GAPA Recognizes 2011 Physician Assistant Service Award Winners

Award winners for the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants

Online PR News – 19-July-2011 – – Atlanta, GA - The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) presented the 2011 GAPA awards for leadership and outstanding service today at the organization’s 36th Annual Summer CME Conference and Exhibition, being held this week on Hilton Head Island, SC. The organization bestowed its top awards to physician assistants (PAs) as well as to two Georgia physicians, and granted a scholarship award to a PA family with a child battling a severe illness.

“These award winners demonstrate the highest degree of dedication to the Association as well as distinguished service to the PA profession and commitment to human rights issues,” said Mary Vacala, ATC, PA-C, MSPAS, DFAAPA. Vacala practices at Chatham Orthopaedic Associates in Savannah and currently serves as GAPA president. “I congratulate them on their hard work, and am proud of their efforts.”

Physician Assistant of the Year – Darrell Nesbit, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has demonstrated exemplary service to the PA profession in Georgia and the community and has furthered the image of PAs. This Physician Assistant has also demonstrated exemplary service to GAPA. The PA of the Year has shown leadership and been a mentor to others in the state.

Darrell Nesbit began his medical career as a Special Forces medical operative in 1970, later serving on the Army’s Parachute Team until he was accepted to the Army Physician Assistant program in 1982. Upon graduation from the University of Health Sciences at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX, he was stationed in Germany and subsequently participated in Desert Shield / Desert Storm. During his military career he was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, the Master Parachutist and Master HALO Parachutist badges, the Bronze Star medal and numerous other commendations and ribbons.

Following military retirement, he became a licensed Georgia PA in 1993. He has served GAPA as a Regional Contact Liaison for eight years and currently serves as the president of the North GA Advanced Practitioners, a composite group of PAs and NPs. He has also mentored PA students from across Georgia and South Carolina for many years.

“I can only wonder what I have done to deserve such recognition,” said Nesbit. “My career in medicine, and as a Physician Assistant has been self-fulfilling. I am proud of my accomplishments, but I really don't feel like my career is, somehow, particularly special. You have no idea how honored I feel to receive this kind of recognition from my peers, the majority of whom I think are special.”

Nesbit resides in Woodstock, GA with his wife of 42 years. They have two sons and three grandchildren.

Physician of the Year – John Hungerpiller, MD
This award is presented to a physician who has provided exemplary service to PAs in Georgia either as mentor, preceptor, and teacher or in other ways has furthered or facilitated the practice of PAs in Georgia.

Dr. John Hungerpiller practiced medicine in his hometown of Savannah, GA after graduating from Emory Medical School and completing a Vascular Surgery Fellowship at Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta. He was inducted into the American College of Surgeons in 1992 and left the active practice of surgery 10 years later to pursue related interests in the medical field. Considered by many of his professional peers as a “doc's doc,” he was understood by those who came to know him as a passionate individual who pursued technical excellence in all he approached. Hungerpiller died of a heart attack on October 23, 2010 at age 51. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Jeanne Marotta Hungerpiller, and a daughter, Carrie Lee Hungerpiller.

Distinguished Service Award – Barbara Burk, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has given time and effort in an exemplary manner to further the efforts of GAPA in either a committee, elected or appointed office or other area of GAPA's endeavors.

Barbara Burk practices at the Gastroenteroloy Associates of Gainesville, GA. She is a graduate of the Georgia Health Sciences University and has received the multiple sclerosis specialty certifications along with many awards including Who’s Who of Female PAs. She is also a bone marrow transplant survivor.

“Being a cancer survivor since I was five years old has shaped my life like no other experience and was the facilitating factor of why my career had to be in medicine,” Burk said. “With my personal and educational background I understand how this disease affects patients and their families.”

One of GAPA’s most popular conference workshop presenters and a prominent leader within the organization, she has worked tirelessly to bring healthcare diversity issues to the forefront and has served as a preceptor for the past six years. She is also currently learning to dance. Burk resides in Gainesville, GA.

Humanitarian of the Year – Tammy Webb, PA-C
This award honors a Physician Assistant who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to human rights and exemplifies the PA profession's philosophy of providing accessible and quality health care in locations within Georgia. This award is based on activities that take place outside of the context of the recipient’s primary employment.

Tammy Webb practices at the University Health Center – Women’s Clinic at the University of Georgia. She graduated from the Baylor College of Medicine in 1983 and is an active GAPA member, having served as GAPA’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs (LGA) Committee chair and on multiple committees of the national PA organization, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Webb recently returned from a medical mission trip in Haiti. She resides in Hull, GA.

Rural PA of the Year – Lesley Maples, MSPAS, PA-C
This award honors a physician assistant who has provided accessible, quality health care in a rural community of the United States. Rural is defined as a community of fewer than 10,000 people.

Lesley Maples graduated from South University’s PA Program in 2004 and works in family practice and emergency medicine at the Miller County Medical Center and Miller County Hospital. He is also a National Health Service Corps 4th year loan repayor. He enjoys outdoor activities such as hunting and water sports. Maples and his family reside in Climax, GA.

Physician/PA Partnership Award – Gary A. Levengood, MD/ Diana K. Dean, PA-C
This award is designed to honor a physician-PA team that exemplifies the unique relationship of trust, collegiality, and mutual respect that is essential to the PA profession. This physician-PA team displays evidence of collaboration that allows both the PA and the physician to provide greater medical service to their patients and their community than either one would be able to do working alone.

Dr. Gary Levengood is the founder and president of Sports Med South in Lawrenceville, GA. He is board certified in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons. As a former professional soccer player for the Georgia Generals, his interest in sports medicine began as an active participant and coach. A knee injury resulting in an ACL tear during a game led to his decision to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“I have worked with Diana Dean and Harris Patel, both GAPA members and PAs in my practice, for a long time, said Levengood. “I have complete faith that PAs make healthcare more efficient. It is a fact that PAs help get our patients beyond better.”

Levengood recognized his wife, Lisa, and their four wonderful children – John, Eric, Mark and Bryn – and thanked the Gwinnett County community for their support.

Diana K. Dean has worked in orthopedics since 1991. A Magna Cum Laude graduate from the Medical College of Georgia, she is board certified with Special Recognition in Surgery by NCCPA. Diana is active in fundraising for the Special Olympics and other charity events for diabetes and cancer.

“I love working as a PA and taking care of patients and can not imagine doing anything else,” Dean professed. “Having compassion for each patient and helping people is an honor and privilege.”

Dean thanked her husband, Charles and her family for their love and support. She also recognized Dr. Levengood as employer, mentor and friend. She and her husband reside in Gainesville, GA.

Circle of Honor – Randy Bundschu, PA-C
The Circle of Honor is a distinguished award given to someone with a proven record of involvement and achievement with GAPA. The recipient is considered a pioneer in the GAPA organization by improving service to the public, serving as a role model and mentor to PA students and representing GAPA in a positive manner.

Randy Bundschu officially works for the Emory Clinic in the division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and exclusively works for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit providing “round the clock” medical care, a post he has held for 29 years. He is a 1978 graduate of Emory University’s PA Program and has received numerous awards on state and national levels. He has previously served as secretary of GAPA, as well as a registered lobbyist for the organization.

“I thank my PA and NP co-workers, some of whom are in attendance at the conference while others stayed back at work, for supporting my involvement and time away from work,” Bundschu acknowledged.

The 2011 Circle of Honor recipient plans to compete in a relay triathlon with his daughters, Kimberly and Natalie, in the next year. Bundschu and his wife, Susan, reside in Decatur, GA.

Dylan Maples Memorial Scholarship Award – Melissa Fussell, MPAS, PA-C
This scholarship was established this year in memory of Dylan Maples, who was two years old when he passed away when he drowned in his family’s pool five years ago. The child was the son of Lesley Maples, a GAPA Member and the 2011 Rural PA of the Year.

“The fact that people remember him makes it really special to know that Dylan is not forgotten,” said Maples. “Educating people about the risks is the key to possibly preventing something like this from happening to another child.”

In memory of Dylan, GAPA provided a swim safety program at the hotel pool during the conference, and awarded a scholarship to a Georgia PA family who has a child with a disability or severe illness.

In April 2009, Melissa Fussell felt a mass in her daughter, Isabelle’s, stomach. Scans showed that there were masses on both kidneys, enlarged lymph nodes and a lesion on her lung. She was diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumor on her left kidney and nephroblastoma was confirmed in the right kidney. Isabelle had her first chemotherapy treatment on May 1, 2009. The tumor responded well and shrunk to half its size before she underwent removal of the lower half of her left kidney on June 24, 2009. She completed 11 radiation treatments at the end of July 2009 and underwent 31 weeks of chemotherapy that she completed in January 2010.

Fussell graduated from South University in 2004 and practices at OB/GYN Specialists of Columbus, managing both inpatient and outpatient Obstetrics and Gynecology patients. She was the first person in her family to go to college and greatly values her undergraduate and graduate degrees as two of her greatest accomplishments. She and her husband, Bruce, have been married for 11 years and call their daughter, Isabelle, an “inspiration.”

The mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants is to promote high quality, cost-effective and accessible healthcare as part of a Physician-directed PA/Physician team. Georgians can find a member PA near them by clicking on the “Find a PA” tab at

For more information, contact:
Carmel Hearn, Account Manager
O’Neill Communications
(direct) 678.384.7833; (main) 770.578.9765

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