Watching a loved one suffer from health issues is distressing. Knowing that their provider is not giving them the level of care they deserve can be utterly heartbreaking.

Growing up, Ratna Kanumury saw her mom struggle with poor health and frequently felt as though her mom’s primary care physician was not truly listening.

Teamwork

“He was a great physician, but he never tailored her care to her particular health needs,” says Kanumury, who became a physician assistant almost 20 years ago so she could provide others the kind of care that her mom did not receive. “I feel that a team of providers would have better addressed my mom’s condition, and that concept is what inspired me to become a physician assistant (PA) — to be part of a team.”

A PA practices medicine on health care teams with physicians and other providers in the U.S. PAs diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, perform first assist in surgery and more.

“It's a beautiful opportunity to work within a team to improve our community's health outcomes.”

“It's a beautiful opportunity to work within a team to improve our community's health outcomes.” Experience has taught Kanumury that having more than one pair of eyes on a patient can be tremendously beneficial. As director of PA services for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS), Kanumury serves a dual role splitting her time between administrative duties and treating patients at Woodlawn Health Center, a safety net public health clinic in a South Side of Chicago neighborhood where many residents live in deep poverty.

Getting personal

Kanumury is passionate about medicine — and her patients. “At the clinic, we focus on providing primary and preventative services to the residents of Cook County. Our patients struggle with multiple social disparities, which contribute to their health outcomes. I work at one of the 16 clinics in CCHHS’ ambulatory and community health network, which are now nationally recognized as patient-centered medical homes. So it's a beautiful opportunity to work within a team to improve our community's health outcomes.”

Being in the clinic several times a week enables her to apply her personal experiences from the clinic to her responsibilities providing oversight to the PAs and nurse practitioners she supervises. And in turn help them provide better care to their patients.