At the VA hospital where she works as a PA in Iowa, Dr. Jasmina Salcinovic-Spahic, DMSc ‘20 bonds with her patients through shared experiences of war. During her childhood, her native Bosnia was engulfed in conflict for four years until she emigrated to the United States in 1997 as a refugee of war, along with her family. They started life over in Clarkston, Georgia. She was 15 years old and barely spoke any English.
Of her childhood experience, she says, “From an early age, I felt driven to help people through medicine. There was a definite shortage of medical professionals in Bosnia during the war.”
Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic says that in response to the current crisis with COVID-19, VA Central Iowa Health Care leadership have been trying their best to prepare. Approximately two or three weeks ago, volunteers started screening for COVID-19 (at the hospital main entrance) for everyone who enters the hospital. She added that there is only one designated entrance for both patients and employees.
She adds, “There are two huge military tents outside the hospital, ready to use for future screenings. We are getting email updates every day, several times, about COVID-19 preparations. In the hematology-oncology department where I currently work, since most of our patients are immunocompromised, they are given a mask at the check-in area, and our medical staff wear masks, face masks with eye shields, or goggles.” At this time, If any patients are presumed to be positive for COVID-19, they are referred to the ER for testing. As the number of confirmed cases in Iowa rises, the process of testing will likely change, she added. In addition, all non-emergent outpatient visits are being rescheduled as telehealth/iPad/home visits, to protect patients from potential exposure to COVID-19.
On her decision to take a career path as a PA, Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic says that as a young person in Georgia, she worked as a pharmacy tech. A physician introduced her to the PA program at Emory University. She says, “I was intrigued, I checked it out, applied, and became the only student from Bosnia enrolled in Emory’s program at that time.”
Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic moved to Iowa 11 years ago, the home state of her husband. For the past seven years, she has worked at VA Central Iowa Health Care System, with many veterans and says she is always willing to share her personal experiences with them. Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic and her patients form natural bonds. “They are the best patients. They are wonderful, but try to downplay their problems. I love listening to them and getting to know them as people. They inspire and motivate me to work even harder.”
Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic completed her DMSc at the University of Lynchburg in April 2020. Of her experience in the program, she says, “the DMSc was an excellent experience for me, giving me an opportunity to advance my knowledge in medical hematology-oncology, healthcare policy, system processes, and reinvigorated my love of writing.” She is now driven to publish in journals and loves the community formed with her faculty and fellow DMSc students. Just prior to beginning Lynchburg’s DMSc program, Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic completed her MHA in December 2018 at Des Moines University, all while working full-time and being mom to two small children. “I actually cannot believe that I did it all. There is just so much time in the day, and time goes by quickly.”
Upon nearing completion of the DMSc, she was promoted at her hospital, and says she has also been accepted onto a new VA Board for PAs, which will provide oversight into administrative practices across VA hospitals. In addition, American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) awarded her with the “Distinguished Fellow” award (DFAAPA).Only 2% of all AAPA members in the country are honored with “DFAAPA” designations.Says Dr. Salcinovic-Spahic, “I would recommend the program to all PAs who have a passion for professional development and advocating for the PA profession.”