By Tom Szymanski

Communities to Careers: Physician Assistant

Starting her career in health care, Victoria Freeman, PA-C, didn’t know her journey would lead to working in a brand new, state-of-the-art orthopaedics clinic in Rio Rancho with patients who would become like second family. But now as a physician assistant (PA), she’s glad she stuck with it and has advice for students who are hoping to do the same. 

“Don't stop. It feels endless and it feels exhausting, and there are days you think ‘I should go do something else. I'm not cut out for this’, but you are. You just have to keep going,” she says.

Freeman is a PA at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center for Excellence (COE) for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation. The state-of the art facility is located near UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center (SRMC) in Rio Rancho. She says she can now see how all those late nights of studying paid off. 

“It's a journey, and it's a hard one, but I think it's incredibly worthwhile at the end. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm really happy that I stuck with it and kept going.”

Physician assistants work in primary care and specialty areas diagnosing and treating patients of all ages with common illnesses and minor procedures. They see patients, diagnose illnesses, order labs, prescribe medications, and assist in surgery.

Freeman has a unique opportunity to serve patients in Rio Rancho. 


“The Center of Excellence is a new building that came to be just a few years ago,” Freeman says. “It's gigantic with five pods that all have multiple exam rooms, multiple X-ray rooms. I can order labs, I can diagnose, I can write prescriptions and treat patients. We're able to serve large populations here, and we have a lot of providers.”

Freeman has also earned a high degree of autonomy in treating her patients. “Being a physician assistant is a really unique opportunity. I get the opportunity to work very independently in my career, but also collaboratively with the attending physicians and other providers that are here. It's a good balance of being independent but feeling supported as well.”

Freeman works mostly with an older population in orthopaedics. “At the COE specifically, I do a lot of joint injections for arthritis patients,” Freeman says. “I see post-op visits as well for the surgeons afterwards. On certain days I work in the operating room at SRMC as a first assistant with the surgeon, and then on other days I work collaboratively in the same clinic, where we take turns seeing patients.”


Freeman says her passion all comes down to the people she serves in the community. “We see people before surgery and then several times afterwards,” Freeman says. “With my joint injections, I see some patients every three months, some every six months. I have some patients that I've had here my whole six years, and I see them frequently. They know me. They know my family. So, you build really good relationships and I like seeing their progress.”

“Working in orthopaedics has been interesting,” she says. “Within orthopaedics, you can do trauma, joint replacement, sports medicine. There are so many options available. I think it's a really unique to do procedure-based medicine, but also clinic visits. The attendings and faculty here are really amazing and they're very good educators.”

Freeman also enjoys some fun with her team members. “We’re in Pod 5. I think we have pod pride. The girls do an amazing job decorating for holidays and, throwing birthday parties and whatnot.”

Where does that ‘don’t stop’ attitude and pride come from? “I was born and raised in New Mexico. I went to Rio Rancho High School and then did my undergraduate degree at UNM,” Freeman says. “My family lives here and I've been here ever since.” 

UNM Physician Assistant Program

The 27-month UNM Physician Assistant Program includes academic study and hands-on training which prepares graduates to work in hospitals as well as rural and underserved areas of New Mexico. 

Categories: Communities to Careers, News You Can Use, Sandoval Regional Medical Center, School of Medicine