Annie M. Brown-Jefferson, PA (1941 – ), a native of Awendaw, South Carolina began her health care profession as a nurse’s aide in Harlem, New York in 1960. While employed, she was fortunate to meet Daphne Domingo, Emergency Department head nurse at Harlem Hospital Center. Ms. Domingo ignited Ms. Brown-Jefferson’s decision to pursue a career in the recently introduced physician assistant profession. Ms. Brown-Jefferson found that not only was she inspired by Ms. Domingo’s confidence in her, but also by her determination to push her towards the profession. She attended Antioch College Harlem physician assistant program from 1971 to 1973.
Immediately following graduation from her PA program until her retirement in 2005, Ms. Brown-Jefferson served the patients of Harlem Hospital Center as a physician assistant in the Emergency Department. And from 2000-2005, she supervised emergency room volunteers and was a preceptor to PA students as a senior PA. Ms. Brown-Jefferson stated that the transition from PA student to physician assistant was made easier due to Dr. Kenneth Henry, Director of the PA program and of the Emergency Department at the Harlem Hospital Center. Because of Ms. Brown-Jefferson’s hard work and support of the nursing profession, she was recognized by the nursing staff of the Emergency Department at an annual Nurse’s Week Celebration at Harlem Hospital Center. With enthusiasm, she shared with the PA History Society how honored she was to receive recognition from the nursing staff at Harlem Hospital Center.
Amongst her many accomplishments, Ms. Brown-Jefferson terms her greatest triumph in the PA field as having the opportunity to educate others about the profession itself. She shared that she felt it was her keen responsibility to educate people and make them aware of the profession and how it contributed to society. Ms. Brown-Jefferson affirmed that when she completed her program in 1973, it was a fairly new career field and, as a result, allowed uncountable opportunities for discussion with others. Additional accomplishments during her career comprise of receiving the Charles P. Felton Award in 1991, a certificate of appreciation from Mayor David Dinkins, City of New York in 1993, and both the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Harlem physician assistant program and the PA of The Year Award from NYSSPA in 2005.
A personal and fond commemoration that Ms. Brown-Jefferson has includes her daughter and her desire to share her mommy’s profession with her classmates and teachers. She remembers her daughter saying “My mommy is a Physician Assistant!”, and, since it was not a familiar career at that time, she found mere excitement in sharing this with others.
To the physician assistants who follow in her footprints, she shares the following words of encouragement:
“When a patient calls you ‘Doctor’, always correct them. Take the opportunity to promote your profession while your patient is admiring your clinical skills. Most likely, the patient will leave and tell people what a great experience they had with a PA.
“As a clinician, you will meet all kinds of people, from all walks of life. They may not be people you would meet anywhere else, or even choose to associate with, but never lose your professionalism. Every patient is a patient, and worthy of your very best. Every patient is a chance to learn something that will make you a better PA.
“Work very hard for your PA profession, and it will work very hard for you” (personal communication, May 10, 2012).
Ms. Brown-Jefferson admits that she endured growing pains as a newly-minted physician assistant. However, she learned early in her career the importance of distinguishing her profession from any other. In fact, throughout her 30-year career as a PA, she readily corrected those who addressed her as a doctor, even though her persistence in doing so seemed to be quite puzzling to people since she, too, wore a white coat as the doctors did. And up until her retirement in October of 2005, she made it a common practice to ensure that people were made aware of her profession and helped them to understand the difference between a physician assistant and a medical doctor.
Acknowledgments: This biography was written on behalf of the PA History Society, with the assistance of Annie Brown-Jefferson, and was submitted to the Society in May 2012. The photographs are courtesy of Ms. Brown-Jefferson.