NEWS | June 4, 2018

Physician assistant completes the heart failure team

Former science teacher transitions to patient care


There are many paths to a career in medicine. Felicia Corbett was well into a career as a middle school science teacher when she decided she wanted to be involved in patient care instead.

Felicia Corbett
Felicia Corbett

“I love science and inspiring that same love in others,” said Corbett, who has a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in zoology and a teaching credential from Sac State. “But at some point, teaching kids about disease just wasn’t enough. I wanted to treat it, too.”

She decided to train as a physician assistant and enrolled in a three-year graduate program in New Mexico, commuting from her home at the time in Arizona.

A diverse, engaged health care career

Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. They can work in any medical specialty. Corbett’s career, for instance, has included positions with orthopaedic surgery, sports medicine, cardiac surgery and ENT practices in Phoenix and the Sacramento area.

Wanting to be closer to parents and grandparents, she and her family moved 12 years ago to Roseville and she was hired at UC Davis Health. She currently works with the heart failure team, helping hospitalized patients better understand and manage their conditions. She also follows up with discharged patients by phone to reinforce their treatment plans, answer questions and coordinate their care needs.

“Even though I’m no longer in the classroom, I’m still teaching,” Corbett said. “I’m also changing health outcomes for people at the same time.”

Helping patients manage a complex disease

A common and complex chronic disease, heart failure occurs when the heart can’t beat strongly enough to support all oxygen needs of the body.

Physician assistants are part of one of the fastest-growing professions in the U.S. They are crucial to increasing the availability of high-quality health care, especially for underserved and rural populations. For information about the physician assistant program at UC Davis Health, visit the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing website. The application process for the 2018-2019 academic year is now open.

There is no cure for heart failure and it is progressive, however medications, lifestyle change and, in some cases, mechanical heart pumps or heart transplants can help.

“It’s a tough condition,” said Corbett, who works with a cardiologist, hospitalist and nursing team in supporting patients. "Whatever we can do to help patients manage their symptoms and have independent lives, we want to do it."

Her work ranges from initial consultations to discharge orders and nearly every medical task in between, including writing prescriptions. It's the perfect match of science and patient interaction that she sought over a decade ago.

“A career as a physician assistant is full of opportunity, allowing you to work in multiple fields of medicine and as an integral part of health care teams,” Corbett said.