), writes, “I have been living in Nicaragua with my family. I was hired by a mission that is headquartered in Maple Valley, Wash.: Corner of Love. It is only eight weeks of work per year. My wife is teaching full time at the Nicaraguan Christian Academy. I am networking through an administrator at the Hospital Metropolitano. The PA situation in Central America is interesting. It seems as though we are not established or recognized here. I would like to help in setting a PA precedent.”

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