Bob McMullen, EdD, PA-C
Bob McMullen, PA-C, was a paramedic when he decided to go back to school to become a PA with a desire to one day teach paramedic and PA students. He taught in the EMS training division at UT Southwestern Medical Center for four years before going into clinical practice for the next 20 years. His passion led him back to teaching in 2007. McMullen is a tireless, dedicated educator to the next generation of PAs at A.T. Still University in Mesa, AZ, where he is director of assessment. During his “spare time,” McMullen and his wife co- founded the non-profit Phoenix Allies for Community Health (PACH) Clinic, opened in 2013. PACH provides free healthcare to the community’s uninsured.
McMullen and his wife felt the calling to open the clinic due to a bill that was passed in Arizona in 2010 mandating police check immigration status with any traffic stops. During public protests of that controversial bill, he and his wife helped protestors with their medical needs (mostly heat injuries and the aftereffects of pepper spray). While assisting the protestors – many of whom were immigrants themselves -- they began developing relationships with them individually. As the protestors became comfortable with them, they began asking questions about their health, so McMullen and others started helping them “off the grid.” These patients couldn’t afford health care and feared they would be questioned by the police if they sought care at local hospitals. McMullen and PACH began providing safe healthcare at no cost to these underserved people who had none. They saw a need and stepped up and filled it.
Partnering with physician Gary Smith to form PACH, McMullen and his wife bought a house in downtown Phoenix to renovate into the clinic. They quickly outgrew it because of the large population of undocumented people and people that don’t qualify for Medicare and moved to another site two years later. McMullen recruits students, primarily PA students from A.T. Still University and pre-PA students from Arizona State University, to work in the all-volunteer clinic in return for college credit, shadowing time, and the chance to help the underserved. The clinic doesn’t use any controlled substances and has naturopathic doctors who volunteer their time using massage, acupuncture and holistic medicines to control pain.
McMullen says, “With first year PA students, I give them a chart and say go in and figure it out. Students will come out in tears after listening to patients tell their story. It teaches them to listen to the patient and ask questions. It’s often the first patient encounter of their careers, and it’s such an honor for me to be a part of this.”
PACH is funded mostly by the community, and a one-time grant of $35,000 from CVS pharmacy used to hire one employee for one year. The person they hired secured a state license allowing them to partner with Americares to receive top-tier (versus generic) prescriptions at no cost She also secured deeming for all providers with the Federal Tort Claims Act, which provides liability coverage for their volunteers.
McMullen’s passion for teaching is apparent not only at A.T. Still but also at the clinic where he encourages students to watch, participate and learn. Most of the clinic walls are white boards so they can teach both students and patients. He spends time training students in chart review with diagnosis and labs and then working through to an assessment and plan. McMullen fondly recalls the day a radiologist, who didn’t see patients and just did ultrasounds for the clinic, came to a chart review and a pre-PA student taught him how to treat diabetics and write a SOAP note.
Clinic volunteers call themselves the PACHistas. “It’s rewarding to be a part of their life-cycle of pre-PA, first-year student, graduate and then full circle to volunteer again,” says McMullen.
“He is the genuine representative of what the PA profession is by its own history: serving the underserved, extending the services of medical reach, and always doing more with less”, says colleague Josef Burwell, PA-C, himself a previous Humanitarian PA of the Year Award recipient.