October celebrated National Physician Assistant (PA) Week, and Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics is proud to spotlight PA Christopher Wheeler for his 26 years of service. When asked about his milestone, Wheeler smiled, thinking about all the noted changes he’s seen over the years, both personally and professionally.
Access has grown significantly over the past 26 years, with multiple offices, a surgery center, MRIs, and physical therapy services. Wheeler has been an integral part of that growth, and he spoke highly of the organization. “Access has always been a leader and an important part of the orthopedic landscape in the Seacoast, and is well positioned to continue in that role.”
There have been many changes to the healthcare industry since starting with Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics (which was then Exeter Orthopaedics), specifically in the role PAs have in healthcare delivery. He also reflected on the changes in the role healthcare industry since he first started as a PA. “When I first started, PAs were not quite as mainstream as maybe they are now, or as recognized as healthcare providers are now,” he said. “Thanks to the support from the doctors at Access Sports Medicine, patients in the clinic and operating room are just as comfortable seeing a mid-level provider as they are any provider.”
Wheeler always knew he wanted to work in healthcare. Even as a young child, he was fascinated by the human body and its inner workings. But he found his calling when he discovered the role of a PA and the impact one can have on patient care.
“I liked the idea of focusing on medicine and the potential to work in a variety of specialties,” Wheeler said. “Work-life balance has always been important to me and my family, and I knew that being a PA provided a lot of flexibility.”
After completing his training at Emory University in Atlanta, Wheeler began working in an internal medicine practice. It wasn’t until he made the switch to sports medicine that he found his true passion.
Playing a Role in Getting People “Back in the Game”
For Wheeler, there is no greater feeling than having a direct impact on someone’s care and seeing the positive results by developing personalized care for his patients. “Orthopedics and patient care are not one-size-fits-all,” Wheeler said. “Helping patients to return to their favorite activities keeps me motivated. When I’ve helped someone from a clinical perspective, through therapy or surgery, to post-operative care, to returning to activity levels…it’s satisfying, they’re happy, they’re grateful, and that, to me, is important.”
But it’s not just the patients who make Wheeler’s job fulfilling. It’s the staff as well. Throughout his 26-year tenure, he has grown close to many of his colleagues.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of different staff members, and there are some that I have grown up with,” he said. “Our families have grown, our kids have grown up together. I know that when I come to work, I have people I can count on, and they can count on me.”
Serving as the Northeast Regional Director of PAOS
For over 16 years, Wheeler has been serving the Physician Assistants in Orthopaedic Surgery Organization (PAOS) as the Northeast Regional Director. As a liaison between PAs and their practices, Wheeler offers guidance on contracts, job positions, and education options. He also fosters communication within the PA community, making himself a valuable resource for state organizations and practice managers seeking information about PAs.
With his commitment to serving the Seacoast, Wheeler’s role extends beyond advice and communication—he is an indispensable advocate and resource for PAs here in NH and throughout the Northeast. He provides work-based learning opportunities for students in the area, facilitates shadowing experiences for aspiring PAs, provides insight on salaries, and assists with integrating PAs into various practices.
As Wheeler looks ahead, he sees continued growth and success for Access. He is eager to see how the sector will evolve, particularly with the advancements in technology and treatment methods. He feels privileged to be a part of this dynamic field and looks forward to continuing to serve his patients.
“It’s great to be part of a team that is constantly evolving and advancing,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be part of the next steps as we continue to provide exceptional care for our patients.”
His advice to those considering a career as a physician assistant? “Stay curious, stay focused, stay passionate, and most importantly, never forget the importance of patient care.”
His dedication and commitment to the profession are a testament to his passion for healthcare. As we celebrate PA Week, we honor the invaluable contributions of PA Christopher Wheeler and all PAs in the healthcare industry. Here’s to another 26 successful years!
For more information about Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics, or to schedule an appointment, visit us at our website.