Donald Clark, PA-C, makes access to comprehensive medical care convenient for his aging patients and extends care to underserved communities in metro Detroit and in Central and South America. In 2004, after working for several years in cardiology, urgent care and in primary care practices, he established his own internal medicine clinic in Garden City, Michigan, a state where Certified PAs can own their practice. There, he provides centralized access to care to patients, most of whom he’s treated for almost three decades.
Clark, who partners with two collaborating physicians, manages patients holistically. Treatment plans tap into patients’ emotional, physical and spiritual well-being as well as social determinants such as access to transportation, mobility, finances and housing. He even likes to involve family members to take a team approach to solving patients’ medical issues. Since most of his patients have complex, debilitating medical problems and are over the age of 50, he has expanded from onsite primary care to offering extended services. This includes ongoing homecare, hospital, nursing home and sub-acute rehabilitation center rounds. He follows patients from outpatient to inpatient admission and coordinates access to physical and occupational therapists, dieticians, mental health providers and social workers. He also offers some diagnostic imaging to ensure patients have easier access to testing, specialists and comprehensive healthcare. Beyond interfacing with patients, Clark devotes time and resources to research emerging standards of care to remain professionally adept and administer evidence-based medicine.
“I love assisting patients and their families as they maintain health in their good times and comfort them when they face their most difficult health problems,” he said. “Finding feasible and compassionate medical options is why I love being a Certified PA.”
Throughout several medical missions to Costa Rica and Ecuador, the fluent Spanish-speaker has brought patient-centered care to people with little to no access to health services. During these one- to two-week missions, he may treat indigenous people sequestered in the mountains or convent-bound Catholic nuns suffering from diabetes, hypertension or other chronic medical conditions.
Providing medical care to vulnerable communities outside the United States has influenced Clark’s approach to treating patients stateside. “There are parallels in underserved and aging patient populations. They both need a compassionate and loving touch as well as convenient, affordable access to care,” he said.
Clark began engraving his legacy as the first PA to work at two Beaumont Hospitals in the greater Detroit area and passes gems of wisdom to future PAs and nurse practitioners working under his wing. As a clinical preceptor, he encourages students to work in multiple clinical settings, under different preceptors and to learn a variety of specialties.
Kristen Gittins, PA-C, a former student, said: “From a short six-week rotation I had with him I observed that he quickly gains patients’ trust through his caring nature and patience. He’s made a terrific impact on me to provide the best possible care to patients and strive to be a constant learner. I think that’s the best gift a preceptor could give.”
NCCPA salutes Donald Clark, PA-C, for being an inspiring preceptor, and exemplifying how far PAs can spread value-based, quality healthcare to people of all backgrounds, ages and socioeconomic statuses.