Love brought Fabiola Feldhaus, MD, to the United States. 

When she was 16 years old, she attended high school as an exchange student in the United States and met the man she would eventually marry. Once she returned to Brazil, she continued to visit him in the States, and in time, they started a long-distance relationship, she says. 

She remained in Brazil until she completed medical school and worked at a hospital in an ambulatory setting as a physician for about six months. “I decided to move to Ohio, and [I] got married. The goal was to go back to my country when my [now] late husband finished engineering school,” she explains. 

Life took its course, and Dr. Feldhaus never made it back to Brazil. Shortly after getting married, she decided to look for a job in the medical field. In 2004, she applied for a medical assisting job at TriHealth in Cincinnati and was hired. “I remember my manager asking me if I had any experience and I told her ‘Well, I’m a physician and I’m sure that whatever you tell me to do, I’ll be capable,’” Dr. Feldhaus recalls. 

Still, she says working as a medical assistant was a humbling experience that required guidance from her manager Deborah Novak, CMA (AAMA). “Although as a physician I knew all the specifics of diseases, it was amazing how clueless I was about the processes of the office. Working as a medical assistant gave me a unique opportunity and perspective of how important medical assistants are,” says Dr. Feldhaus. “The paperwork I wasn’t fond of, but it gave me an idea of how much medical assistants do and how crucial it is that they get the right information at the right time. . . . Sometimes I had my doctors stressed and upset and asking me why I was behind, but they didn’t understand all that a medical assistant goes through.” 

Dr. Feldhaus worked for TriHealth as a medical assistant for four years while she took the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), a three-step examination for medical licensure required for physicians from other countries to practice in the States. They also need to fulfill a residency. Dr. Feldhaus passed the USMLE in 2008 and was accepted into the TriHealth residency program for internal medicine. Once she completed her residency, TriHealth hired her as a physician in 2012.

Dr. Feldhaus values well-skilled medical assistants so much so that she served as the CMA (AAMA) physician advisor on the Medical Assisting Advisory Panel for the University of Cincinnati Clermont College. “[The program] obtained its reaccreditation through 2018, so I helped to develop the medical assisting program to make sure it had the qualifications and components for a good curriculum,” says Dr. Feldhaus. “As a physician who also worked as a medical assistant, I’m really adamant about training medical assistants to understand how important their job is and that it requires a lot of thinking and skill.”

Similar to the love that brought Dr. Feldhaus to the States, her passion for the promotion of the profession has helped bring medical assistants the recognition they deserve.