Robert L. Hollingsworth, DHSc, PA-C, spoke to Physician Assistant Studies students and others as part of the Bullitt History of Medicine Club at the UNC Health Sciences Library on Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
His talk, titled “The Physician Assistant: My Life in the Profession,” focused on a retrospective of his career, in addition to advice for future PAs.
Known as “Dr. Bob,” Hollingsworth has seen patients at the Southeastern Medical Clinic in Red Springs, North Carolina, since 1996. He serves as a clinical preceptor for students in the PA program, housed in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences.
“The value of being a PA is we really aren’t specialized,” Hollingsworth said. “When you graduate from this program, you’ll be able to do any thing in any place.”
After serving as a Special Forces medic at Fort Bragg, Hollingsworth landed work in Robeson County after other opportunities in South Carolina, in Fayetteville, and in both emergency and family practice settings. A 1981 graduate of the then-Surgeon’s Assistant program at UNC, Hollingsworth encouraged PA students to seek work in rural settings.
“I still make house calls,” Hollingsworth said. “I sit with my dying patients. That’s how we practice medicine. … We’d like to see you do rural health care; we need you there.”
During the latter half of his talk, Hollingsworth spoke about the future of the PA profession and the role of future health care professionals. He stressed that the future of the profession is likely to focus on a team-based, collaborative approach.
“We are a part of a team. We are not individual providers or practitioners,” Hollingsworth said. “You’re going to take care of everybody; you’re not going to turn anyone away.”
During his time in Red Springs, Hollingsworth said he chose to live among the community he serves and has even learned how to drive a tractor.
“I’m so proud of you and this program. This state really embraces PAs and what we do.” Hollingsworth said. “Welcome to our profession.”
Paul Chelminski, MD, MPH, FACP and director of UNC’s PA program, provided perspective on Hollingsworth’s lecture.
“What he did today is a tremendous gift to you,” Chelminski said. “He’s seeing patients five to ten years hence because he’s here talking to you today. By sharing his wisdom with you today, he is paying it forward.”
Hollingsworth’s lecture occurred as an early kickoff for PA week, which runs from October 6 until October 12.