National Physician Assistant Week runs Oct. 6-12 and is a chance to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of these valuable professionals.
For nearly five years, Soldiers and civilians of First Army headquarters have been doing just that, as they have received exemplary service from their PA, Maj. Kelly Ann Guerra. A prior enlisted Soldier, Guerra was recognized in 2020 as a Latina Style, Inc., Distinguished Military Service Award. The honor highlights exemplary conduct and a commitment to military service by Latinas in uniform. She began her road to this accomplished medical career by studying biology at the University of California-Irvine, where she completed her nursing certification.
She is the only PA serving in the headquarters, and she oversees fellow physician assistants at the different First Army brigades.
“On a typical day, you start your morning with sick call. You see anyone who’s sick, anybody that got injured, and you check them out,” Guerra said. “Once sick call is complete, you start your appointments, which run all day. You see patients who have chronic issues, like having a follow-up with their high blood pressure, or they’ve been in physical therapy for back pain. You see how they’re doing and how we can get them back to duty.”
She also stays in regular contact with the rest of the First Army PAs.
“It’s constant communication,” Guerra said. “When we get to work together, it will either be doing a culminating exercise or when they’re doing mobilization. For example, when COVID started, we had to go and make sure our active Mobilization Force Generation Installations
were doing everything they could do to mitigate the spread and making sure that all the Soldiers were ready to deploy. And every month we have a teleconference where we talk to each other, see what we’re doing, and what help can we provide them.”
The work is all about making a difference in the lives and health of those they serve with. “We prescribe medication, we order lab work, we order X-rays and MRIs,” Guerra explained. “We do everything a physician does except we have to practice under the supervision of a physician.”
Although primarily associated with medical facilities, PAs have a wide array of career options, according to Guerra: “We can work at the White House as a medical officer. We can do broadening assignments like Army medical recruiter, which is something that I did. You can be a commander. You can also be an inspector general.”
But it’s helping fellow Soldiers that she finds most appealing. “I became a PA because I had incredible mentors while I was an enlisted medic and licensed practical nurse,” Guerra said. “They saw the potential in me to become a provider and I have always had a passion in serving Soldiers alongside them on the front lines. I worked with amazing PAs who really challenged and mentored me along the way.”
Now she is doing the mentoring. “My favorite part of being a First Army PA are the opportunities to impact the Reserve Component in preparation of their deployment,” Guerra said. “I have learned so much from working with our Enterprise partners and it makes me really proud to know what we do at First Army enables Total Force Readiness.”