Barbara Slusher, MSW, PA-C, describes herself as “eclectic,” a term that encompasses the varied personal and professional experiences she brings to her role as the new president of the ARP. Ms. Slusher holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and studied to become a physician assistant at the University of North Texas, Fort Worth. She has developed curricula and taught courses, held positions in multiple medical specialties and is now an advanced practice provider supervisor at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Galveston and League City, Texas.
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Ms. Slusher will bring her varied experiences to bear as she heads the ARP this year and looks forward to focusing on volunteers, nurturing the relationship between the Rheumatology Research Foundation and the ARP, building more integrated healthcare teams and encouraging a holistic approach to healthcare. She took a few moments from her busy schedule to provide some insight into her perspectives, as well as her goals for the organization.
The Rheumatologist (TR): You started out your career in social work. What was your focus?
Ms. Slusher: My background is in substance abuse, and I worked with patients in a methadone maintenance clinic in Baltimore. That was back when we didn’t even know what human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was, so that was an interesting time to work in substance abuse disorders.
From there, I moved to Texas to start medical school, but I ended up getting married instead and started working in an obstetrics and gynecology unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston. I stayed there for several years, then moved to the employee assistance program, where I counseled employees on things like anger management and stress management. That job also introduced me to, and got me interested in, adult education.
TR: Once you became a physician assistant (PA), where did your career take you?
Ms. Slusher: I got a job offer to be a PA in interventional radiology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and I took it. I didn’t even know what interventional radiology was at the time I accepted the job, but I was soon very grateful to have that opportunity because it gave me wide exposure to different types of cancers and a broad patient base, from adult men and women to the pediatric population.
Once I had my son, I decided to take a job that was closer to home and ended up as a PA in allergy and asthma, which also allowed me to work with every age, from infants all the way up to geriatric patients. I really enjoyed that experience, too.