Brandon Churchman, PA-C

Brandon Churchman is both a dentist and a Certified PA and plans to keep working in both fields at least for the foreseeable future.

After graduating from PA school in 2008, Churchman worked in emergency medicine for five years. During that time, he saw many patients with oral disease —in patients who visited for a dental problem and also those who were there with non-dental related emergencies.

“Particularly in rural areas where access to dental care is limited, I saw a lot of dental abscesses and overall dental neglect. It was in the ER that I first got interested in oral surgery and oral health.”

Churchman just graduated from dental school in May 2017 and has begun working three days a week in a dental clinic that works with many uninsured and underinsured patients. “I will be doing bread and butter dentistry,” he says, referring to the basics of exams, fillings and pulling teeth versus cosmetic procedures. The other two days Churchman will continue to work as a PA in the emergency department.

“The PA knowledge base is too valuable to give up,” says Churchman. “It allows me to treat dental patients holistically. Even in dental school, I was able to help avoid medical errors due to my PA background.”

For example:

  • In dental school, Motrin is often prescribed but Churchman knew to ask patients about chronic conditions such as heart failure where Motrin is contraindicated.
  • He identified a patient with AFIB during a routine dental exam and that patient went to the emergency department and had to be put on blood thinners.
  • A dental student colleague had a patient with a very high heart rate and Churchman diagnosed her with thyrotoxicosis, also known as hyperthyroidism. The patient just thought she was anxious.

So Churchman says the PA-C is too valuable to let it lapse. “The PA education and certification is generalist based. I have always felt the broader based your education, the more likely you are to diagnose a medical or dental problem that could go unnoticed. This is consistent with many professions looking to increase interprofessional education. I believe that collaboration versus islands of care improves patient outcomes.”

Will it be hard in the long term to do both? “An internal medicine physician told me you can’t do everything. I have thought about this but at this early point in my dental career, I see that it is possible to do both and that is the plan I am following.”