Victor Hugo Germino, a member of the first class of physician assistant (PA) students at Duke University and one of the first practicing PAs in the nation, passed away March 1, 2017, at the age of 78.
Germino was in the inaugural class of PA students at Duke and graduated from the program in 1967. He is widely recognized as a pioneer of PA education and of the profession, as Duke’s program was the first in the nation. Germino completed his bachelor of arts from Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, and graduate coursework in the MPA program at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California.
Germino’s near 40-year career as a PA was heavily influenced by the visions of Eugene A. Stead, Jr., M.D., founder of the profession and of the Duke PA program, and E. Harvey Estes, Jr., M.D., head of the PA program for many years and a staunch supporter of the profession. Both men felt strongly that the key role for PAs at that time was to provide direct care, particularly in underserved areas and for underserved populations. Experiences as a Navy corpsman and in clinical research with William Anlyan, M.D., and Del Stickel, M.D., on renal transplantation at Duke led Germino to the PA program.
Germino was honored by the PA program with an award for 25 years of dedicated service, and also was inducted into the Duke PA Hall of Fame in 2009.
In a recent interview with Susan Blackwell, MHS, PA-C, chair of the Physician Assistant Alumni Steering Committee, Germino shared his thoughts on his career as a PA.
“I really enjoyed my work as a PA,” Germino said. “I got to see such interesting cases and all aspects of illnesses and trauma. I developed relationships with patients, their families and the entire community. I would really encourage graduates to work in primary care or family medicine because it is so rewarding.”
When asked about Germino, Estes said that he was very well liked and appreciated, and was a perfect example of Stead’s vision for PAs.
“Stead made a comment that if anybody thought that he was responsible for the PA program that they should forget that, because the success of the program and its future development rested on the shoulders of the people who were its first graduates,” Estes said. “And Vic was in that group.”
Germino’s fellow classmates from the Class of 1967 included Kenneth F. Ferrell and Richard J. Scheele, who passed away in 1970. The PA profession marks its 50th anniversary this year.
As a PA, Germino had a number of roles in clinical research. At Duke, he worked with Kaye Kilburn, M.D., coordinating the N.C. Byssinosis Project, participating in fieldwork as well as in hyperbaric medicine. He was the surgical research lab coordinator for John Grant, M.D., at the Durham VA Medical Center, where the research focused on identifying and preventing rejection after intestinal and liver transplantation. Germino was a research PA at the Research Triangle Institute, assisting in protocol development and implementation and advising sites on patient management issues for Tony Fauci, M.D.’s NIH AIDS Clinical Trials project in the 1980s, and later worked as a clinical regulatory compliance auditor for ClinTrials, Inc. in the Research Triangle Park.
As one of the first PAs commissioned as a warrant officer in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1974, Germino provided primary medical care to Coast Guard personnel and their families at Coast Guard bases in Kodiak, Alaska, and Clearwater, Florida, while participating in search and rescue teams. He was based for three years in Seattle, serving as the only medical officer on the icebreaker USCG Polar Sea, making a number of trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. During this time he participated in search and rescue operations, administered emergency/trauma care and served as project medical officer for the National Science Foundation International Antarctic Inspection Team in 1980, participating in polar research studies during Arctic and Antarctic Deep Freeze projects.
Germino’s other global clinical experiences included providing occupational and emergency medical services to workers at a Shell Oil North Slope oil drilling camp while managing day-to-day camp operations; and working in Uzbekistan providing occupational, emergency and primary care to American workers, expatriates, Uzbekistan nationals and their families at the world’s largest open pit gold mining and processing project.
Throughout his career, Germino served the communities where he and his family lived on EMS committees and councils, a governor’s committee on environmental affairs, and critical incident stress debriefing teams. He had numerous Sikorsky awards in recognition of lifesaving rescues in his work as a search and rescue team member. As the PA on two large construction projects, Germino received the Hugh K. Coble project excellence award for exceptional safety results and low lost time accidents.