Michael Sullivan, PA

Learn more about Michael as he discusses his education and what his role as a physician assistant entails.


Meet Michael Sullivan, PA, of Orthopedics.

Talk about your education and what brought you to Memorial.

I went to high school at Belleville East and college at SLU for a couple years. Then, I transferred and graduated from SIUE. Around my junior or senior year I found out that in order to get into PA school, you had to have a certain amount of healthcare experience. So, I got a job working at the emergency room in Granite City as an ER tech and worked there for a couple years to build up hours. Then, I went to PA school in Ohio. They allow us to set up our rotations wherever we want to, so since I'm from this area and always knew I was going to come home, l set up all my rotations back home. One of the rotations I got was with orthopedics with this group. They seem to like something that I did, and so I got lucky and picked up the job, and here I am.

What is the role of a physician assistant (PA)?

It is a common question, and there's a certain amount of people that are very confused by what a PA is, and what we do. The way I explain to people is when you graduate from college you pretty much have two different routes you can go...to PA school or medical school. The PA route was more for me. The beautiful thing about the job is that it's so flexible and that collaboration with the physicians is always there. What patients should expect from a PA is somebody that is very well versed in all branches of medicine, but at the same time, we understand our roles as mid-level providers. So a patient needs to know that at all times, if there's any question that I have or anything, there's always a physician there that I can go to who's supervising me and signing my charts at the end of the day. The PAs are there in a vital role in the coming times of healthcare.

Discuss what you might do on an average day.

I do a lot of as far as the surgery aspect. I'm a first assistant in surgery, which means I'm pretty much the doctor's right-hand man. I'm trying to think a step ahead of them at all times as to what they're going to need next. I do a lot of the closures after surgery and put the orders in after the patient gets done with surgery when they go to the floor. In the office, it's a wide array of everything. Most of it's conservative-type management for people that have arthritis of the knees or of the shoulders or whatever it may be. They're not really ready to take that step of doing surgery quite yet. I do a lot of injections whether it be cortisone injections or like supplement injections and diagnosing what's going on. If it's a patient from the ER with a rotator cuff tear, I need to order an MRI so I can go and discuss with the physician, "Hey, this person came in. They've got this. What do you want to do?"  It's a collaborative effort between the two of us. I do a lot more of the conservative-type management for things, and obviously the surgeons are doing more of the invasive surgeries. But between the two of us, it's a good combination as far as getting well-rounded care for a patient.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

I'm a sports nut, so at least three, four days a week I'm watching Blues games, Cardinal games, and then weekends are taken by football towards the fall. So it's not much relaxing going on during games with a lot of high-tense sports, but I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything, and that's what I live and die for during my off time.