MARIETTA - Drawing on his experience as a physician assistant in the U.S. Army, Jeff Bailes helped get Marietta College's Dr. J. Michael Harding Center for Health and Wellness up and running.
But when it came time to actually start seeing students, there was a problem - despite training as a PA and serving in that capacity through a tour in Bosnia and two in Iraq, under Ohio law, Bailes wasn't a PA.
"I had not anticipated that, and I felt terrible," said Bailes, 49, a Marietta native who lives in Ravenswood.
Ohio law requires a person to have a master's degree to be certified as a PA. That's the standard for the Army now too, but it wasn't when Bailes, a 24-year veteran, received his training. Bailes said his understanding of Ohio law led him to believe his military experience qualified him for certification as a PA in the state, but he was mistaken.
"They hired me partially because I have experience turning nothing into a clinic. We did that a lot in the Army," he said. "Here I was not too far out from providing medical care to the troops."
A bill recently passed by an overwhelming majority in the Ohio House of Representatives and now headed to the Senate would allow a person who served at least three consecutive years on active duty as a PA in the military to qualify for state certification. It also expands the duties of PAs and makes it easier for people certified in other states to be certified here.
Bailes was in the House chambers on Wednesday when the bill passed by an 89-3 vote. His high school classmate, state Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, gave a floor speech in support of the bill and introduced Bailes in the gallery.
Thompson said the bill was already in the works when he found out how it would affect Bailes, so he doesn't take any credit for getting it passed, but was glad to support the legislation. He called the fact that military service didn't count toward certification an "oversight" that many agreed should be corrected.
"That service is certainly valid," he said. "We try to help veterans however we can because they take risks the rest of us don't."
Bailes said even the state medical board, that ultimately ruled the law did not allow him to be certified, felt he should have been.
"I'm in awe of the support that I've gotten from the state medical board, the college and the Ohio government in general," he said.