Just one month after marking National Physician Assistants week, a group of 345 Physician Assistants (PAs) at Montefiore Medical Center’s Weiler and Moses campuses voted to join 1199 in November. All the PAs in the Montefiore are now part of the Union family. At the beginning of 2022, the Union welcomed another group of PAs at New York Presbyterian’s Methodist Hospital. As more and more PAs come into the fold, 1199 Magazine caught up with some of them to learn about their valuable contribution to the healthcare system.
1. Magalie Fonvil who has worked as a PA in radiology at Montefiore Medical Center’s Moses Campus for 18 years, is one of the leaders behind 1199’s new organizing campaign there. She first decided to enter the medical field when a family member became ill. “I felt helpless,” she said, “I wanted to learn more about how I could help them. “People don’t really know what we do. They think we assist the doctor. But we are patient advocates, we organize treatment and much more. We do a lot because we are trained to be in every department in the hospital.”
“People don’t really know what we do. They think we assist the doctor. But we are patient advocates, we organize treatment and much more.”
– Magalie Fonvil
2. Stephen Gamberg, came to New YorkPresbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital seven years ago from Brookdale Hospital. “I really love working at Methodist. We have a good relationship with the attendings, they treat us as independent providers. I am able to practice to the full extent of my license. There is a lot of longevity here because we are treated well. It is important to trust your advanced practice providers like Nurse Practitioners and PAs. We are generally more accessible than doctors.”
3. Nabila Al Barghouthy works in pain management and neuropsychology at Montefiore’s Wakefield campus. She started her Physician Assistant career working in internal medicine at the Moses campus nearly 25 years ago.
“I’m good with patients and I wanted to grow professionally and branch out into outpatient care,” said Al Barghouthy, “PAs are not confined to one specialty, there are so many clinical opportunities.
“Another factor that drew me to the Wakefield campus four years ago was being part of the union. Economically I am much better off with the 1199 health plan. I like the fact that there are no premiums.”
4. Emmanuel Bujans was another one of the leaders of the recent new organizing campaign at Montefiore's Moses campus.
His drive to form a union with 1199 began during the Covid pandemic. “A lot of things were thrown at us and we just had to manage it. Management were not as supportive as they should have been,” he remembers, “We had more than 500 Covid patients here.
They were sent to us from everywhere in the Montefiore network. The whole hospital was turned over to Covid care. “We deserve the free healthcare to take care of ourselves and our family.
We are like family here and we wanted to take care of each other. There are people who have been here for 20-30 years, who deserve a pension to fall back on when they retire after all those years of service. Also, we want to have the kind of benefits that help retain staff.
“As PAs we are here to make sure the treatment plan from the Attending Physicians is implemented. We are the glue the binds the whole thing together.”
“I wanted to work in medicine since I was a kid. It makes me happy to treat people,” said Mirza Roni, another newly organized 1199er at the Moses campus.
“As Physician Assistants we have a lot more flexibility than doctors. If you want to switch from internal medicine to cardiology, for example, you do not go through a lengthy fellowship process. My wife is a nurse. She used to be a secretary at this hospital and was an 1199 member, so I know what the benefits mean.”
5. “Physician Assistants wear a lot of hats,” said Faith Schwartz, (left) who started her career at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx and now works at Methodist.
She now divides time between FastTrack, which is like an urgent care inside the hospital, and the emergency room. “PAs are the workhorses of the ER. We keep everything flowing.
“We went through a lot of highs and lows during the height of the Covid pandemic. There came a point where FastTrack was almost empty. Only the very sick would come into the hospital,” said Schwartz, adding that she leaned on friends and took long walks to deal with the stress.
5. Darlene Anderson, (right) who has been a PA at Methodist Hospital for ten years, said: “It is very busy here. We do non-stop triage, so it is often hard to sit down and have a break.”
She recalls the trucks outside the hospital during the pandemic, but adds, “We had good staff camaraderie. We were all going through the same thing, so we would console each other.”
Anderson welcomed the Union vote for PAs at Methodist last year, saying: “I just signed my 8 and 9-year-olds up for 1199 summer camp. I was also able to keep all the same doctors on our new 1199 health plan.”