As a member of the University’s inaugural physician assistant
class with an undergraduate degree in athletic training from West Chester University, Christine (Wilson) McAndrew, MMS ’09, PA-C, wanted to specialize in orthopedics after graduation. During one of her student clinical rotations, she briefly considered another specialty but came back to orthopedics, which proved fortunate for one little boy from Maryland who lost his hands and feet to sepsis when he was two years old.
In her first position after graduation – general orthopedics at Mercy-Fitzgerald
Hospital – Ms. McAndrew found herself the first and only physician assistant (PA) in the orthopedic department. She gained a lot of experience during her two and a half years there. She came to Penn Medicine three and a half years ago, as physician assistant to Dr. Scott Levin and supervisor of Advanced Practice in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Here she discovered, not only was she not the first PA in the department, but Dr. Levin had done a residency and fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, where the physician assistant concept originated and the profession was born.
In July 2015, Ms. McAndrew was an integral part of the Penn Medicine/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) team that trained together for eighteen months and then performed the world’s first pediatric bilateral hand transplant
on eight-year-old Zion Harvey. As the physician assistant to Dr. Scott Levin, lead surgeon on the transplant team and director of the Hand Transplantation Program at CHOP, she was closely involved with the entire historic undertaking.
The ten-hour surgery required a forty-member multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and other staff from plastic and reconstructive surgery, orthopedic surgery, anesthesiology and radiology.
The Penn Medicine transplant team performed their first adult transplant in 2011 and is now in the process of preparing for possibly two more. As Ms. McAndrew explains, “There is a lot that must happen before a patient is confirmed as a good transplant candidate.” She is a member of the interdisciplinary team whose selection process involves detailed research, multiple tests, careful evaluations and much discussion before a patient is considered a candidate. A member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), Ms. McAndrew was interviewed by the AAPA for an article about the double transplant for their December journal issue. In May she will present to PA students at the national conference of the AAPA on orthopedic surgery and her career.
When asked about her work/life balance, this mother of a ten-month old daughter notes that her husband works for the federal government and travels quite a bit, so family time is important. “My secret is to leave work at work and to leave personal life at home,“ she says. “My weekends are dedicated to my family.” As for her daily activities, she adds, “I prefer the fast pace here (Penn Medicine Department of Orthopaedic Surgery),” which proves useful given her typical day.
Salus PA alumni: L-R - Christine Wilson McAndrew, MMS '09; Gina Hayes, MMS '14; Lauren Sutcliffe, MMS '14 and Gregory Ranalli, MMS '13.
In addition to being Dr. Levin’s PA, Ms. McAndrew is responsible for the other thirty physician assistants on the Penn Medicine Orthopaedic Surgery team, five of whom are Salus graduates. Each of the PAs on the service assists a physician in addition to seeing their own patients. When asked about her supervisory responsibilities Ms. McAndrew explains, “I’m part of the interview process and then I provide orientation and mentoring,” noting that she is not an administrator. Given that she assists Dr. Levin, who may see forty-five to sixty patients a day during his clinic hours, and sees her own fifteen to twenty-eight patients on days when she has her own clinic hours, there is little time for administration. There is also no doubt that Chrissy McAndrew is definitely up to the task.
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