Growth within a career happens naturally as skills are refined and individuals begin to understand their workplace. While this natural progression occurs, often an employer goes above and beyond to encourage their employees to enhance their skill set in new ways, and Summit Pacific Medical Center does just that for their medical assistants by encouraging membership with the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) Thurston County Chapter.

Summit Pacific’s Ashleigh Gleeson Joins American Association of Medical Assistants

The mission of the AAMA is to provide the medical assistant professional with education, certification, credential acknowledgment, networking opportunities, scope-of-practice protection, and advocacy for quality patient-centered healthcare. While Grays Harbor County does not currently have an AAMA chapter, medical assistants from the area are welcome at the Thurston County Chapter. Joining them is Summit Pacific employee Ashleigh Gleeson.

Ashleigh Gleeson headshot
Ashleigh Gleeson works at Summit Pacific Medical Center and is the Vice President of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) Thurston County Chapter. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific

For Ashleigh, her career with Summit Pacific began over two years ago after being hired as a medical assistant. Upon her hiring, Ashleigh assumed her new job would entail the usual medical assistant duties. After training and getting into her work routine, Ashleigh was excited to learn she had the opportunity to become an employee health specialist as well as teach clinical education to help develop her skills and contribute to her future goal of teaching medical assisting pharmacology. “I love that Summit Pacific is a teaching organization and is constantly encouraging us to continue our education,” states Ashleigh. “Through my clinical education teachings, I ensure everyone in the facility has the current knowledge on new equipment, processes, and certifications. I really appreciate this aspect of my job and that Summit allows me to provide it.”

Not only does Summit Pacific find avenues for standout employees to expand outside of their regularly prescribed duties, but they also encourage any interested medical assistant to join AAMA. After being a part of the organization since 2016, and vice president of the Thurston County Chapter since 2022, Ashleigh volunteers her time to help gather new members and facilitate chapter duties.

Meeting quarterly, and now back in-person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, members gather to hear from a rotating guest speaker, many of which can provide continuing education credits. “At our last meeting,” recalls Ashleigh, “we talked about mental health and breaking the stigma that surrounds it.” Meetings also include robust conversations between members from across western Washington who understand the same challenges and rewards only found in their field.

“Not only are medical assistants performing clinical and administrative duties,” says Ashleigh, “but we are also patient liaisons who help individuals feel at ease in the hospital. It’s important that we learn how to be empathetic, compassionate and how to serve as the middle ground between provider and patient.” All these skills and more are discussed at AAMA meetings where medical assistant professionals are given the chance to communicate, support each other, network, and build relationships.

AAMA Offers Professional Support for Medical Assistants

Both nationally, statewide, and locally, medical assisting as a career is growing faster than average. With organizations such as AAMA, local chapters are available to offer support, especially as someone may be entering the career path for the first time. Additionally, many employers of allied health personnel prefer, or even insist, that their medical assistants are CMA (AAMA) certified, and the AAMA offers this certification to medical assisting graduates.

As Summit Pacific continues to expand, the need for medical assistants is growing with many positions available in their clinics. Recently, Summit Pacific has opened the new Kelsey Clinic located inside the main Elma hospital as well as the Summit Pacific Health Clinic located across the street. Positions include those for certificated medical assistants as well as medical assistant apprenticeships providing on the job training and accreditation.

While there’s hope that a Grays Harbor AAMA Chapter will one day be formed, Ashleigh encourages local medical assistants to consider joining the current group of roughly 40 in Thurston County. “Our goal is to let medical assisting professionals know we’re here for them and all in this together,” states Ashleigh. Additionally, while joining the AAMA currently requires completed education requirements, they’re in the process of removing those barriers and opening it up to everyone. “We’re really hoping that this happens soon since AAMA chapters are currently fairly small in the Pacific Northwest and we’re eager to continue helping professionals gain confidence in the workplace,” expresses Ashleigh. “I love getting to meet new people at our meetings and build relationships with members that last both in the group and in our professional lives.”

Medical assistants, whether in Thurston County, Grays Harbor County, or surrounding areas who are interested in joining the AAMA Thurston County Chapter and learning more are encouraged to contact Ashleigh by emailing Current job openings, including those for Medical Assistants, at Summit Pacific Medical Center and their clinics can be searched for on the career search webpage.


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