Q&A with a physician

Health View
Valley View Hospital

Karen Campbell is one of two physician assistants at Roaring Fork Family Practice in Carbondale. She did her undergraduate work at Colorado State University and attended University of Utah for graduate school. She and her husband, Bob, have a four-year-old daughter and live in Marble.

Q: Where are you originally from?

I was born in the Bay Area of California, but raised in Park City, Utah. I feel at home in the Rocky Mountains, but I like the smell of salt water, too.

Q: Why did you decide to become a physician’s assistant?

I have always had a drive and interest in health care. I was pre-med at CSU and was accepted to the University of Colorado Medical School in the MD program in 2000. The out-of-state cost of med school ($300,000) was a reality check for me, since my interest was in service. I turned down my acceptance (to my parents’ shock!), and darted off to New England, where I worked on a trail crew and as an EMT. I found myself working at the Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid, which employed seven physician’s assistants and three physicians in its Emergency Department. It was there where I saw how capable physician assistants are. The education for a career as a PA is more affordable and flexible, and you get to spend more time with the patients every day. This is a win-win in my opinion.

Q: What do you do for fun?

I grew up rock climbing, fly fishing, and skiing in the Utah mountains. Now with a 4-year-old daughter, I find ways to enjoy those moments outdoors with my family (at a lower angle!). The Crystal Valley is a stunning backdrop for our hikes, ski tours, and other adventures. I also love to garden and travel. My father was an airline pilot so I caught the travel bug early. I have enjoyed international medical missions, and am planning a humanitarian mission to Costa Rica in 2016 with my church. It will be a great time to practice my Spanish.

Q: Where is the joy in medicine?

The joy is in that moment when you connect with your patient — having face-to-face interaction, meeting them where they are, and sometimes having the honor of helping them find a better place. If we take that connection away, we take the joy away. I want to meet patients where they are, even if it is difficult, and help them rise above their challenges. That is where my joy is.

Q: What does patient-centered care mean to you?

As health care providers, we wear many hats. We often are called to be business-people, scientists, and politicians. Patient-centered medicine means that the hat you put on first and foremost is that of the patient advocate. That means our science, our business, our politics center around those we serve. Patient-centered care gets back to the heart of medicine: the patient. Isn’t that enough? It’s so beautiful — coming closer to our own humanity through helping those around us.

Q: You have a reputation for being a good listener. Why?

I think listening to the stories of my patients is the most intriguing, challenging, spiritual (and entertaining) part of my day! Of course, it also helps me understand how I can help. Why wouldn’t I listen? Prior to family practice, I worked in an orthopedic surgery for almost nine years. I loved surgery, but I knew I also loved interacting with my “awake” patients. I guess I listen because I like to hear what people have to say.

Q: What are the exciting developments in the field of physician assistants?

The PA profession has been around for almost 50 years. We now have a past that is rich, and a future that is promising. There are now residency and fellowship programs for specialty PAs. PAs are now making policy decisions in health care. We are part of the workforce, but we are also part of the driving force of medicine. The opportunities are expanding for both patient care as well as pioneering policy. I love that in our valley, my PA friends work in diverse fields of medicine and are respected as professionals. Where there is legacy, diversity, and talent, there is also a compelling future for our field.

Q: If you could sing a karaoke song, what would it be?

Oh dear! When I was in the Philippines on my last medical mission, karaoke was ridiculously popular! I think I would be “Down to the River to Pray,” sung by Alison Krauss. I am in love with its soulfulness. It returns to our roots to connect with one another, as well as with ourselves and our maker, all by a river. Living on the Crystal River myself, I guess I can visualize the process. I hope to be that “plugged in” someday.

Q: Do you have any pets?

Yes, we have 10-year-old Lab named Fisher. My husband and I were married at the Fisher Towers in Moab, and Fisher is still is our first child.

Q: What is your favorite Coloradough?

I am a sucker for their old-fashioned glazed donuts!

Karen Campbell sees patients at Roaring Fork Family Practice and can be reached there at 970-963-3350.

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