Morgan Royster loves telling stories about her 36 years as a physician assistant.

Morgan Royster has been a physician assistant (PA) for 36 years. Based in Seattle, Washington, this is her second stint as a traveling PA at the Bethel Family Health Center. A serious oil painter, she loves medicine and things like parasites and worms. She also loves Bethel. Though she will be leaving soon, she hopes to come back.


I was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. We lived out in the woods where we had horses and treehouses. We spent half our time on the coast in a house on Oak Island, where we rode on the beach and sailed and surfed. It was a wonderful way to grow up. I was lucky.

Both my parents had Ph.Ds. My father was an administrator for the Southern Baptist Convention. My mom was a clinical psychologist and the director of psychological services for the state of North Carolina. They both traveled for their jobs. Sunday dinner was when our family was together. My dad, who was the kindest, most gentle person, died when I was 18.

I loved medicine, even when I was a kid. My grandfather was an insulin-dependent diabetic. He used glass syringes. He threw the needles away, but he would let me play with the syringes. I’d say to my dolls and animals, “Time for your shots.”

For my 12th birthday, I asked for the “Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics,” which is still the pediatrics bible. After my parents got it for me, I sat around and read it. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by medicine. Lucky me.

I went straight to Duke University after high school. Duke, University of North Carolina (UNC) and North Carolina State University are within a 25-mile radius of each other. I studied at all three.

North Carolina State had an Interdisciplinary Studies program. Though it would have looked more impressive with three degrees, I combined sociology, zoology, and English into one.

I went to graduate school at the School of Public Health at UNC in human parasitology. That was my thing until I realized I would be in a lab all day staring into a microscope. I am a big people person. I decided to go into medicine.

When I was 31, I enrolled at Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia, which was the only four-year PA school in the country.

I graduated in 1983, did an internship in Marion, Ohio, and then got my first job in Columbus.

I saw 50 or 60 patients a day. One day the director said, “You smile too much.”

I said, “I am having a good time.” I almost laughed in his face.

I was in Columbus for six years. Then I took a year off to decide if I wanted to go on with medicine or do something else. I enrolled in art school and completed one semester. On my way back to start my second, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I moved back to Raleigh to be with her.

I never went back to art school. My mother died six weeks later. I decided to move to the beach and got an apartment in Wilmington. I’d missed the ocean.

I got a PA job and decided to do that for one year, but I met a guy and ended up staying in Wilmington for nine more years.

I went to Seattle on vacation at someone’s suggestion. It was love at first sight. I found an apartment and got a job. I was going to stay for a year, but I have been there for 19.

Seattle is the most beautiful place I have ever been to. I can stand on my balcony in the morning and smell the salt air and see snow-capped mountains east and west.

Though I worked at the same place for 10 years, I got so burned out, I would cry going home every night. My friends said, “Think about becoming a locum tenens.” We call this a traveler. I have done that for the last 10 years.

My younger sister, Elizabeth, has lived in Gardiner for the last 25 years, so I have been to Maine a lot. I started working in Bridgton at the Urgent Care facility on Dec. 17, 2013. That winter set a record for snow and cold weather. It snowed my first weekend. Then we had an ice storm on Christmas Eve. I was unhappy. I wanted to come home, but I stayed and ended up loving it and making some good friends who I am still in touch with.

I then went to Sunnyside, Washington, which I also loved. I could leave home on Thursday, drive through the Cascade Mountains, work three 12-hour days and be home on Monday.

I was in Sunnyside for almost two years. From there I came to Bethel. I started at the Bethel Family Health Center after Labor Day in 2016. I was supposed to leave Nov. 12, then right before Christmas. I’ve been known to say I would not spend another winter in Maine, and I hadn’t even brought a sweater. When they asked me to extend again because the person they had hired couldn’t come, I decided I might as well stay.

I was living in the upstairs of a house on Church and Main. The owner had a real estate office downstairs and a washer/dryer, which he let me use.

On Feb. 17, I was reading when I remembered I’d left my clothes in the dryer. I went running down the steps in my Crocs and hit a piece of ice. Though I knew it was there, I went down. My shin landed on the edge of a step. I got a compound fracture of my lower leg and needed to be in a wheelchair. I lived with a woman named Donna from Berlin, New Hampshire, for that next two weeks. Then a friend from Seattle came out and helped me get back home. I found I had a lot of angels in my life.

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