As a reminder, the election for the three seats available for the 2019-2021 term on the Board of Trustees will be held in September this year. Leading up to the election, we are highlighting each of the four candidates as identified through the efforts of the Nominations Subcommittee.
For today's BOT Candidate Spotlight, we are featuring Charlene Gettings, MS, PA(ASCP)CM.
Name: Charlene Gettings, MS, PA(ASCP)CM
Organization: University of Chicago Medicine
Location: Chicago, IL
Fellow Member Since: 2010
Current AAPA Position: Marketing and Communications Committee Chair
Please tell the AAPA membership about yourself, and describe your past volunteer work.
I began my career as an Anatomic Pathology Technician in 2007 where I fell in love with gross pathology. I was mentored by phenomenal PAs who encouraged my return to school to become a PA. I graduated from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in 2011. Since graduation, I have worked at an academic institution and am a preceptor to second year PA students in the Rosalind Franklin program. I became the senior (supervising) PA in 2014 and recently promoted to Manager of Anatomic Pathology in May of 2018. I have been a member of the AAPA since 2009 (joined as a student) and have served as Chair of the Marketing and Communications Committee (formerly Public Relations Committee) of the AAPA since 2013. Since 2015, I have also served on the ASCP BOC Pathologists’ Assistants Examination Committee and was elected Vice Chair for the 2018 term. I am also active in local high school career days and mentor those interested in the profession by providing opportunities for lab shadowing.
Why are you interested in serving on the AAPA BOT?
As a student, I was an unofficial volunteer and now have served as a committee chair for five years. Through volunteering, I’ve learned so much from other members of the AAPA about our history, our strengths and weaknesses, and the struggles to accomplish common goals. And after eleven years of working in pathology, in various roles from technician to PA and now as a manager, I am still learning that the most effective and immediate changes happen on an individual level. Each workplace environment is too different for one entity to solve all of our daily issues. However, the AAPA does provide us with enough tools and a network to approach these issues, if you are willing to put in some work. If members fight those individual battles, then the larger AAPA entity can focus on types of advocacy which better serve the entire PA community on a larger scale by further establishing us as a powerhouse of gross pathology and solidifying our talents that go beyond the bench. These types of projects will take years to accomplish as they need strategic navigating around some financial and often political land mines. Serving on the board would provide me with an expanded view of the entire organization. From this new viewpoint and my personnel experiences, I hope to bring a fresh approach to identifying challenges and recognizing opportunities for partnerships not just within pathology but beyond as well.
What do you think should be the most important priority for AAPA?
Advocacy is the most important priority. Although the profession and association have come a long way from their beginnings, there is still much to be done. Accurate recognition of the profession is still very unclear and as a result, we can be undervalued. We must work hard to clarify that we are allied health professionals offering a high degree of excellence, sound medical judgment and assessment. To continue to maintain this high level of excellence, the AAPA must ensure that those in the profession are provided access to, in multiple formats, current and relevant educational materials and not just those limited to CE. Many PAs still need access to improved methods and materials that assist in their individual battle for workplace recognition and respect.
On a larger scale, the AAPA should continue to focus on strategies that highlight our unique professional expertise and take us beyond our comfort zone at the cutting board. Yes, that is what we love and what many of us are happy to do until we retire, but as a larger entity, we will become stagnant if we don’t participate in endeavors beyond the workbench.
What is your understanding of the mission and vision of this organization?
Both the mission and vision of the AAPA are the foundation that provides a strong support system and network for all pathologists’ assistants. This network includes opportunities to build relationships with other PAs, offer tools for continuing education, and act as an agent for continual growth and recognition of the profession.
Is there a particular area that you feel could be improved within AAPA?
We must provide hard strategies on ways to educate employers and administrators on the importance of our roles as allied health professionals within the laboratory. We provide a service that goes beyond that of macroscopic examination of specimens. Our education and experience make us operational experts at laboratory workflow. Most pathologists, surgeons, and clinicians who have had the opportunity to work with us, know our worth, and depend on us as key colleagues in the field.
What is the biggest challenge your lab faces today?
The biggest challenge is the apparent, but not fully sanctioned, cultural shift in residency education expectations — specifically, in regard to activities and feedback related to gross pathology. This is a volatile subject but in discussions with PAs at other academic institutions, I am not alone in this observation. Residents are pulled in many directions; with added responsibilities and pressure to produce research and publications, the amount of time spent grossing in the surgical pathology rotation is sacrificed to free up time for other activities. Less consistent exposure to grossing specimens results in a decline in quality and an increase in re-work, usually at the expense of a PA's time. Obviously, this is not true of all programs or residents, but it is common enough that it deserves serious discussion, especially since residents will become future employers, and their opinion of what is a sufficient gross and quality will directly impact our role in the lab.
This cultural change directly impacts staffing, as alleviating residents of previously shared tasks often results in absorption by the PA(s) without any additional resources. Cost saving initiatives to get specimens grossed often result in utilization of multiple grossing techs for biopsies and/or routine specimens instead of hiring another PA. This precarious pivot point is where we as individual PAs and the AAPA need to make smart, well-thought-out decisions related to professional advocacy. One path may underscore our need to be valued more as allied health professionals and eventually the primary experts of gross pathology as time progresses. The other path may sorely diminish the importance of gross pathology and, therefore, our expertise and required presence in the lab.
Would you like to see Charlene on the AAPA Board of Trustees? Make sure to cast your vote in the BOT Election, opening September 4, 2018! Fellow members will have the option to vote online via SurveyMonkey or in-person at the Fall Conference. Remember, we must reach a required quorum of 25% of members. Encourage your colleagues to vote using the hashtags #PAckthepolls and #myVOTEmyBOT!
Check out the profiles of our other candidates: John Eckman, Jennifer Perez, and Roseann Vitale!