GGC PA Advocates for Growth of Profession in Genetics

Wesley Patterson at fountain

Wesley Patterson, PhD, MSPA, PA-C, CAQ-Peds, is a passionate advocate for the physician assistant/associate (PA) profession.

Patterson recently earned a PhD in Healthcare Genetics and Genomics from Clemson University with his dissertation project, ‘Genetics and Genomics Education Among Physician Assistants.’ The project consisted of a literature review of PA genetics education along with surveys of practicing PAs to learn about their knowledge of and training in genetics. He also reached out to PA training program directors to gather data about their curricula and training needs in topics related to medical genetics.

And his project was not simply an academic exercise.

When he’s not in clinic caring for patients or counseling families about their test results on the phone, Patterson is working on ways to educate and engage other PAs in his chosen specialty of clinical genetics.

“Wesley is one of the most enthusiastic providers that I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Leta Tribble, PhD, Director of Education at GGC, and also a member of Patterson’s dissertation committee. Tribble and Patterson have collaborated on a number of projects to improve and enhance genetics instruction for PA students as well as practicing PAs.

As part of his interest in improving the genetics curricula in PA training programs, Patterson is part of a five-week genetics lecture series for the University of South Carolina School of Medicine’s PA students. He also provides genetics lectures for PA students at his alma mater, Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Presbyterian College, North Greenville University, and West Liberty University. In addition, Patterson offers shadowing opportunities and mentorship for students in several PA and MD/DO programs.

His work also extends to currently practicing PAs to not only encourage them to consider genetics as a specialty, but also to improve their knowledge of genetic disorders within their current area of practice.

“A knowledge of genetics and genetic disorders is not only vital for those of us practicing in genetics clinics, but it is also important across most all medical specialties, including family medicine, cardiology, and orthopedics,” said Patterson. “If a PA can identify a genetic condition, or the need for a genetics referral, that will lead to a more timely and accurate diagnosis and ultimately improve the outcome and quality of life for that patient.”

Patterson has shared his work at professional conferences across the US including the Clinical Genetics Advanced Practice Provider Conference, the Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), and the Association of Professors in Human and Medical Genetics. He serves as the AAPA external representative for genetics and genomics and is also a member of the Workforce Development and Optimization Committee for the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics.

Two physician assistants with a clipboard talkingPatterson and his PA colleague, Laura Buch, MSPA, PA-C, of GGC’s Greenville office (pictured right) have also coauthored two articles for the AAPA membership, ‘A Day in the Life of a PA in Genetics’ and ‘Top 10 Things PAs Should Know About Genetics‘.

In addition to his educational outreach for students and practicing PAs, Patterson also founded the Society for PAs in Genetics and Genomics (SPAGG), an organization dedicated to PA education in genetics and encouraging PAs to join this exciting and rewarding specialty.

Patterson worked at GGC as a laboratory technologist after completing his undergraduate degree and while deciding on his next career move. After completing PA school, he worked in family medicine before rejoining GGC as its first PA in 2018.

“As our understanding of genetics grows, we are also seeing the demand for genetics services growing rapidly,” said Patterson. “The current workforce of MD clinical geneticists and genetic counselors is not sufficient to keep up with this demand. This is a wonderful opportunity to expand the workforce by including other advanced practice providers, such as PAs and nurse practitioners, to help with the workload.”

While Patterson was GGC’s first PA, the addition of PAs and nurse practitioners as part of the clinical team has grown in recent years with Buch practicing in the Greenville office as well as a new PA joining the Charleston office, and nurse practitioners in the Greenwood and Greenville offices.

“We are grateful for Wesley’s leadership at GGC, both in the Division of Education as well as in the clinic,” added Tribble. “His combined passion for patient care and education is a great benefit to GGC, to our patients, and to our future workforce.”

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