Brad Lindstrom, physician
assistant, leapt at the chance to join the
team of providers at the Sublette County
Rural Health Care District when a position
came open this spring.
Lindstrom spent most of his career working
in urban areas including Chicago, Flagstaff,
Ariz. and Cheyenne. Pinedale seemed
like the perfect location to combine two of
his passions: making an impact on people’s
health and a love for the outdoors.
“I wanted something a little more rural,”
he said. “We’d come up to the Wind Rivers
to go backpacking and camping when
we lived in Cheyenne. The job (in Sublette
County) sounded like a dream job.”
Lindstrom is already at work serving
the health care needs of people across the
county. He works clinic hours at both the
Pinedale Clinic and Marbleton-Big Piney
Clinic along with covering on-call emergency
The path to medicine
Lindstrom graduated from Northern Illinois
University in DeKalb with a bachelor’s
degree in biology and a minor in chemistry.
A professor in a cellular physiology course
during Lindstrom’s undergrad years really
sparked his interest in the field.
“This professor really made science come
alive for you,” Lindstrom said. “He taught us
to see the bigger picture.”
Following graduation, Lindstrom knew
he wanted to go into a health care profession.
His love for science and desire to help
people and “make a positive influence on society”
seemed to lead to medicine.
Lindstrom considered medical school,
but was unsure about making the financial
and time commitment to become a doctor.
According to the Association of American
Medical Colleges, the median debt for
medical students in 2018 was $200,000.
After four years of medical school, medical
students endure years as residents working
brutal 24-hour-plus shifts.
Lindstrom heard about becoming a physician
assistant, a career choice requiring
less time and money than medical school.
Lindstrom entered a physician assistant program
at Midwestern University in Downers
Grove, Ill., and graduated in 2010.
Following graduation and certification,
Lindstrom went to work as a PA in emergency
departments in the Chicago area,
including a stint in the city’s South Side, a
neighborhood with a tough reputation.
“We saw all kinds of stuff come in the
emergency room – gunshot wounds, stabbings,
car accidents,” he said. “It was always
After five years in Chicago, Lindstrom
Physician Assistant Brad Lindstrom, joined the Sublette County Rural Health-
Care District in June.
Meet Sublette County’s newest provider
By Robert Galbreath, [email protected]
In a rural health-care setting, the range of
what the doctors are required to do is broader
than in a specialized setting. As a result,
Lindstrom said PAs have more responsibilities
in the district, from diagnosing strep
throat in an office visit to handling trauma
and life support in the emergency room.
Physician assistants are “trained in a
similar model to physicians,” Lindstrom explained,
yet at a “more accelerated rate.”
“In (PA) school, we cover 80 to 85 percent
of what they cover in basic medical
school,” he said. “We receive a primary
relocated to Flagstaff, Ariz. where he
worked as a primary care PA. Then Lindstrom
moved to Wyoming and returned to
the emergency department with a job in
Cheyenne. He also did a brief stint as a travelling
and emergency PA in rural Maine.
Lindstrom’s years of experience in emergency
rooms and with primary care have
prepared him for work in a rural health-care
setting where providers have to do everything
from treating patients in trauma to
working regular clinic hours.
“My emergency medical background has
benefitted me the most,” he said. “In emergency
rooms, you see everything – anything
can come through that door.”
What is a physician assistant?
The term “physician assistant” can be
misleading for people who are not familiar
with the profession. The word “assistant”
can conjure up images of a subordinate who
follows a doctor around all day, taking notes
or dictating patient histories.
Physician assistants are actually medical
professionals who see patients on their own,
diagnose illnesses and other conditions and
write prescriptions. PAs are also trained to
perform “minor surgeries” in trauma settings,
Lindstrom said, like intubating patients
or helping to stabilize a heart attack
Physician assistants are required to work
under the supervision of a doctor, and their
“scope” is limited by the specialty of their
supervising physician, Lindstrom said. For
example, a PA practicing with an orthopedic
surgeon cannot perform psychiatric care.
Prospective PAs spend between two and
2.5 years in school. The first year is devoted
to classroom learning, Lindstrom said, with
the remainder of the time spent doing handson
learning in clinical rotations that cover all
While doctors become residents after
graduation, PAs go straight into the workforce,
Lindstrom continued. He did add that
some PA programs are starting to offer residencies,
During the first six months, particularly
for PAs working in an emergency setting
like Lindstrom, doctors “watch us pretty
closely” as PAs absorb their knowledge.
Once a PA gains more experience, they require
PAs can spend their entire career in a specialty
like psychiatric medicine or pediatrics.
Some, like Lindstrom, choose to switch specialties,
like moving from primary family
care to the emergency room.
Working as a PA can be challenging.
Sometimes a patient problem does not have
an immediate medical solution.
“There is not always a good solution
medically,” he said. “That can be frustrating,
when we can’t help people right away.”
Yet the job also has a lot of rewards
“You learn something new just about
every day,” said Lindstrom. “My favorite
part is when we can help someone in an
emergency situation and get them back into
their life. That’s pretty rewarding. It’s also
nice to establish relationships with patients,
follow them, and help them get better control
over their medical condition.”