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New Columbia Hills Providers Increase Primary Care Options

Published on 12/6/2006
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              Patients seeking to establish a relationship with a primary care provider now have two more professionals to choose from. 

Columbia Hills Family Medicine recently has added physician assistants Dave MacNally, P.A.-C., and Derek Derkacs, P.A.-S., to its medical staff, and both are welcoming new primary care patients.

         Physician assistants are healthcare professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, P.A.s conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, provide preventive healthcare counseling and can write prescriptions.

         P.A.s complement the care of a physician and provide many of the same services, meaning the addition of Derkacs and MacNally will greatly enhance access to primary care services in the Mid-Columbia region.

Both new providers share a common training background. Though separated by a few years, each is a graduate of the University of Utah Physician Assistant Program.

MacNally earned his degree in 1994, returning to school after spending the first part of his career in varying medical settings. MacNally says his entry into the practice side of medicine was more accident than design, though now he’s glad events transpired the way they did.

“When I was entering the Army I signed up to be an X-ray tech,” he says.   “When I completed my application, instead of writing down the classification for X-ray tech, which was 91P20, I wrote down the number for field medic, which was 91B20.”

By the time MacNally realized he’d made an error, the Army already had him pegged as a medic, which meant MacNally was going to be a medic. The good news was, once he got into it, “I really got into it,” MacNally says.

After the Army, he spent a year at the University of Minnesota before moving to Utah, where he would live for the next 19 years. MacNally completed another two-plus years of college work at the University of Utah, worked as a member of a professional ski patrol for 14 years, and trained and worked as an EMT before returning to the university in 1990 to complete prerequisites, then the P.A. program.

MacNally and his wife Jana were introduced to the Gorge during a windsurfing excursion in 1985. They bought property in White Salmon and moved there in 1994, after Dave completed his P.A. training. He practiced at Mid-Columbia Family Health Center in White Salmon for nine years and most recently was commuting to Vancouver and the Southwest Washington Family Medicine Residency Training Program.

The MacNally’s have two children, Marlisa, 9, and Michael, 5. 

Derkacs joined the Columbia Hills staff in early November, not long after graduating from the University of Utah P.A. training program. Derkacs previously had earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado, and his schooling at University of Utah resulted in a master’s degree in physician assistant studies.

A native of Los Alamos, N.M., Derkacs entered college with designs on a career in nutritional services. However, by his junior year he was beginning to have second thoughts.

“I really enjoyed my studies, but I was a little concerned that the scope of clinical practice would be too narrow for me,” he says. 

When Derkacs’ father asked if he’d ever considered being a physician assistant, the answer was “No,” but a seed was planted. Derkacs looked into the profession, and soon had a new career goal.

            After completing his undergraduate studies, Derkacs worked as a medical assistant for two years before beginning his P.A. education and training. While he pursued his master’s, his then-girlfriend Ashley worked on her speech therapy degree. The two married in October, and she now works for the rehabilitation program affiliated with Mid-Columbia Medical Center.

            Moving to the Columbia Gorge gave the Derkacs an opportunity to fulfill their desire to practice on the West Coast and live in a recreational paradise. He’s a cycling enthusiast and avid runner, with several marathons under his belt, not to mention being a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

            Appointments with either Dave MacNally or Derek Derkacs can be made by calling Columbia Hills Family Medicine, 541-296-9151.

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