Recognizing Outstanding Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants in Hampton Roads
LENA SIFEN, PA-C
Lena Sifen’s route to her fulfilling position as Physician Assistant to Dr. Michael Romash at Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center was circuitous in more ways than one. As a youngster, she dreamed of becoming an attorney, but once she got to high school and became involved with sports – which she did in a big way – she saw her friends sustaining athletic injuries, and her interest in orthopaedics was piqued. It was during her junior year in high school that she took a class that included shadowing Dr. Romash as he treated his patients at Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center. That was all it took – while many aspiring students pursue medicine and discover a love for orthopaedics, for Lena it was the other way around. She knew she wanted a career in orthopaedics, so she decided to pursue medicine. She went from high school to Florida State University, where she intended to major in athletic training, to prepare her to deal with sports injuries – but the lure of college athletics was strong. She majored instead in exercise science, which allowed her to coordinate her class schedule with the Florida State Women’s Softball Team on which she played.
Sifen was accepted and enrolled in the Medical School at the University of Virginia, but after a semester, she began questioning her objectives. She had spent some time traveling abroad – backpacking in Europe for five weeks, studying and working in Israel – and realized she might be better suited for a different career, one that would allow more flexibility in the future for travel and raising a family. She knew she was devoted to orthopaedics and sports medicine – during her tenure in Israel, she had played in the Jewish Olympics – so when she learned about the Physician Assistant Program at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, she applied. True to her passion for sports medicine, she titled her thesis, “Is a Structured Comprehensive Warm Up Program Effective in Preventing Injuries in Female Soccer Players?”
After graduating from PCOM, Sifen debated staying up north permanently, but a circuitous – and serendipitous – turn of events reconnected her with Dr. Romash. She was working per diem when a friend’s mother noticed a job opening for a Physician Assistant at Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center and called her. The ad didn’t identify which doctor the applicant would be working with, so when she applied, she was both surprised and delighted that it was Dr. Romash.
Their rapport was almost immediate. A close friend of Sifen’s had done some research with Dr. Romash, and gave her a glowing recommendation. She also reminded him of the first time they’d met when she shadowed, and told him that she’d won an award from her high school trainer: a book donated and signed by Dr. Romash.
Today, Sifen’s days are spent working with their mutual patients: she’s at the hospital early in the morning making rounds on their pre- and post-op patients or conducting the history and physical examination on new ones. She helps set up the operating room, and assists Dr. Romash during surgery. Other days she spends in the clinic, ordering xrays, tests and conferring with the physician about patient needs.
Sifen enjoys the challenges of Dr. Romash’s practice, particularly the large cases he takes, many of which are usually done at a teaching hospital. The opportunity to learn about the profession she loves keeps her inspired and enthusiastic about her career choice. She particularly enjoys the autonomy of her work as a Physician Assistant at Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center. “There’s so much opportunity to grow here,” she says.