Valley Care Clinics Physician Assistant Specializing in Family Medicine
Nancy Vanaphan, PA-C, is a Valley Care Clinics family medicine physician assistant. She practices at 5215 S. McColl Road in Edinburg. Vanaphan is an accomplished practitioner with a passion for helping families and patients of all ages. Our staff had the privilege of meeting with her to learn more about what it means to work in family medicine and the difference she is making in the lives of Rio Grande Valley residents.
RGVision: How did you become a physician assistant?
Nancy Vanaphan, PA-C: I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I received my bachelor’s in biology at the University of Houston and I received my master’s in genetics at the University of Houston. I then came to the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg and got my master’s degree in physician assistant studies.
R: What drove you to become a PA?
NV, PA-C: I wanted to be able to help patients have a better understanding of their medical conditions. I also wanted to be able to help them avoid getting confused with medical lingo by fully explaining myself and answering any questions they may have, and not allowing them to walk away from an office visit until they have completely understood their conditions and treatments. I also became a PA to discuss with patients any possible preventive measures that will help them live a healthy lifestyle.
R: What is family medicine?
NV, PA-C: Family medicine is being able to treat patients of all ages and being able to take care of numerous conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, plus giving preventive screenings. In family medicine, we also make sure that our patients are living a healthy lifestyle and treat them whenever an acute condition arises.
R: Do a lot of people have family medicine providers? What’s the importance of one?
NV, PA-C: A lot of people have a family medicine provider that will help with prevention care and provide treatments with acute illnesses. It is important to have a family medicine physician who will monitor routine checkups and their treatments for any health conditions they may have.
R: What’s the difference between seeing an MD versus a PA?
NV, PA-C: Actually, they are quite similar. A medical doctor and a physician assistant both treat patients. The method of treating patients is pretty much the same. A physician assistant is able to evaluate patients, diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications for patients just like doctors can.
R: Is it unique for a PA to have his or her own clinic like you do?
NV, PA-C: Yes, it is fairly unique. As a physician assistant, we do have a supervising physician that oversees all of our patients. But we do not need to have the supervising physician with us at all times. We are able to see patients independently at the clinic.
R: How long have you been at this location?
NV, PA-C: I have been at this location for about four years.
R: What are your favorite types of patients to treat?
NV, PA-C: All my patients are my favorite. However, compliant patients make my job even more rewarding. Compliant patients listen to my recommendations as far as taking their medications as directed, coming back for follow-ups, scheduling routine checkups and preventive screenings. Compliant patients also follow through when I recommend that they eat well and exercise to help improve their health conditions.
R: How do you persuade a patient to be more compliant? How do you deal with patients who are not compliant?
NV, PA-C: I persuade patients to be more compliant by educating them. I educate them by informing them and helping them understand the importance of why they have their diagnosis, how it can be treated, how it can be prevented, and making sure they don’t have any comorbidities that will make it worse. Once I educate patients, they will realize the importance of being more compliant.
R: What are common issues you see in the Valley?
NV, PA-C: Common issues I see here are diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Other common issues are acute conditions — for example, stomach infections, bladder infections, skin conditions, respiratory infections, common cold, pneumonia, and flu. I would like to add that a very common one right now is the flu. Since it is flu season, I highly recommend that all of our patients receive the flu vaccine as a preventive measure.
R: Do you see obstetrics patients?
NV, PA-C: I do treat obstetric patients if they are coming in with an acute condition — for example, a cold, cough, or urinary tract infection. If we diagnose they are pregnant, we then refer them to our VCC Obstetrics/Gynecology practice to monitor the pregnancy. I would like to add that we also do Pap smears and well woman exams, and, if needed, depending on their results, they will be referred out to an OB-GYN.
R: Is there an area of health care throughout your years of experience that you have become more passionate about? What do you love about medicine?
NV, PA-C: It is mostly the versatility of family medicine, which is my passion. I can treat patients of all ages, from newborns to elderly. There are always different types of conditions I see in children that one does not see in adults, which makes for a wide range of conditions that I can treat in family medicine.
R: Do you get whole families coming in?
NV, PA-C: Many of my patients are part of families. I treat the entire family, which includes the parents and their children. I also have many patients in which the elderly patient is brought in by their son/daughter, and both are my patients.
R: What do you think are the top things people need to know?
NV, PA-C: Early detection, prevention, and education. Those are the three words I live by as far as preaching to all my patients. Early detection: If we do regular screenings, annual physicals and blood work, and the results are normal, then they will be rechecked in a year. Prevention: trying to stay away from harmful habits — for example, smoking, drugs, excessive alcohol, and unhealthy foods. Education: so they understand their condition well enough to make sure it does not get worse and that if they are compliant with my recommendations, they can live a longer life.
R: Is that difficult with the health literacy levels in the Valley? Do you find yourself talking more with the children or caregivers?
NV, PA-C: I find myself talking to both children and their caregivers, depending on their age and/or medical condition. Some patients avoid being seen by us and wait until their illness is very advanced, which reflects the different levels of health literacy. I cannot stress enough the importance of educating patients and their caregivers that treatment of an illness at a beginning stage — before it worsens — can make a difference in the treatment they receive to improve their outcome.
R: Who has been influential in your life?
NV, PA-C: My mother and father. They have always been hard workers and have instilled in me their work ethic by teaching me to give it 100 percent and always make sure that I am happy in my line of work. I am grateful for my parents and all that they have taught me, especially for teaching me that work can be a place that is enjoyable even while working hard.
R: What do your patients say about you?
NV, PA-C: I hope they would say that I’m easy to talk to and I have made a difference in their health. I want my patients to feel comfortable coming to me and discussing any of their concerns. I also hope they would say that I explain to them their condition, and the importance of prevention and treatments they are receiving, in a way that they understand.
R: Tell us about some things you like to do outside of the office.
NV, PA-C: I like to practice what I preach. I like to exercise every day and I enjoy lifting weights. I also love to make healthy choices when I cook and prep meals at home.
R: Anything you want readers to know?
NV, PA-C: I want my readers to know that I am here to help in any way with their health conditions. We are always ready to receive new patients, walk-ins, and welcome patients of all ages. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The clinic also is open at 7 a.m. for lab patients.