Katharine Breaux, PA-C

The storied 40-year career of Katharine Breaux, PA-C, has been dedicated to managing the care of veterans. At the Houston VA, she is the longest-serving PA, overseeing a panel of about 130 HIV-infected patients, many of whom she has treated for over 25 years.

Breaux is the HIV coordinator for the infectious diseases (ID)/HIV clinic where she is the liaison between patients, ID providers, ID trainees, VA staff and administration, and outside agencies, including the City of Houston and the CDC. In addition to her clinical responsibilities, she has participated in several research projects, including pharmaceutical-sponsored protocols that led to the approval of several antiretrovirals used today. In the last few years, Breaux has assumed greater responsibilities within the clinic. She coordinates the Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy program (OPAT), a therapy program that allows patients to return home more quickly while providing substantial cost savings to the clinic, and the HIV Telehealth program with an assigned physician. She also assists in the care of Hepatitis-C infected patients.

In the community, Breaux promotes outreach programs that educate patients and the public on the status of the HIV epidemic and the treatment of HIV. She obtains VA support for HIV-related outreach programs, including supporting the City of Houston’s homeless programs, and leads efforts for field HIV testing days during National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day. During these events, she prepares collateral and coordinates the work of the many volunteers needed to execute goals for these events.

Outside the clinic, Breaux shares what she’s learned with others, giving more than 40 presentations at healthcare conferences throughout her career. She’s served as an editor for the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (JAAPA) and a member of the Clinical and Scientific Affairs Council of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Additionally, she led a high-profile engagement as moderator and lecturer for the VA’s Physician Assistants Annual Conference in 2016.

Breaux’s approach to patient care is to remain personable, available and to listen. For her, the transaction between patient and provider is symbiotic and begins the moment she first meets a patient.

“I think that a visit with a patient begins when you call them from the waiting room,” she said. “You can tell if they have a limp, if they smile when you call them or if they appear depressed or if they’re carrying a backpack because they’re homeless. The right observations and questions lead to better problem solving.”

Throughout her career, she has witnessed the evolution of HIV and its impact on patients. A disease that was once considered hopeless is now manageable, and many of her patients are on newer classes of drugs that are more effective and improve quality of life. She cites that many can return to work or go to school, and their relationships significantly improve with friends and family.

“Her patients respect her clinical skills and love her caring personality,” said Dr. Maria C. Rodriguez-Barradas. “She is the one person that all of our patients can recognize and is the person other clinicians will turn to for questions or guidance related to HIV care or ID issues.”

In addition to patient care, Breaux directs her attention to interns and college students too. Many who have rotated through the clinic have pursued careers as PAs or nurse practitioners, sought her mentorship and sustained longstanding professional relationships with the seasoned veteran.

Breaux is more than a “triple threat,” excelling as a clinician, mentor, administrator, and researcher. Because she’s intently committed to fulfilling those roles, it may be a while before another PA-C surpasses her tenure.