Ralph Rice, DHSc, PA-C, newly appointed associate dean and director of the UF COM’s School of Physician Assistant Studies, shares his vision for the school, the PA profession and life outside of work.
Why are physician assistants so important to the health care industry, especially in this time of health care reform?
We can offer quality health care under the supervision of the physician at a lower cost. During this time of great national debate, I think all providers can benefit patients by offering quality health care at a less-expensive pricetag. Obviously, it’s not about replacing physicians. The role of the PA is to work with the physicians and others as a team to provide care.
Why did you choose this profession?
There are a couple of reasons. Science has always fascinated me, and a natural progression was to go into medicine. I was drawn to the idea of helping people live a longer, more productive life. I was a lab tech at UF when there were cutbacks in grant funding for basic science, and I lost three jobs in four years. When I began to look around, I found that the PA profession really resonated with me.
How does it feel to become the dean and director of the same program that you graduated from in 1991?
I owe an awful lot to the program and to my profession. A number of years ago, when I taught here, the students gave me an inspirational plaque. “To teach is to touch a life forever, thanks for touching ours.” In a way, I am affecting more patients by teaching. By teaching future clinicians, I am helping in the care of patients I will never meet.
What is your advice to incoming PA students?
To become involved. That’s advice that I would give to anybody, not just PA students. Like I mentioned before, we’re involved in a national debate of great importance. Become involved. If you’re in favor of what we’re trying to do in health care, or opposed to it, get involved with the government agencies, get involved with your professional organizations, speak up and speak out.
What are some of your interests outside of the profession?
I love to read, I enjoy baseball, and I love my wife more than anything. She is my one true love.