Maritha Trass, PA-C

Maritha Trass, PA-C, feels she was meant to be a PA. “I knew I was where I should be when I had the privilege of being certified as a prisoner of war examiner. I heard multiple times ‘I never told anybody what I am telling you.’ I listened to their stories while I did thorough histories and exams. Even though it was the only time I ever met them, we connected.”

Trass has been a PA for over 30 years, working in multiple areas. She was an internist in the Bureau of Prisons, in family practice and in a women’s health clinic before joining the Veterans Administration in 1995.

She found out later that it was her experience in women’s health that caught their attention. Trass was doing compensation and pension assessments for vets but was assigned two half days a week to a women’s clinic, where she later became the coordinator.

“It was a time when the number of women veterans was increasing, and we realized a need not only for gynecological care but for comprehensive care beyond pap smears and breast exams,” she said.

Trass became the driving force in planning, developing, securing funding, and gaining suitable space to start the Dayton VAMC's Women Veterans Clinic.

In 2008, the government mandated that all VAs have a full-time program manager for women’s needs. Trass was offered the job and had to decide whether to assume a full-time administrative position, seeing patients only one half day a week.

“I struggled with the decision, but it was right thing to do,” she says. “Although much was mandated from Washington D.C., we had to network and engage local leadership to make things happen at a local level. I knew I did not have power singularly and could increase it exponentially through connecting with others.”

Trass met with the chief of surgery and garnered her support. Together they started building a case, negotiating and putting together a proposal to get clinic space. Today 5,000 square feet of space is dedicated to the health of women at Dayton VAMC, and much has changed because of it.

Impact

“We now offer mental health support services for women, a women’s trauma group, programs on sexual health and an integrative restoration program offering offsite yoga and meditation to help those with pain and depression,” says Trass. “We also have a gynecologist on staff for the first time and are trying to get approval to add mammography on station.”

Trass also educates VA employees about women vets, as they are sometimes overlooked as staff will speak to their male partner, assuming he is the veteran. Trass is dedicated to changing that culture. “I speak at new employee orientation and always explain that the definition of veteran has not changed, but who the veteran is has changed.”

Says Trass: “I am by nature someone who wants to help. I wasn’t looking for this role, but I saw a need and wanted to fill it. We were fragmented in our care for women vets, and with our comprehensive approach women now have comparable care to our male veterans.

According to retired PA Craig Ankeney who worked with her for many years, Trass stood up to an administration that resisted attempts to get multi-level care for women vets.

“It was only through Maritha’s determination, persistence, national networking and an administration education initiative that the Dayton VAMC opened a comprehensive care clinic for women veterans only,” says Ankeney. “With that success, she was given the administrative duties and a leadership role in the women’s health comprehensive clinic. She is an outstanding PA who has dedicated her life to a group of veterans with unique needs who were previously ignored in the manly world of military service.”