Touro Graduate Named Physician Assistant of the Year at Mount Sinai

Phillip Maxwell, Class of 2013, Credits Touro’s School of Health Sciences

July 22, 2016
Phillip Maxwell, SHS Class of 2013, Physician Assistant Program, Bay Shore

It was Physician Assistant (PA) Phillip Maxwell’s first Christmas shift at Elmhurst Hospital Center. A patient arrived at the emergency room—a young man who had fainted. While the patient had a clean medical history, Maxwell saw something troubling in his EKG.  

Despite the holiday and the patient’s desire to return home, Maxwell insisted the man stay for observation. His instincts proved correct: doctors later discovered that the patient suffered from Brugada Syndrome — a fairly rare, but potentially lethal sodium channel disorder in the membrane of the heart. Weeks later, Maxwell received a hand-written thank-you card from the man in his mailbox. 

“I will keep [the card] with me as long as I live,” stated Maxwell, 29. “It’s a reminder that people in the emergency room are at their most vulnerable. They are looking for comfort and solace. Being a compassionate person—that’s the price of admission to work in the medical field.”

For his work, Maxwell (PA Program, Bay Shore, 2013) was awarded the Physician Assistant of the Year award from the hospital, an affiliate of the Mount Sinai Health System. Only one award is given out per year to a physician assistant at the hospital.

It is an especially prestigious honor for someone who once doubted he could make it in the medical profession. While always interested in the field, Maxwell began his career as a laboratory technician. Feeling unfulfilled, he decided to shadow his primary care provider, PA Mary Flanagan. Flanagan, who is also the Associate Director of the Physician Assistant Program at Touro’s School of Health Sciences, recommended he think about becoming a PA. He applied to Touro and was accepted in 2011.  

Maxwell describes the first-semester course load of 22 credits as “drinking out of a fire hydrant.” He credits the relationships he developed with his classmates in enabling him to persevere.  

“My class was a tremendous catalyst to my success,” he said. “These people are going through the journey with you. The work is very, very difficult, but a supportive class makes a huge difference. I became lifelong friends with my fellow students.”

Maxwell also praised the professors he had at Touro, many of whom, like Flanagan, are practicing physician assistants themselves.

“The professors were wonderful,” he stated. “They weren’t just adjunct professors, these were actual physician assistants working in the field. They knew exactly what you would see on the certification exam and what you would see as a practicing clinician.”

Flanagan said Maxwell’s talents in the field were easily apparent.

“Phillip has an uncanny ability to process a wealth of information and extract the most crucial details,” she said. “It is this talent along with his care for patients (beyond the 9-5) that make him such an outstanding PA.”

After his graduation, Maxwell received an offer to work at the emergency medicine department of Elmhurst Hospital Center where he spent part of his rotation. After six months on the job, he knew he had made the right decision.

“I developed my rhythm and I could approach patients and put them at ease,” said Maxwell. “I felt true to my role.”

His colleagues surprised him with the award during a residents’ graduation ceremony by the Boat Basin in Central Park this past June. This summer, Maxwell will take the next step of his career as a PA with Florida Emergency Physicians.

His advice to prospective students?

“Without this career I couldn’t be able to chase a dream to move to Orlando and live where I’ve always wanted to live,” he concluded. “We are the number one job in America and we have such a high job placement — becoming a PA allows you have the world at your fingertips.”