Only two years have elapsed since Ryan Baldeo, MPAS ’15, PA-C, graduated from the University of Florida School of Physician Assistant Studies, but he has already carved out an engrossing career in palliative medicine. This includes a clinical practice at Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Mankato, Minnesota, as well as multiple leadership and advocacy roles within the field.
Baldeo’s commitment to his work as a physician assistant was honored last month when he received the Mayo Clinic Rising Star Award. The award recognizes those in their first two years of employment who exemplify leadership, serving as role models for their peers. As a physician assistant in Mankato, Baldeo works closely with physicians and other physician assistants to ensure the management and optimization of symptoms faced by those with life-limiting illnesses. He said the award is a pleasant surprise, and it validates his move to the snowy north.
“I left my friends and family in Florida because of my desire to work in palliative care. We are experiencing a national shortage of workers in the field, so we work day in, day out and always give 110 percent,” he said. “Receiving this award is recognition, in my eyes, from the leadership and the practice in general. I know I’m doing what I sought out to do when I moved here.”
He says the most rewarding part of his job is at times his biggest challenge: making the right decision for each patient.
“Advocating for seriously ill patients and their family members is what brings me joy. That’s the beauty of this specialty. I get to take the time to know someone and make the right decision for that individual,” he said. “That’s also the challenge. Sometimes, expectations and reality are difficult to align. Emotions are high when these decisions are made, and as health care providers, we serve as mediators.”
Baldeo’s passion for palliative care grew from his experiences as an undergraduate student with UF Health Streetlight, an adolescent and young adult peer support program. Through spending time with young people experiencing grief, loss and the end of their lives, Baldeo learned the importance of one’s last chapter in life.
“I spent a lot of time with one young man. He said to me, ‘I know I’m dying anyway, so why do I need to spend my time doing these treatments? Why can’t I go to the movies with my girlfriend?’ That was really eye-opening to me. It gave me that fuel to want to be that patient advocate or translator,” he said.
Today, Baldeo acts as an advocate for the seriously ill in multiple leadership roles. As of last month, he accepted the physician assistant representative position within the brand-new Minnesota Department of Health Palliative Care Advisory Board. In this role, he’ll take part in plans to expand palliative care across the state. On the national level, Baldeo has a hand in shaping the clinical practice guidelines for quality palliative care as a physician assistant representative for the National Coalition of Hospice and Palliative Care’s National Consensus Project.
Next fall, Baldeo will continue his education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where he’ll obtain a master’s degree in palliative care. He credits the diversity of his clinical rotations at the UF School of Physician Assistant Studies along with the didactic education he received as factors leading to his current success. His advice for those new to their medical careers is simple: make the patient your priority.
“As you leave the world of medical education, you realize there are a lot more financial components and non-medical barriers for patients, and that can bog you down,” he said. “Sometimes you feel your hands are tied, but just know you’re trying to do the right thing.”