Oct. 10, 2022 — Having played football for 13 years growing up, Mike Nuccio, MPAS ’02, had his sights set on a career in sports.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports sciences from UF, Nuccio returned to his high school alma mater in St. Petersburg and spent 10 years there as a teacher, coach, athletic trainer and athletic director. Looking to begin athletic training at the collegiate level, Nuccio returned to The Swamp for a master’s degree in exercise and sports sciences.
While completing a three-year internship with the UF Athletic Association, Nuccio met a member of the sports health team he had not heard of before —a physician assistant.
“I said, ‘What is this PA thing?’” Nuccio said. “After talking about it, I saw it would allow me to do what I like to do — work with athletes — and still practice medicine. But the nice thing is you’re not showing up first and leaving last, like athletic trainers. I have a lot of respect for athletic trainers, but I thought it would be better for me to have a stable job with not as many hours. Now I’ve been doing it for 20 years.”
After completing his master’s program, Nuccio enrolled at the College of Medicine’s School of PA Studies with a new goal of serving athletes and others, and his PA training launched him into a career dedicated to serving rural populations and driving change for the betterment of the profession.
Upon graduation, Nuccio began his career as an orthopedic and sports medicine PA in Palm Harbor and New Port Richey, where one of his tasks was to help perform physicals for members of the Clearwater Phillies, Dunedin Blue Jays and Toronto Blue Jays baseball teams during their spring training on the Gulf Coast.
Nuccio also completed orthopedic trauma training in Orlando before moving to Marianna, Florida, located about an hour west of Tallahassee in the Panhandle. He has spent the past 15 years as a PA with the Marianna regional office of Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic, seeing patients from seven surrounding counties and assisting in a wide range of surgeries.
“Over 15 years, I’ve developed great relationships with the family practice doctors, the internal medicine doctors and the ER physicians here,” Nuccio said. “Physicians at the hospital contact me for consults, to ask questions, and I’m a source for direction and information to assist in their patient care. That’s the value of having a long-term provider in a rural area like this.”
Nuccio is also an active member and former president of the Florida Academy of PAs, or FAPA. He served as an area representative in Pinellas county, as the east central regional director and as a member of the board of trustees for the FAPA political action committee before serving as FAPA’s 2018-19 president.
He was appointed as a member of the Jackson Hospital District board of trustees in 2018 by then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Nuccio currently serves on the board and has previously been the vice chair. He is the current FAPAPAC chair and has served on numerous medical missions.
He said becoming involved with FAPA was significant for his professional development and continues to be important as he works with his fellow PAs to inform Florida legislators and advocate for new policies to advance and improve the profession.
“The PAs I know are passionate about expanding rural medicine, but one of our biggest obstacles is that we still have a requirement of a supervising physician, which is an outdated practice,” Nuccio said. “We’re working to get PAs regulated at the practice level so we don’t need an extra step and we can continue to help more rural patients.”
He said becoming involved in professional organizations is important for anyone who wants to elicit change.
“A lot of people don’t become involved in legislative issues because they’re worried about being asked a question they don’t know the answer to,” Nuccio said. “The answer to that would be, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out. Legislators are regular people who want to help their constituents, and they want to listen to the facts and people who are at the ground level.”