CARBON HEALTH: First off, thank you for all you and your team do on a daily basis to ensure patients are getting the care they need during this global pandemic. You have such a unique backstory. Tell us what led you to a career in healthcare.
Darrell Creekmore: I used to do construction. I built and remodeled swimming pools for seven years. This included plumbing, electrical work, equipment setting, and renovation. During this time I was always in school working toward a career in the medical field. With the recession of 2008, it solidified my decision to work in healthcare. When I went back to school, I worked for five years as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens. This gave me a unique perspective in knowing what happens when a patient is discharged and the barriers patients face when it comes to receiving quality healthcare. Prior to working at Carbon Health, I worked at Sutter Delta Medical Center in the emergency department for three and a half years.
CH: What do you enjoy most about your role?
DC: I try to strive to make everyone’s encounter unique and personalized. I always try to strike up mini-conversations with my patients to get to know them as best as possible in the little timeframe we have together. The more I know about my patient, who they are, what their needs are, and what makes them tick, the better care I can provide to them as an individual person. My goal is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I always strive to make sure they leave with at least the ability to make informed decisions about their health. That comes in the form of patient education, reassurance, and empathy.
My goal is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I always strive to make sure they leave with at least the ability to make informed decisions about their health.
CH: What drew you to becoming a physician assistant specifically?
DC: I see physician assistants as being the future of healthcare. Doctors will always be needed and the teamwork model of doctors and PA/NPs (nurse practitioners) is highly beneficial. A vast majority of patients that walk through the door don’t need the specialty of a doctor. Therefore, to meet the healthcare needs of this country it makes the most sense to invest in PA/NPs. Faster training, less cost without a reduction in quality of care — it’s a no-brainer.
CH: What have you learned from working on the frontlines of a global pandemic?
DC: It would be an understatement to say that times have been rough. Too many lives lost and health afflicted. Too many businesses closed and jobs lost. Relationships strained and detached. In one aspect or another, everyone's lives have been turned upside down. There are not many winners in this pandemic and everyone is bearing their own personal burden in different ways. What time has shown is that Americans are fatigued with COVID mitigation efforts and an exit strategy is what’s needed. We are definitely resilient and we will make it through but the only way we can make it through this pandemic is together. We all need each other’s support and I am no different.
CH: Has this crisis changed the way you look at healthcare as a whole?
DC: It has, most definitely. Our country has needed serious healthcare reform for decades now. I joined Carbon Health initially at the Pier 30 COVID-19 testing site. As cases climbed and demand for testing increased, the capacity of the testing site was quickly overrun. This pandemic has shined a light on the need for change and how vulnerable our healthcare system is.
CH: What activities do you enjoy when you’re not on the frontlines of a global pandemic?
DC: I need physical activity to maintain my sanity. I am obsessed with combat sports/martial arts and have been boxing and practicing Muay Thai kickboxing for three years now. On the surface, it just looks like a sport about aggression and strength but in actuality, it’s a sport that requires lots of thinking and strategy. It’s essentially a chess match on your feet with another opponent and every opponent has a different body type and style to their attack and defense. It’s very cerebral. Do I zig or do I zag? Each choice has its own risks, consequences, and advantages.
Aside from that, my wife and I love the outdoors and we are always going on hikes. Fortunately, here in the Bay Area, there are numerous locations for day hikes and we’ve definitely explored many over the past 5+ years we’ve lived here. We also love traveling and experiencing different countries, cultures, and languages.
CH: What keeps you going both personally and professionally?
DC: Every day I try to become a better version of myself, and looking back I can see that I have. With each day, each month, each year, I change as a person and as a clinician. I know where I started and where I am now. My future is positive and I never want to stop learning or growing.