With degrees in both Physical Therapy (PT) and Physician Assistant (PA), two-time Stony Brook graduate Robin Hunter Buskey has received the PA profession’s most prestigious award—Outstanding Physician Assistant of the Year for 2009. Issued by the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the award honors a PA who has demonstrated exemplary service to the profession and the community and has furthered the public image of PAs.
Buskey, who is senior clinical PA at the Butner Federal Correction Complex in Butner, NC, takes care of the prison’s sickest inmates and has been instrumental in creating and coordinating the facility’s first Diabetic Center of Excellence. As a diabetic specialist, she is committed to educating the prison population on the treatment and prevention of diabetes, which she describes as a “silent problem.”
“Incarcerated men are medically underserved and medically illiterate,” Buskey explained. “I work with all ages and all backgrounds, and not many of them have a good appreciation of preventive health care. Why they are here doesn’t matter to me. My role is to dispel myths and teach these men how to take care of themselves.”
In addition to her work at Butner, Buskey has served on the State medical boards for both North Carolina and New York—where she was one of the first PAs ever appointed to such a position—and is a health service officer with the U.S. Public Health Service. Her more than 28 years of clinical experience also include physical therapy, emergency medicine, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynocology, substance abuse, and internal medicine. She has also played a vital role in disaster relief over the years, working on the front lines during Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan, among others.
Her most rewarding experiences, on the job and in the field, come from helping those who need help the most. “Community medicine is a real art,” she said.
Growing up in New York City, Buskey had always wanted to be a physical therapist, and she chose Stony Brook’s program based on its location and strong reputation. But once she arrived on campus, her eyes were opened to the real opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. Buskey describes her years as a Stony Brook undergraduate as instrumental in steering her toward community work.
“When I was working toward my BS in Physical Therapy, I interned in a mental health clinic,” she said. She also spent much of her time on campus working at the Polity Hotline (Polity was then the name of Stony Brook’s student government), answering the phone and handling student complaints about everything from housing to classes to food. Buskey found she was skilled at the task and unafraid to deal with student unhappiness and anger.
After receiving her PT degree in 1981, Buskey worked at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in the Bronx and then found a position in a home health care program—at that time a new field—at Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center, also in the Bronx.
Eventually Buskey became frustrated with the limitations of the field. She wanted to have the knowledge and the skills to do more direct patient care than she was able to do as a PT. So she returned to Stony Brook and entered the PA program. Before earning her degree in 1985, she did internships at Montefiore Hospital in pediatrics and emergency ward, and was among the first PA students to do so.
Buskey then worked for five years at the Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center in Commack as chief PA, where her team was honored for their achievements in community medicine. After that she moved to Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle—an entirely different environment that presented her with a new set of challenges.
Buskey has a Master of Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and is currently a candidate for a Doctor of Health Science from A.T. Still University in Phoenix, Arizona. Her goal is to continue to learn and to provide compassionate medical care in whatever situations arise that call to her abilities and her commitment to helping humanity.
“I keep finding new challenges and new experiences that I thrive on,” Buskey said. “If this is my calling, I’m going for it.”