Pam Thornberry, a Physician’s Assistant with Dr. Lee Horwitz, has a smile that immediately puts patients at ease, whether she’s discussing something serious or simply exchanging information about one’s medical history. Thornberry, who received her medical training at UC Davis, has been a PA for 18 years and in the current Oakdale office for the past 12. For the special Healthy Living feature, this ‘Q and A’ is designed to help the community get to know a bit more about their friendly neighborhood medical professional, beyond the charts and prescriptions.
Where are you from and how did you find yourself in Oakdale?
I was born and raised in Ceres. I was drawn to Oakdale at the persistence of my friend, Maggie Dias, FNP, who at the time worked for the same group.
What drew you to the medicine field? What do you enjoy most about your job?
Entering the medical field seemed to be a natural progression in my life. My mom set the pace when I was young, returning to school after raising her family, to become a nurse. At age 19, I secured my first medical job at Doctors Hospital, Modesto. From there I became a Histology Technician, Lab assistant, Medical Assistant, Ortho Technician, and then finally at age 40, a Physician Assistant. I love my job as a PA and could not have chosen a more fulfilling career. If I were to choose my favorite part of the job, it would have to be the patients. I love getting to know them, learning their challenges, and then facilitating an improvement in their health and the quality of their lives.
You’re known for your pleasant and warm "bedside manner," how do you manage to work long hours and see so many patients and yet never lose your smile?
I genuinely love people. Some days can be especially challenging, but I do understand that we are all just people and some days we have more needs than others, and if something as small as a smile makes a difference, then I will smile.
What are some of the challenges healthcare professionals face today?
For me, the greatest challenge is to provide the best medicine I can, while making sure that I have fulfilled all of the requirements set forth by their insurance companies. It is, at best, difficult to make everything occur in a timely fashion, and that each and every person gets everything they need. We are held responsible to memorize who each insurance company is contracted with, which specialists, laboratory, and X-ray providers, and which hospital they will pay for. This is aside from knowing medicine.
What excites you most about the medical field? (i.e. new treatment techniques, healthcare improvements, etc...)
What excites me most is that technology continues to advance in the healthcare field. We are still developing new tests, new medicines, and more personalized care for each health related problem. People are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives than ever before.
What are some of the biggest changes in medicine today?
Unfortunately, the biggest changes in medicine are those brought on by the government. I am not a proponent of socialized medicine and it appears that is where we are headed with Affordable Care Act (ACA). I do believe that everyone deserves good healthcare, but I don’t think ACA is the answer. We need to eliminate all of the medical management and just let doctors do their job. Decision-making, once in the hands of the physician is now debated among the people managing our healthcare organizations. (There are) too many fingers in the pie of our healthcare dollars, driving deductibles, co-payments and costs up. I fear there will come a time (when) we will no longer be able to provide individualized healthcare to those people who entrust us to do so. Who really loses here is the patient.
What do you enjoy most about working in Oakdale?
I love the people here. I am very lucky to work with an excellent staff, three of the most caring, compassionate and knowledgeable doctors in the valley, (Dr.’s Horwitz, Gelders and Blackhart) and the best patients in the state. This is a very warm and caring community, and I have been blessed to be a part of it.
When you go home at night after a long day at the office, what kind of day gives you the biggest sense of satisfaction?
Satisfaction is gained from doing your very best each day. The real reward, however, is when you have helped make a difference in someone’s life.
What advice would you give to young students interested in pursuing a career in medicine, such as yours?
Enter with caution. Make sure that your heart is in the right place. If your personality is not of a helping nature, this is probably not the job for you.
Pam Thornberry, PA, practices with the Oakdale Family Medicine Group. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 209-848-1005.