Physician assistant Abby Young is intently focused on the computer screen, finishing a dictation. It’s the middle of clinic and she’ll see many young patients throughout the day. Kids are her favorite patients; that’s why she chose pediatrics.
She finishes what she’s doing, peers around the corner. “I brought him four Diet Mountain Dews today!” she exclaims. “FOUR!”
Diet Mountain Dew, along with chocolate chip cookies, is Dr. Michael Paloski’s favorite snack. Abby and Dr. Paloski are a team. Like most physician assistants (PAs) and doctors, they work in pairs. PAs work closely with their assigned physicians, filling a range of roles. They diagnose and treat, write prescriptions, and follow the same protocols of their doctors. Most operate alongside surgeons.
“Seriously, his entire diet is Diet Mountain Dew and chocolate chip cookies. I bring them to him at work. But I tell him he really needs to eat better, and to eat more in general,” says Abby.
Years ago at Myers Park High School in Charlotte Abby played soccer. As goalkeeper she had a fierce mindset, playing a key role in a masterful sport rooted in a team effort. During those years she dislocated her shoulder, and when she went for treatment at OrthoCarolina, she met PA Bill Heisel.
“Bill was so great with me during that time, and I ended up having surgery with him and his physician Dr. D’Alessandro. I said to Bill I want to do what you do,” says Abby. “I wanted to be a physician assistant.”
Through school, Abby shadowed Bill as a student and went on to Presbyterian College where she played soccer for four years. Afterward, she went on to physician assistant school at Campbell University and did a yearlong pediatric surgery fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital.
By February 2016 she was back at OrthoCarolina, on staff as a PA, and paired with Dr. Michael Paloski at OrthoCarolina Pediatric Orthopedic Center.
Medicine & Miles
They look just like any other ordinary runners out for a mid-day exercise break. But look closely and you’ll see Dr. Paloski and Abby running side-by-side, not too far from the pediatric office where they work. Besides work teammates they’re also running buddies; on Mondays, they normally go between surgeries and on many clinic days they go at lunchtime. The running started when they used to have two scoliosis surgeries in a day, one in the morning and one late in the day, and had time in between.
“We’ve both done two marathons, but we’re not saying who’s faster,” says Dr. Paloski with a smile. “It’s our time to clear our minds, renew our energy on long days, and it gives us a sense of accomplishment.”
According to Abby, running is a great way to exercise when they have time in between patients or over lunch. But they rarely talk about work while they run.
“We talk about normal life things,” says Abby. “I ask him for advice, or what he’s doing this weekend, or where he’s going on date night with his wife.”
Their pace isn’t always fast. It depends on the day. Sometimes one of them is feeling better than the other, but for Abby and Dr. Paloski, it isn’t about how fast they run.
“I don’t think people realize how much time doctors and PAs spend together,” says Dr. Paloski. “To provide the best care we can, we truly have to be a team and work well together. I’m lucky to be paired with a smart, energetic PA who is also a good friend.”
The bond doesn’t stop at running. Abby knows the entire Paloski family and says that Dr. Paloski’s wife invites her over for family dinner. She says Dr. Paloski taught her everything she knows about pediatric orthopedics.
“He’s a great dad and husband,” she says. “And every doctor cares about their patients, but he has a clear mission to do the absolute best he can for his patients that I really admire.”
“She runs faster than me so she pushes me (and makes me suffer) on hot days,” he adds, laughing.
For Abby and Dr. Paloski, running is medicine for the brain. Each time they lace up their running shoes and step outside into the fresh air they rejuvenate and prepare for the rest of the day.
Even when it’s fueled by soda and chocolate chip cookies.
PA Week is October 6-12.