GAPA Recognizes 2012 Physician Assistant Service Award Winners

The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) presented the 2012 GAPA awards for leadership and outstanding service on July 10 at its 37th Annual Summer CME Conference and Exhibition in Sandestin, FL.

Online PR News – 19-July-2012 – July 17, 2012 Atlanta, GA – Atlanta, GA, July 17, 2012 - The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) presented the 2012 GAPA awards for leadership and outstanding service on July 10 at its 37th Annual Summer CME Conference and Exhibition in Sandestin, FL. The Association bestowed its top awards to Georgia Physician Assistants (PAs) from Atlanta, Augusta, Cumming, Marietta, Valdosta and Washington, as well as to two Georgia physicians. The group also granted a scholarship award to a PA family from Savannah.

“Just looking out across the room at the conference, and seeing hundreds of PAs who demonstrate the utmost dedication and commitment to their patients, makes me grateful to be involved in this profession,” said Mary Vacala, ATC, PA-C, MSPAS, DFAAPA, and GAPA 2011-12 president. “Having the honor of recognizing those who represent the highest level of service in the PA profession, as well as the most distinguished service to their State Association, is a truly humbling experience.”

Physician Assistant of the Year – Paul Taylor, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has demonstrated exemplary service to the PA profession in Georgia and the community and has furthered the image of PAs. This Physician Assistant has also demonstrated exemplary service to GAPA. The PA of the Year has shown leadership and been a mentor to others in the State.

Paul Taylor, PA-C, was a Physician Assistant for 26 years. Having worked most recently in Atlanta at Dourron Ob/Gyn Associates, Emory Department of Neonatology and the Emory University Department of Family and Preventative Medicine, he was also involved with the Mercer University Physician Assistant Program. Taylor completed the Physician Assistant program in 1986 at the Medical College of Georgia and was scheduled to complete his master’s degree in Medicine at the University Of Nebraska Medical Center this December. Sadly, GAPA’s 2012 Physician Assistant of the Year died on April 30, 2012 following a cycling accident.

Taylor received many honors in his career, including Clinical Teacher of the Year from Emory University, Continence Care Champion of the Year from the National Association for Continence; as well as becoming the Clinical Preceptor for the Mercer University PA Program. He was also a published author and an experienced speaker.

In a lifelong dedication of service to others, Taylor participated in mission expeditions to Honduras and Sierra Leone to provide medicines and clinical care to the impoverished and indigent. He was also an active leader at his beloved Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Decatur. GAPA’s 2012 Physician Assistant of the Year was also an avid sportsman, tri-athlete and marathoner. Due to his untimely death earlier this year, his wife, Barbara, accepted the award on his behalf.

Distinguished Service Award – Ben Taylor, PhD, PA-C and Christy Wilson, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has given time and effort in an exemplary manner to further the efforts of GAPA in either a committee, elected or appointed office or other area of GAPA's endeavors.

Ben Taylor, PhD, PA-C, currently works for the Peachtree Family Medical Clinic in Edgefield, SC as well as the Medical College of Georgia’s Emergency Department in Augusta, GA. He is a graduate of the Armed Forces program via the University of Oklahoma. He was the GAPA PA of the Year in 2010, the recipient of the Outstanding Instructor Award presented by the Medical College of Georgia PA class of 2000 and the recipient of “International Who’s Who for Professional Educators” for 2000 – 2001. Taylor is a GAPA past president and currently president-elect of the Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants. In accepting the award, Taylor recognized his wife and daughter for “putting up with me for all of these years.”

Christy Wilson, PA-C, works for Georgia Lung Associates in Marietta, GA as the advanced practitioner manager. She is a guest lecturer and mentor for Mercer and Emory universities and serves GAPA as the chairperson of the Student Affairs Committee. A graduate of Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA, Wilson is a fan of both the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres. She also admits she is “proud to be a south paw!”

Humanitarian of the Year – Jeri Sumitani, MMSc, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to human rights and exemplifies the PA profession's philosophy of providing accessible and quality healthcare in locations within Georgia. The recognition is based on activities that take place outside the context of the recipient’s primary employment.

Jeri Sumitani, MMSc, PA-C, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is now an Atlanta resident working for Grady Health System Infectious Disease Program as an HIV provider, as well as for Emory University’s Physician Assistant Program as director of community projects. She was the first PA to practice clinically in Japan, serving with a disaster management team after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. She also directed the South Georgia Farmworker health project – a two-week service and learning project for the Emory PA program providing care to over 1,400 seasonal and migrant farmworkers.

Sumitani is a graduate of the Emory University PA program, class of 2008. As a PA student, she received the Mary Beth Bowns Memorial Scholarship, was a Global Health Institute field scholar, was recognized in Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities, received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award and received the Professional Achievement Award. In accepting GAPA’s Humanitarian of the Year award, Sumitani recognized the faculty and students of the Emory PA Program who “have been my home away from home.”

Rural PA of the Year – Bryan Shiver, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has provided accessible, quality health care in a rural community of fewer than 10,000 people.

Bryan Shiver, PA-C, resides in Valdosta, GA and works for Pioneer Community Hospital. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia and spearheaded the mid-level role in critical access hospitals. He is also a dedicated father who enjoys being a kid himself, and loves the outdoors. In accepting the award, Shiver recognized his wife and children “for being so supportive over the years.”

Physician/PA Partnership Award – Ormonde Mahoney, MD/ Butch Dent, PA-C
This award is designed to honor a physician-PA team that exemplifies the unique relationship of trust, collegiality and mutual respect that is essential to the PA profession. This physician-PA team displays evidence of collaboration that allows both the PA and the physician to provide greater medical service to their patients and their community than either one would be able to do working alone.

Ormonde Mahoney, MD, is president of Athens Orthopedic Clinic and a joint replacement surgeon in Athens, GA. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia. In accepting the award, Mahoney recognized his partner in practice of 23 years, Butch Dent.

Fermer “Butch” Corbin Dent, PA-C, was a native of Thomson, GA and lived in Washington, GA for many years. He worked alongside Ormonde Mahoney, MD, for 23 years at the Athens Orthopedic Clinic, providing joint replacement surgery. The 1967 graduate of Thomson High School served in the US Navy during Vietnam. After graduating from the Medical College of Georgia, he became a Physician Assistant serving under Charles Wills, Jr., MD, at Wills Memorial Hospital in Washington. Dent passed away on May 27, 2012.
The Physician/PA Partnership Award award was accepted by Dent’s daughter, Amy McCord, and Jeff Chambers, PA-C, ATC.

Physician of the Year – Murphy Townsend, MD
This award is presented to a physician who has provided exemplary service to PAs in Georgia either as a mentor, preceptor and teacher or in other ways has furthered or facilitated the practice of PAs in Georgia.

Murphy Townsend, MD, currently works in Marietta for WellStar Kennestone Hospital as a partner for Urology Associates. He is also the medical staff past president for Kennestone Hospital and is the physician liaison to the Advanced Practice Professional’s (APP) Clinical Council and General Assembly. Townsend is a graduate of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and completed his urology residency at Emory University in Atlanta.

In accepting the Physician of the Year award, Townsend recognized Physician Assistants Damon Denzen, Mike Tremmell and Jeff McEver for “their major impact in our comprehensive APP program.” He commended them for their hard work, “along with the many others that have been transformative in the engagement and empowerment of the PAs at our institution.”

Townsend received Atlanta Magazine’s Top Doctor award in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and was similarly recognized by Lifestyles Magazine in 2011 and 2012. He also received the Wellstar Hospital Quality and Safety Award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He is an experienced runner – having participated in seven marathons and two half Iron-Man races.

Circle of Honor – Hank Heard, PA-C, MPAS
The Circle of Honor is a distinguished award given to someone with a proven record of involvement and achievement with GAPA. The recipient is considered a pioneer in the GAPA organization by improving service to the public, serving as a role model and mentor to PA students and representing GAPA in a positive manner.

Hank Heard, PA-C, MPAS, of Cumming, GA is employed at Emory Johns Creek Hospital in Emergency Medicine. He is a 1976 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia’s PA program, has a master of arts in military studies with a specialty in air warfare and is also a Registered Nurse.

Heard was president of GAPA from 1987 - 1990, is a past ex-officio member of the Composite State Board of Medical Examiners, was the first PA in the Air National Guard to be promoted to colonel and the only PA commander of an Air Force EMEDS (Expeditionary Medical Support) hospital in a war zone. He also received the Air National Guard PA of the Year award in 2002.

In his free time, Heard is a general aviation pilot and proud father of three daughters. In accepting this award, he recognized his wife, Patrice, who is also a Registered Nurse.

Dylan Maples Memorial Scholarship Award – Julie Thomas, PA-C
This scholarship was established in 2011, in loving memory of Dylan Maples, who was two years old when he drowned in his family’s pool in 2006. The child was the son of Lesley Maples, a GAPA member and GAPA’s 2011 Rural PA of the Year. In memory of Dylan, GAPA provides a swim safety program at the hotel pool during the Summer Conference and awards a scholarship to a Georgia PA family who has a child with a disability or severe illness.

“On June 10, 2010, McKenzie Elizabeth Thomas was born and our lives changed forever,” said scholarship recipient Julie Thomas, PA-C, of Savannah, GA. “McKenzie was born with a Kaposiform hemangioendothelioma and associated Kasabach-Merritt phenomenon in her right thigh.”

Thomas explained that the very large benign vascular tumor began consuming her daughter’s platelets and red blood cells. The infant spent 87 days in NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Savannah and at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Dozens of specialists were consulted, followed by weeks of chemotherapy, steroids and many other medications.

“Today, McKenzie is beautiful and healing well,” stated Thomas. “She is a thriving two-year-old. We still see some of the specialists that took care of her, but not nearly as many as we started with. McKenzie is an inspiration. She is a testament to how resilient children are.”

Other noteworthy events during the five-day GAPA Conference included the collection of 29 units of blood at the annual GAPA/American Red Cross Blood Drive and 100+ sign-ups for the National Bone Marrow Registry. The Association also hosted its annual Student Medical Challenge Bowl and installed the 2012-13 Board of Directors, with Tina Hood, PA-C, MPAS, taking the helm as the group’s new president.

GAPA also welcomed acclaimed author of Front of the Class, Brad Cohen, as the conference’s keynote speaker. Cohen is an award-winning educator and founder of the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that aims to help children who have Tourette Syndrome learn how to exist in the real world with others who don’t understand.

The mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants is to promote high quality, cost-effective, accessible healthcare as part of a physician-directed PA/physician team in Georgia. To learn more about how PAs make healthcare more affordable and accessible in Georgia, please visit and click on “Patients.” GAPA also offers “Find a PA,” a free searchable database for healthcare consumers with listings of Physician Assistant providers throughout the State. Learn more about GAPA’s 2012 health initiative, “Get Fit with GAPA” and the “Rx for Fitness” program at