Roberta (Berta) Garvey, PA-C

When Berta Garvey, PA-C relocated in February 2017, she left part of her heart and a legacy of healthier living behind in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Her former colleagues there say Garvey’s brand of medicine extended beyond the walls of the Cascades East Family Medicine Clinic. As an advocate for “wellcare,” a locally-coined reference to healthcare, she promoted healthier living strategies for the rural, medically underserved town of Klamath Falls. The small timber community, home to less than 25,000 people, has a fair number of primary care providers but faces shortages of specialty providers.

With only a small network of specialty medical professionals, those working in primary care render care within their expertise and use alternative methods, such as telemedicine, to connect patients with other providers when needed. A North Dakota native, Garvey had seen primary care practitioners “go above and beyond for their patients” and wanted to provide that type of patient experience herself. She broke barriers as the first PA to become involved in the clinic’s residency program and followed it up by becoming the resident expert on the treatment of Hepatitis C. During her tenure, she also worked as one of four daily medical providers in the practice while residents and faculty doctors rotated in and out of the clinic.

“I wanted to work in primary care in a rural area, and Klamath Falls was a great fit for me,” she said. “The scope of practice is broader in a rural setting, which I find more exciting. As a PA, I was a big part of a small community.”

Impact

As a family medicine PA, she promoted preventative care and treated patients with life threatening medical issues ranging from the acute to the chronic. After work, she traded her white coat for wheels in weekly bicycle rides, an initiative she led in support of the Blue Zones Project, a movement dedicated to promoting a citywide cultural shift to healthier living. She’s also been involved in the residency programs’ campaigns to support community well-being, including a dog-walking initiative to encourage fun physical activity.

Garvey also sowed seeds to replenish primary care providers in the area. She hosted and interviewed residency candidates and worked alongside residents showcasing a Certified PA’s range of capabilities. She is credited for creating a warm, social environment for residents, which encouraged many graduates to remain and work in the community. As a result, more people are getting the care they need.

“Berta worked with residents daily, which helped them understand, by experience, the capabilities of a PA and fully appreciate the integrative team approach to medicine even after graduation,” said friend and former colleague Brooke Smith, PA-C. “She has been an asset to our community and the PA profession.”

In February, Garvey moved to Mount Shasta, California to be closer to family. That area – with an even greater need for medical providers than Klamath Falls – allows her to continue practicing in rural health. At the Shasta Family Clinic, she said she’ll continue to bring her brand of “wellcare” to the clinic, which serves a city of less than 5,000 people.

Beyond Garvey’s medical qualifications, Smith said she thinks her former colleague’s welcoming personality will aid in her transition. “If you got the chance to meet her, you’d like her,” she said.