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Caring For The Underserved
It was at her father's side that Margaret learned how compassionate care can make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who need it most. Along with her father's compassion and sense of humor, Margaret inherited a healthy dose of bravery from her mother, who served as a nurse in a London hospital during the Blitz of WWII.
It was the inspiration she found at home that lead her to helping people in need around the world — from Chiapas, Mexico to East Palo Alto, CA, where she currently treats underserved and homeless patients.
With a touch of humor, she recalls the life-changing moment she recognized her calling to become a Physician Assistant. "I turned 40, digging in a bed of collard greens in Chiapas, and realized that I needed more qualifications if I was going to help people in need," Margaret says. "Becoming a PA was the natural route."
Twenty years later, and Margaret certainly has the qualifications to care for the health of people who have fallen through the cracks. She earned her PA certification from the Stanford University Medical Center Primary Care Associate Program, where she had the unique privilege of meeting Dr. Patch Adams. "His integrity, humor, and take-no-prisoners attitude to the hobbling time constraints placed on medical practitioners was quite inspirational," Margaret recalls of the encounter.
She's certainly carried those lessons into her work as a PA and leader in her profession. For the past 17 years, she has been treating the homeless and poverty-stricken with equal parts respect, dignity, and compassion. As the lead clinician at Ravenswood Belle Haven Clinic in East Palo Alto, she has become the only source of regular medical care for people whose lives are in constant flux.
What has been the greatest reward for your work?
"Like so many other health care providers, I sometimes work long hours trying to get services to patients. But in the end, it's a good feeling to go home at the end of a long day knowing that someone feels better, even happier, as a result of what you have done."
— Margaret Allen, PA-C
"We all know that good food, sleep and exercise are the mainstays of good health," she explains. "These basics are almost impossible for poor people to obtain."
While confronting the challenges of helping her patients stay healthy, Margaret is more likely to cite the rewards. "The smiles and hugs from people who think you have helped them is very gratifying. I haven't regretted a single day (well, maybe one or two) in the last 20 years."
Quick to credit the sources of inspiration in her own life, Margaret has inspired a new generation of PAs to follow in her footsteps. In between her clinical duties and patients, she's managed to find time to volunteer as a teacher at the Stanford Primary Care Associate Program, where she was twice recognized as "Teacher of the Year."
Always modest, Margaret says of this recognition, "I was surprised to find out that I am reasonably good at teaching. I never would have predicted that. It's very gratifying to see the 'aha' look when something that has been confusing suddenly becomes clear."
One thing is certainly clear to us: this AAPA 2009 award-winner for Service to the Underserved deserves our thanks. Which is why we were thrilled to send Margaret a personalized set of Medelita scrubs, which have made quite an impression in her clinic.
"When working with the underserved, I need to be respectful and unassuming," Margaret says of her Medelita scrub set. "They're perfect for my work as they feel great, wear well, fit nicely, and effortlessly make it look like I have made an effort!"
Your hard work has not gone unnoticed, Margaret Allen. We are proud to be a presence in the tremendously important work you do.