Receiving the prestigious 2011 PAragon Award for Outstanding PA of the Year was an incredible experience. Accepting the prize surrounded by fellow PAs and PA students at AAPA Conference in Las Vegas was a moment I will never forget. It was also an acknowledgement that following one’s passion creates its own rewards.
I became involved in healthcare in 1968 as a U.S. Air Force medic and radiology technologist during the Vietnam War. In 1984, I graduated from the PA program at Hahnemann University (now Drexel University) where my passion for patient care led me to the field of radiation oncology. Meeting with oncology patients and their families taught me about compassion and the human spirit, and heightened my curiosity about the body—and its secrets. To satisfy this curiosity, I studied genetics and served as an advisor to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
My career as an educator began at Philadelphia University in 1994 where I brought my radiology technology, oncology and genetics experience to a new generation of PA students. In recent years, I dedicated myself to educating students, PAs and other clinicians in genetics and genomics, traveling extensively, and lecturing and publishing widely and prominently on the subject of PA use of genetics to improve patient care.
I am best known as an expert in genomic literacy and education, and my efforts have resulted in PAs being among the first healthcare professionals to partner with the National Institutes of Health’s NHGRI.
The relationship between genetics and health is profound. And it provides PAs and other healthcare professionals with the awareness of how best to use the family pedigree to provide preventive care to patients.
I hope that the recognition of my peers with the 2011 Outstanding PA of the Year award helps to highlight the importance of educating our medical community on this subject, to improve our ability to provide high-quality care and keep patients better informed about their health.
I have had a wonderful career as a PA for over 30 years. And I have also been fortunate to have excellent mentors who helped guide me on my journey. My hope is that I am a useful mentor to others on their educational and personal journey.
Michael Rackover, MS, PA-C, is a professor at Philadelphia University and has over 45 years of experience in healthcare. He is the 2011 AAPA PAragon Award winner for outstanding service.