The Children's Institute Blog

Profiling Our Physician Assistants

Posted: Oct 18, 2017 by The Children's Institute


Ali Kristobak and Kara Malagise started working at The Children’s Institute within two weeks of each other in the spring of 2016. But the organization’s only Physician Assistants, who we interviewed during Physician Assistant Week, hardly see each other and have never worked side-by-side.

“There’s only two of us,” laughed Kara, who covers inpatients on 3W while Ali works in inpatient and outpatient Behavioral Health. “It’s nice to know there’s another one around, though.”

Kara – a Beaver County native with two children of her own, who attended the University of Pittsburgh and then PA school in sunny Arizona – does a broad range of things on our 3W wing.

“It’s hard to summarize what I do. I can’t say, ‘I see patients, I treat patients,’” Kara said. “I’m involved heavily in admissions and dealing with patients as they come and go. And I also support nursing and the therapies.”

Kara has been working as a PA for eight years, previously at a Weirton, W.Virg.-area pediatrics practice.

“Everybody is really great on the team with these kiddos – I really feel our unit makes a real difference in patients’ and families’ lives,” Kara said. “I like that you get to work with other families. It puts things in perspective.”

She also particularly enjoys working with inpatients with feeding needs.

“When they’ve just made such good progress – it’s great to see that,” Kara said.

Dr. Howard Ferimer had high praise for Kara’s work ethic.

“She’s a great asset for The Children’s Institute – a team player who does great work she’s not asked to do,” he said.

Ali is native to Johnstown, Pa. But, by the time she started working as a PA in that city’s Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, she was commuting from Murrysville – some 60 miles away. Since coming to The Children’s Institute, she and her husband Alec, who met in a Penn State a capella group, relocated to nearby Greenfield.

For Ali, the path to medicine was clear, even from her younger school years.

“I definitely had thoughts about medical school but, to be quite honest, I’m indecisive so I like the flexibility of being a PA,” Ali said. “You can easily switch fields. If I decide I want to practice something other than psychiatry, I could apply for something like cardiology or general practice.”

In her decision to stay at The Children’s Institute, it doesn’t hurt that she’s working on the Behavioral Health Unit with Dr. Aileen Oandasan, with whom she also worked at Conemaugh.

“It’s nice to have the continuity because she was one of the people who trained me [and] our styles of practice really jived right away,” Ali said. “I feel like there’s been really great collaborations amongst the clinical team. They really value our role in these patients’ care.”

And psychological services remain close to her heart, in part because she went through a period in her pre-teens where a family member suffered a major depressive episode.

“I really loved and excelled at the physical health things. I was top of my class. But I was drawn to psych because of the challenge it presented,” she said. “You can’t prepare in the same way for psychiatry as for physical health. It’s not, ‘You have an ear infection. Here’s amoxicillin.’ It’s really an art.”

Dr. Oandasan said Ali has got that art down.

“She’s probably the best PA I’ve ever worked with,” Dr. Oandasan said. “Despite her only being out of school for a few years, she comes off as a very experienced Physician(no ‘s) Assistant. I wouldn’t be able to function without her.”


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