During a 47-year career in medicine, Dr. Phillip Hoffsten has taught, trained and mentored a legion of fellow professionals. Now, as that career comes to an end, some of them have ensured he gets the recognition they feel he deserves.

The South Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants recognized Hoffsten with their first Supervising Physician of the Year Award at a ceremony in Sioux Falls on Sept. 7. Two physician assistants from Sioux Falls and Gettysburg nominated Hoffsten, set to retire at the end of the year from the Avera Medical Associates Clinic, for his efforts in teaching those working with him.

The mid-level practitioners in Pierre spoke about his help in the same glowing terms.

“He’s always at the end of the phone at anytime day or night and willing to give us a hand or answer questions or whatever,” said Darcy McClelland, who has worked with Hoffsten for the past 15 years.

Barb Joy, a physician assistant at the clinic for 30 years, said Hoffsten’s mentoring is not limited to those working in the immediate area.

“In Pierre we have lots of physicians, so there is always someone here if we have a question,” she said, “But he goes to Gettysburg, Highmore, Onida, Faulkton, and the rural areas where there aren’t physicians, and he’s willing to supervise the PAs in those areas.”

Hoffsten himself said he recognizes the role of physician assistants is more needed than ever to cover an increasingly large shortage of doctors.

“Primary-care physicians are rarer than pink elephants,” he said, adding that only 4 percent of medical school graduates choose to go into primary care, leaving the majority of the work to physician assistants.

Yet they are able to handle 90 percent of any problems that walk through the door, he said.

The soft-spoken doctor said he was obviously surprised by the award – considering that it hadn’t existed before and he hadn’t heard of it.

Justin Thurman, president of the state Academy of Physician Assistants, said the organization has been contemplating establishing the award for the past couple of years. Once they received Hoffsten’s nomination, the choice for the inaugural honor seemed obvious.

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