Retired Army Vet serves as PA for Texline Health Clinic
By Robin Scott
The communities of Texline and Dalhart are benefiting from the experience of a retired Army Physician’s Assistant who travels back and forth to each community providing medical services. Cindi Schuler and her family arrived in Dalhart in January of 2009 after Schuler retired from the United States Army. Her experience and education are assets to both communities.
Schuler was an Army PA for 10 years. She worked in various aspects of medicine, including family practice, trauma, occupation health and orthopedics. She noted, “Most recently I served as the Senior PA for the largest deployed Brigade since Vietnam. I was the senior medical advisor to the Medical Rebuilding of Iraq for my Brigade during that time as well.”
Originally trained as an Airborne Parachute Rigger with the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg, NC, Schuler made the change to the medical profession after eight years. She attended college courses at night and on weekends and earned her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology. Upon graduation, she applied for PA school with the Army. At that time 600 applicants vied for 55 seats. Schuler noted, “I didn’t think I would get accepted, but I did. I was told my various accomplishments during my time thus far were big contributors in my selection.”
Schuler attended PA school through the Interservice Physician Assistant Program and earned her degree through the University of Nebraska in January of 1999. Her remaining years in the Army were served in the capacity of PA. During her Army career, Schuler was deployed many times and stated, “I have really enjoyed the opportunity to practice medicine in rather austere conditions. Those experiences really make me appreciate the US medical system. We often take for granted our access to health care in this country, and I doubt many people realize that many of the services we take for granted aren’t even offered in other countries.”
Schuler now also has a Master’s Degree in Physician’s Assistant Studies with a focus in Family Medicine. She is an aeronautical certified/trained PA (flight medicine), and has training in several other aspects of medicine that round out her skills.
Moving to Dalhart was a well thought-out decision for Schuler. She commented, “When I decided to retire from the Army after 20 years of service I wanted to relocate to a small town where my medical skills and experience could truly help the community.” Her career in the Army provided an opportunity to experience life in cities of all sizes. She noted, “I felt Dalhart’s size was perfect for us. I have a teenage son, and I wanted him to be able to spend his teen years in a small town with a school that is big enough to offer several different activities, but not so big the kids get ‘lost’ in it.”
In Dalhart, Schuler originally began working in the Emergency Room position and was filling in at the Occupational Health Clinic in Dalhart. She worked at the Occupational Health and at the Texline Health Clinic from the beginning. She noted, “One week of filling in turned into two, three, four, etc. I really enjoyed the work and the people I worked with, as well as the Texline community. I was offered the position on a permanent basis, and I gladly accepted it.”
Schuler enjoys being able to offer medical care to the community of Texline. She stated, “It takes a lot of time out of their day if they have to drive to Dalhart for an appointment, and many do not have vehicles, so they can’t get there if they wanted to. Being nearby affords many of the people the opportunity to seek medical care for things they may not get care for otherwise.”
At the Texline Clinic, Schuler practices general medicine, the kind of care offered at any outpatient office such as treatment of colds, medication refills, physicals, well woman exams, referrals for specialty care, diagnosis of high blood pressure, diabetes and treat acute injuries that require staple or sutures. Schuler commented, “I also collect blood, urine and tissue samples for lab studies, so the patients don’t have to drive to the hospital lab to have it done. We do not have x-ray abilities, but we can order them. We do physicals, and offer education classes on high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and the like as needed.”
The Texline Health Clinic accepts self-pay, insurance, and Medicare/Medicaid, and they have a bilingual assistance, Denise Chacon, which Schuler states is a tremendous help for Spanish speaking patients. She noted, “I am thrilled that she is here so we can offer the same education and understanding to those patients that we do to the English speaking patients.”
At Occupational Health Clinic in Dalhart, Schuler mainly sees Workmen’s Comp injuries. She has visited a couple of the big companies and taken tours of the facilities so that she may be able to understand the duties and jobs for each employee. Schuler stated, “That enables me to understand how injuries can happen as the patient describes them. It helps me write duty restrictions that protect the patient while their injuries heal, but enables them to perform tasks within their restrictions so they are still a viable asset to their employer.”
Schuler gives physicals for new employment and the DOT physicals for CDL’s. Her co-workers do drug screens, hearing tests, eye tests, and make very affordable custom ear plugs for anyone who has exposure to high noise equipment. She noted, “The earplugs block so much more noise that they really can preserve a person’s hearing. I wish every farm worker, machinist, and mechanic in the area would get a set made. For just a few dollars now, they could save thousands later in hearing aids, doctors’ visits, and audiologist visits.”
Schuler would like to see the established patients continue to grow at the clinic. As the patient numbers increase, the clinic plans to add more operating hours. Schuler plans to be able to offer the education classes once a month for patients with newly diagnosed high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma. The classes teach more about each disease and help the patients to be more proactive in their own disease management. She stated, “I hope that people will feel comfortable coming to us for disease prevention and health care.”
In her home life, Schuler and her family have dairy goats, rabbits and chickens. The dairy goats are show goats and provide raw milk, which the Schuler’s make into cheese, feed to the chickens, and use to make goat milk soap. The rabbits are bred for the local 4-H kids to show in meat pens, and a few are conformation rabbits that are shown at shows in the area. Schuler noted, “The chickens provide eggs and basic entertainment.” Schuler’s son takes guitar lessons at the Graves Studio. She stated, “He really enjoys music. We enjoy cycling and have completed 80-100 miles rides for charity.”