By: Taylor Riddle
In this edition of PA Spotlight, we introduce you to Jenny Degnan. Jenny shares details about growing up in Big Sky Country, how she transitioned from being an athletic trainer to a physician assistant, the importance of her mentors, and her new role at Andrews Sports Medicine.
Jenny Degnan, MPAS, PA-C, ATC
Jenny earned her bachelor's degree in Athletic Training and Human Biology from the University of Montana- Missoula. During her time in Missoula, Jenny completed the University's CAATE accredited Athletic Training Program developed by NATA Hall of Fame member, Naseby Rhinehart. In addition to her didactic coursework, Jenny completed her clinical practicum under Dennis Murphy and J.C. Weida as the lead senior AT student for the University of Montana football team.
After earning her certification as an Athletic Trainer (ATC), Jenny dedicated her studies toward becoming a physician assistant. In 2008, she earned her Masters Degree in Physician Assistant Studies from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana.
During her clinical year as a physician assistant student, Jenny trained under former Andrews Sports Medicine surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Samuel Goldstein. She later joined him in 2008 as his licensed and certified physician assistant.
Jenny worked alongside Dr. Goldstein for 12 years in both the clinical and surgical setting. She also provided football sideline coverage for Mortimer-Jordan, Oneonta, Pinson Valley, Pleasant Grove, Springville, St. Clair & Blount County High Schools. While working in this capacity, she was able to utilize her skills to service student athletes, along with their families and communities. For this reason, local outreach remains one of her favorite responsibilities.
Following Dr. Goldstein's retirement in 2020, Jenny stepped into a new role at Andrews Sports Medicine as the Physician Assistant for Clinical & Surgical Services. Clinically, she had the unique privilege of assisting the entire team of surgeons and non-surgical sports medicine physicians at ASM, but she primarily worked alongside Drs. Lyle Cain, Jeffrey Dugas, and Benton Emblom. During this time, Jenny also grew administratively when she joined the ASM leadership team to assist in the development and oversight of operational projects to meet the evolving challenges of modern healthcare. Her desire for continuous education, training, unity and teamwork was evident in her work and has naturally strengthened the culture and professional development of many co-workers and colleagues.
As a senior physician assistant at Andrews Sports Medicine, Jenny leans on her diverse experience to make a difference in areas that expand far past the exam room. In 2021 she joined longtime colleague and certified athletic trainer, Chris King to serve as the co-program director for the ASMI R.T. Floyd Athletic Training Residency Program. In this role, Jenny oversees the program’s curriculum and clinical rotations. She provides structured mentorship, comprehensive specialty training, and clinical skill development to aspiring athletic trainers that seek a clinical assistant role.
For the undergraduate Health Professions students, Jenny developed the Andrews Sports Medicine Clinical Immersion Internship. Students selected for this internship are matched with ASM's team of experts to build clinical exposure during a 15-week rotation that focuses on the student's long-term educational achievement goals.
Jenny is currently practicing as a physician assistant alongside ASM surgeons Drs. Lyle Cain, Jeffrey Dugas and Benton Emblom. Her clinical and surgical skills are utilized to provide comprehensive orthopedic and sports medicine care to all patient populations and across multiple subspecialties. In collaboration with the ASMI Orthopedic Sports Medicine Fellowship Program Director and Faculty, she provides collaborative leadership, education and coordination to six orthopedic surgical fellows.
Additionally, she has remained dedicated to her surrounding communities by assisting with team coverage for Springville, St. Clair, Oneonta and Cleveland High Schools.
Jenny is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Athletic Trainer Association. She is a board-certified and Alabama state licensed physician assistant and athletic trainer.
Jenny and her husband Lacey were married in 2010 and have one son, Garrett. They enjoy their quiet country home in Springville, but love returning to “Big Sky Country” (Montana) to visit family.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
For me, it’s all about building relationships with my patients, understanding their story and learning what is important to them in order to help them achieve their unique goals.
It is extremely rewarding to see a patient come full circle after an injury or chronic problem that they have been struggling to overcome. Each patient has their own journey, whether it be getting back to athletics, their grandchildren, or on the tractor to take care of their farm. I like to find what motivates patients and help them focus on that throughout their recovery.
My career as a PA has allowed me to give back to my community by sharing my skills outside the traditional office setting. Working at Andrews gives me the opportunity to provide sideline coverage at football games and various other sporting events. I enjoy seeing my patients and their families in that environment and it allows me to strengthen the partnership I have with them.
Looking ahead to your career, what do you hope to continue to bring to Andrews Sports Medicine?
I like to think outside of the box for ways to improve efficiency, culture, teamwork and education. The last few years have allowed me to become more involved with leadership and mentorship for our staff and associates. In addition to our immediate clinical and surgical team, we have countless athletic trainers that fulfill our outreach programs by covering high school and collegiate teams. My background as an ATC helps me relate to their needs and the challenges within their profession. I like being a resource for them to care for their athletes.
What do you like most about working alongside Drs. Cain, Dugas and Emblom?
My role is unique because I get to learn from three outstanding surgeons! They are all fabulous (and natural) teachers. Although I have been in this profession for several years, I find myself learning something new every day, which has proven to be extremely rewarding and humbling. I have really enjoyed getting to know each of their personalities as well as their approach to patient care. They are all experts in their fields, and I am grateful to build my knowledge in their subspecialties. I am also very thankful for the confidence that they place in me to be an extension of their team. Their trust and support inspire me to be a better physician assistant!
What do you like about the work culture at Andrews Sports Medicine?
At Andrews, everyone has the same vision, and that is to do whatever it takes to be the best! Just like any other medical practice, our team has experienced staff shortages, insurance headaches and sore feet from working long hours. Despite all of this, our teams join together and persevere to not only get the job done, but to go above and beyond for our patients.
What are some challenges of working as a PA?
I think the biggest challenge is learning how to connect with each patient on their own level of understanding. In my experience, if the patient understands their condition, they are able to develop realistic expectations and invest in their recovery.
Do you have a mentor in the healthcare industry? If so, who and tell me about how they have helped you?
I am extremely grateful to be surrounded by several mentors on a daily basis! All the physicians here and our leadership have always been very supportive and easy to admire. However, the biggest mentor that I have ever had has been Dr. Samuel Goldstein. He hired me straight out of school in 2008. I worked alongside him as his physician assistant until he retired in 2020. The time that I spent with him is time that most PAs may never experience and his knowledge extended far past orthopaedic surgery.
On a daily basis, Dr. Goldstein was humble, funny, realistic, logical, business minded, and a gifted orthopaedic surgeon. I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such an inspirational man! He and his wife, Denise, will always be a very special people to me that I hope to rely on for guidance both professionally and personally for the rest of my life.
Where did you grow up and did you play any sports as a kid? If so, which ones?
I grew up in the country just outside of Butte, Montana. My parents ran their own small landscaping business and our extended family managed a cattle ranch. I was incorporated into the “family business” at a very young age so my work responsibilities always came before athletics. I was able to play basketball and volleyball during my high school years and it was then that I became interested in sports medicine.
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Lacey, and I have been married since 2010. He is from the “Classic City” (Athens, GA). After his career as a strength and conditioning coach for NFL and collegiate programs, he focused his support towards our family and my career goals. I would not be where I am today without his constant support and encouragement. We have a wonderful, energetic, and smart son, Garrett. He keeps us on our toes and loves exploring the outdoors and working outside with Dad.
What is your favorite place to go in Birmingham?
I love Birmingham for all the entertainment and fabulous restaurants, but our favorite place to be is at our country home in Springville. It is our little slice of heaven and so peaceful!
Where do you and your family like to vacation?
There always seems to be work to do when you live in the country, so we don’t experience too many vacations. When we do find time to sneak away, the other best place on Earth is no doubt, Big Sky Country (Montana). We also like quick getaways to the beach and nearby lake properties.