Lessons in Launching a Team (and Career) at Primary Care Progress


There’s something invigorating about jumping in feet first instead of dipping a toe in to find out if the water feels right. Less than a month in my new position at Primary Care Progress – and about six months after building a new life in Boston – I had the pleasure of meeting a group of seven driven students at Bryant University that joined me on a parallel path of uncharted waters: launching the first-ever Primary Care Progress team at the Rhode Island PA School.

Three members of the Bryant University Primary Care Progress Team.

Meeting the Bryant University PCP Team and witnessing the concept of our Action Network come to life was a memorable experience. The students, united by a desire to make a difference in the community, bonded over a vision to build a stronger primary care system in Rhode Island. Months of planning and coordinating over the winter holidays came to fruition during a kick-off party in Providence last Thursday night. Their grace and the seamless flow of the evening had me wondering if members of the Bryant PCP team worked as event planners in their free time.

But as any PA student knows – or practicing clinician remembers – “free time” feels more like an experience they enjoyed in an alternate reality. It became clear during their presentation that the Bryant PCP Team spent any resemblance of this concept championing causes in the community. Volunteering at the Rhode Island Free Clinic and Clinica Esperanza, organizing bone marrow drives on the Bryant University campus, supporting Fresh Check Day for Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Operation Standdown Veterans 5K: I quickly realized this group of students were destined to start the Bryant University PCP Team.

Rhode Island Free Clinic CEO Marie Ghazal (left), with Robert “Jay” Amrien, Director of Bryant University’s PA Program, and Rhode Island State Rep. Patricia Morgan.

In my short time at PCP, I’ve learned that a common thread for PCP Teams across the country is the support and guidance from trailblazers throughout the process. Marie Ghazal, DNP, RN and CEO of the Rhode Island Free Clinic, and Jay Amrien, Director of Bryant University’s PA Program, are two of those leaders. Marie spoke about her 33 years of experience and Rhode Island roots that have driven her to create a nationally-recognized free clinic. Jay came to Bryant University in 2013, to create the physician assistant program after more than 20 years working as a physician assistant and Coast Guard medical officer, among many other accolades. Together, they’re instilling values of leadership, volunteerism, and the importance of strengthening relationships with patients – hallmarks of what Primary Care Progress is all about.

Coincidentally, both of our journeys have just begun. The Bryant University PCP Team’s kick-off event was the beginning of their mission to support the student-run Diabetes clinic at Clinica Esperanza and the Rhode Island Free Clinic, cultivate interest in primary care among students and build a collaborative primary care community in Rhode Island. I’m getting my sea legs under me during my first month at PCP, but I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to experience their launch event so early on. I wouldn’t change a thing – I’d dive right in and do it all over again if I could.

Tony Fontana

Tony comes to PCP after working more than seven years in communications and public affairs in Washington, D.C. As PCP's Associate Director of Marketing and Communications, he leads all strategies to support PCP’s overall mission and values through branding, messaging, and content development.

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