Tina M. Kaufman, PhD, PA-C

Tina Kaufman, Alumna Physician Assistant
“It really has to be about something bigger than yourself, I think, to be able to come out the other end of your career saying ‘You know what? This was really fulfilling.

Assistant Professor, Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)
Graduate School: PA-C, UT Southwestern, 1996

Blazing a Trail at Parkland

Tina, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Humboldt State and is certified as a personal trainer, received her PhD in Physiology and completed two postdoctoral fellowships—in Pediatric Cardiology and in Surgery—at UT Southwestern. After completing her postdoctoral studies, Tina realized she wanted more direct patient contact in her career, so in 1996, she was the first physician assistant (PA) hired in the Parkland Center for Internal Medicine (PCIM) clinic.

“Early on,” she recalls, “I wasn’t sure of my role and they weren’t sure what to do with me.” Tina admits, “It was kind of nice that I was able to create my position, essentially teach them how to use a PA.”

The “Not Sure” Didn’t Last

“As time went on,” says Tina, “I started adding more and more to what I did.” She not only saw her own patients as a primary care provider at Parkland, but also worked with residents to co-manage patients, and did clinical pre-operative risk evaluations. Additionally, she taught PCIM residents how to effectively perform motivational counseling, especially involving exercise counseling, and how to perform joint injection procedures.

Not Only That

While at Parkland, Tina also helped run the Smoking Cessation Clinic, developed a Chronic Pain Clinic to help residents manage chronic pain patients, worked with nurse practitioners to increase the educational infrastructure for physicians, trained and assisted residents with the Electronic Medical Record, and lectured for the PA Program on topics ranging from physiology to diet and nutrition.

“Best Ever”

“Parkland, as part of an academic medical center, is the best choice ever. I couldn’t have picked a better place to work and learn."

In Her New Digs

This past June, Tina relocated to Portland, Oregon to begin her new job in cardiology at OHSU. “My focus,” she says, “is on preventive cardiology—managing blood pressure lipids, and most importantly, lifestyle modifications like weight loss, exercise counseling, smoking cessation, and nutrition.” She works with both those who have heart disease (secondary prevention) and with those patients who have multiple risks, but no known heart disease (primary prevention).

Multi-tasking as ever, Tina adds, “I am also working 25 percent of the time in the cardiac rehabilitation program, in both a supervisory and clinical capacity. This job will evolve just like my job at Parkland evolved.”

From the Blogosphere

Tina started a blog back in 2009, called Rethinking Normal, which she describes as “my attempt to inspire me to write that book of memoirs I've been thinking about all my life … mostly for my daughters, nieces, and nephews as a window into growing up with a bipolar parent, my mother. There is so much shame and secrecy associated with that, I decided to “break the silence.” However, the blog has morphed to include stories about growing up with congenital heart disease, as I did.”

Speaking of Writing

Early in 2010, Tina had a book published (co-authored with Ticiano Alegre, MD) entitled, Yes/No Medical Spanish, which she says is intended to “teach students how to take a good history, outlined in terms that students are taught to ask.” Better still, she explains, “The book is written in such a way that 80-90 percent of questions can be answered with a yes, a no, a number, or a date.”

A Different Perspective

Tina says, “Being a role model for my patients is extremely important to me. One thing that I believe makes me uniquely qualified to do this job is that I bring a different perspective—I have been a heart patient since birth, had three open-heart surgeries (at the ages of 18 months, 21, and 50 years old) so I know what it is like to be a patient.”

Tina tries her best to model what she wants from her patients—to eat healthy (she is pescatarian, one who abstains from eating all meat except fish), to manage stress (“I meditate—a lot!”), and to exercise regularly (she is an avid cyclist). “I share stories of my lifestyle habits—exercise and nutrition—with my patients so they know I'm not just a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ practitioner.”

The Last Word

“I am a life-long learner. The day you stop learning is the day you become old.”