AASECT Certified Counselor Spotlight - Nisha McKenzie, PA-C, CSC
AASECT Certified Counselor, Nisha McKenzie, PA-C, CSC answers a few questions for the Certified Counselor Spotlight:
1. Can you give me a quick rundown of what keeps you busiest these days?
This year I started or helped start both a new sexual medicine practice for women (Center for Women’s Sexual Health) as well as an organization to help bring up-to-date sexuality education to medical and mental health professionals as well as to the community (Great Lakes Sexual Health Alliance). My work days are mostly filled seeing patients as a PA in a gynecology practice, incorporating sexual health into my daily practice. I also train other practices to help providers and staff gain a broader understanding of sexual health and inclusivity. I am in the process of becoming Adjunct Professor at Grand Valley State University in the PA program and have already began teaching sexual medicine in the program. I also enjoy teaching the OB/GYN residents and lecturing to the community, medical organizations, and pelvic floor physical therapists. Oh yeah, and then there’s the typical mom in suburbia stuff – basketball, soccer, ballet, gymnastics, piano, baseball, copy mom and homework helper!
2. Why was it important to you to become AASECT Certified
To be honest, when I first started studying sexual medicine, I did not think it would be an important certification for me. However, I grew to have immense respect for the importance AASECT places on accurate and comprehensive sexuality education and sound research. In the medical profession, we don’t write a single prescription without at least a quick mental reflect on the data and research supporting that decision. Data drives our practice. While researching the most reputable place to become affiliated with in this field, I learned that AASECT aligns with medical philosophies of quality data driven work and research. I live in one of many conservative communities where sex is coined the “S” word. If I wanted to start discussing sex with patients and with other providers, I needed legitimacy behind my word. AASECT offers that legitimacy.
3. How do you think being AASECT Certified will benefit your work?
Becoming ASSECT certified is the single most time-consuming, detailed, and thought-provoking mission I’ve undertaken since my medical career started in 2002. Being certified assures the community as well as colleagues that I have achieved the rigorous requirements necessary to uniquely qualify me to address any aspect of human sexual health.
4. What are your main areas of interest within the field? What would you consider your special niche?
I’ve focused my entire career on women’s health, so female sexual function is certainly my primary focus. In that, I have a special place in my heart for sexuality after surviving cancer.
5. What has been the most exciting project you've worked on, and why?
Starting these 2 new businesses this year has been so exciting. However, since I have already developed such a comfort one on one with patients in exam rooms, helping form the Great Lakes Sexual Health Alliance has been an extremely exciting new venture for me. Providing sexual health and medicine training on a larger scale parallels preventative medicine to me. If I can help bring awareness to people regarding ways to harness their sexuality in a healthy and positive manner, I believe less medicine and therapy will be necessary in their future. If I can help bring quality education to medical providers to be open to questions regarding sexuality, fewer patients would experience the loneliness and shame that can afflict so many in their relationships.
6. What is the most challenging issue you face in your career, and why? What helps you get through it?
Back in undergrad, I toiled endlessly over the decision…medical school or PA school? I ultimately chose PA school with the goal of better being able to balance family and career with more freedom as a PA. To be clear, I’ve never regretted that decision. And it’s been many years since a patient has asked me “When do you plan to finish your schooling?” or “Are you like a nurse?”. But in starting the only sexual medicine center on this side of my state, I have certainly come across my share of challenges simply due to the letters after my name. It has forced me to tap into a creative and business aspect of the brain I was unaware existed. But I’ve concluded that there are really only two types of providers – problem solvers and non-problem solvers. I choose to be a problem solver. For the sake of my patients, I ask myself at the start of every day “What can I do to make healthcare better for women today?” and “How can I make someone’s life better today?”
7. What do you wish you knew when you were starting out in this field that you know now?
I wish I knew the importance one voice could carry. Feeling small in this big world does no one any good. I have had the privilege of seeing and hearing the ripple effects my voice can create. “I’m just a PA” doesn’t cut it any more. My training and my practice has helped me realize I’m more than that and I can help women in ways I never imagined possible in the early years of my career.
8. Is there anything additional you would like to share with AASECT members?
Counselors and educators – continue to educate yourselves and others and continue building bridges. Therapists – you are improving lives every day. We counselors have so much respect for the knowledge you hold and the ways you can exact change. I have the deepest gratitude for an organization that sees the importance of collaboration among all of us. Let’s continue to encourage medical providers to join this community so no one needs to practice on an island and so women can have their voices heard, both in the medical office as well as in the therapy office.