Abby Jacobson, PA-C

When physicians prepare for a pharmaceutical presentation or gather information to initiate a research study, they look to Abby Jacobson, PA-C, for her expertise. As the only Certified PA on a team of three physicians and two pharmacists, Jacobson exemplifies why PAs are critical components in today’s team-based healthcare model.

Jacobson showcases that “PAs know their stuff” in her role as a medical science liaison (MSL), a position typically occupied by physicians, PhDs or pharmacists. She works in the medical affairs department of a pharmaceutical company where she provides medical expertise to physician thought leaders, presents scientific data on drug study design and results to physicians, PAs and NPs, and facilitates investigator-initiated research.

Before pivoting to medical research, Jacobson spent 15 years working in dermatology at a private practice. “There’s so much of my job I could not do without the clinical background,” she said. “Without the experience I wouldn’t be able to advise world-renowned physician leaders, prepare speakers at conferences to make sure they understand all content of presentations or teach information to experts.”

She currently co-chairs a committee for the National Eczema Association and has past leadership experience serving on medical boards. She was the first PA on the medical board of the National Psoriasis Foundation, president of the Society of Dermatology PAs, and a director and House of Delegates representative for the Pennsylvania Society of PAs.

While engaged in leadership roles shaping PA practice, she’s also been deeply committed to nurturing the next generation of PAs. For about 13 years, she’s served as a guest lecturer and preceptor for multiple PA programs including her most recent appointment at the Thomas Jefferson University PA program in Philadelphia. There, she encourages students to think beyond the classroom and fill roles that showcase what PAs can do with their advanced education.

“The best promotion of the profession is to take care of patients and encourage leadership,” she said. “Seeing PAs in leadership roles made an impact on me as a student and early on in my career. I want to do the same for students and encourage them to broaden their skill sets. They can serve on university committees, medical boards and write grant proposals. I want to make them think outside their profession.”

Her career trajectory underscores the elasticity of the profession. Now, as an MSL, she’s demonstrating that PAs can bring advanced scientific and academic credentials to physicians and researchers working to ensure medications are safe and utilized effectively.

“Every day she shows that PAs have roles in all aspects of healthcare and fosters their leadership ambition,” said colleague Archana M. Sangha, MMS, PA-C. “Abby believes deeply in helping create future leaders. She is so enthusiastic about the PA profession that it’s contagious. She is the reason I am in PA leadership today.”

For her accomplishments, Jacobson received a 2015 Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Dermatology PAs, which recognizes leadership and significant contributions to strengthen the PA dermatology profession. But there are a few more ambitious items to tackle on her bucket list. She’s currently pursuing a PhD in health services with a leadership focus and plans to expand her involvement in patient advocacy groups. And every new leap gets more satisfying, she said.

“I really love being a Certified PA and our profession,” Jacobson said. “I’m proud of the role PAs can fill that aren’t related to direct patient care and want to see those opportunities continue to grow.”