Getting to know you: Teresa Clayton, PA-C


Teresa Clayton’s path to becoming physician assistant was a bit untraditional. Still, she can point out with certainty the small moments along the way that guided her on her journey.

Teresa moved to Durham from Gainesville, Florida, and began working as a body piercer in a shop on Ninth Street. Deciding it was a small step from piercing skin to piercing a vein (and to a job with fringe benefits), she went to Durham Tech to register for their phlebotomy program. As she waited in line, she noticed a flyer for the surgical technology program, and immediately pivoted to a new plan.

After completing the surgical technology program, Teresa began working in Duke Neurosurgery and had the opportunity to travel to Uganda as part of Mike Haglund and team’s global health initiative. It was on this trip that physician assistant Senthil Radhakrishnan encouraged her to take the next step and become a PA. So she changed course again. Teresa’s previous academic credits from the University of Florida weren’t going to help her, so she started over from square one. She got a degree in mathematics from UNC Chapel Hill, then completed the PA program at Duke.

Teresa says she loves her job. She loves working with her attending, spine surgeon Isaac Karikari, and seeing patients unburdened of years of pain and disability. Her patients (and most everyone else) call her T and sometimes ask about her tattoos, especially the one on her left arm. It features the design from the baby blanket stitched by her great-grandmother and given to her the day she was born. When T’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 16 months ago, T moved her from Dallas, Texas, to her home in Durham to be treated at Duke. She cared for her mom through treatment, until she decided to stay in Durham permanently and got her own place.

Other than her parents, T says her favorite person is her 100-pound Doberman pinscher named Harper Louise. In her free time she likes to cycle and has completed two 100-mile “century rides.”