Bayview Physician Group’s Hague Medical Associates
Education is the guiding principle of Jenny Ambrosino’s work in family practice. Fortunately, she has plenty of unique experience to draw upon: before she pivoted to a medical career in her 30s, Ambrosino was a middle and high school teacher.
Now a Physician Assistant, Ambrosino’s goal is to help her patients fully understand their disease state and health status and exactly why a certain medication, specialist referral, or lifestyle change would benefit them.
That requires in-depth listening. A diabetic, for example, might not know that to the pancreas, a cupcake and a baked potato are no different. One of Ambrosino’s patients was non-compliant with a critical medication after mistakenly thinking it had caused a health crisis in a relative.
“It took me three appointments to figure that last one out, but that patient is so much better now,” Ambrosino says. “That’s such a win to me. You’ve got to have those conversations and provide encouragement, which really is just like being a teacher. I love it.”
The need to multitask and treat a whole patient – not just a single problem – also attracted Ambrosino to her specialty. She works alongside family medicine and internal medicine physicians at Bayview Physicians Group’s Hague Medical Associates in Norfolk.
“Maybe a patient makes an appointment for a rash, but you notice she seems more quiet than usual,” she relates. “Suddenly, that ‘rash’ turns into an important mental health discussion. You’ve always got to look beyond the rash.”
A Northern Virginia native, Ambrosino studied Elementary Education and Spanish at Randolph-Macon College, where she also played soccer. She taught middle school English in Richmond for two years, followed by four years as a high school Spanish instructor in Charlottesville.
Ambrosino’s second career was in pharmaceutical sales, where she frequently interacted with PAs and Nurse Practitioners. In her early 30s, by then living in Hampton Roads and going through a divorce, she felt a “repurpose” in life – a pull to go into medicine herself.
“I thought, ‘I can do anything at this point,’” she says. “I was much older than a typical prospective PA, but I wouldn’t trade my life experience. I knew how to interact with all kinds of people and to not take anything for granted. I feel like each of my careers built upon the other.”
Still, the road wasn’t easy. Ambrosino had been out of school for 15 years and needed 10 prerequisites to even apply to a PA program, including math, psychology, anatomy and organic chemistry. She wrote out a spreadsheet on night classes she could take each semester at Tidewater Community College while working full-time in sales.
“I studied slides and flashcards in parking lots and waiting rooms between appointments,” she recalls. After three years, at age 39, she was accepted into Eastern Virginia Medical School’s PA program. She graduated in 2017 and took her job with Bayview soon afterward.
Practicing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging and exhausting, but Ambrosino has again emphasized education. She’s had numerous after-hours phone calls with frightened patients who test positive, helping them care for themselves at home.
“It’s not just, ‘You’re positive, please quarantine, goodbye,’” she notes. “No. They’re looking to you for real support.”
Ambrosino cares for herself by spending downtime with her second husband and stepson, age 17. Although she has mostly hung up her soccer cleats, she also enjoys walks, beach trips and riding her Peloton bike to stay physically strong.
The teacher/saleswoman/PA is happy to get back to her patients, too. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had, even though I’ve never worked harder,” she says. “I get so much out of it. You never know what’s going to be behind each door.”
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