I remember my first time in an emergency room as an undergraduate volunteer when I observed a gunshot victim being triaged. I also remember the countless hours spent in the organic chemistry laboratory during my undergraduate years.
Finally, I remember my first patient. I was a student in the rural countryside outside of San Jose, Costa Rica volunteering in the medical clinic that served refugees from Nicaragua. The patient’s mother had traveled on foot through three villages to the modest clinic. Her child had an uncomplicated viral infection that was treated at the clinic with Tylenol to control the fever. The rural villages did not have pharmacies to purchase over-the-counter medications. That was when I knew that medicine would be in my future.
Each experience helped prepare me for the fast-paced, didactic teaching and clinical training of PA school.
I am fortunate to be entering a profession in a country that strives for equal access to medical care and also has many new technologies and procedures for patient care. Early, hands-on training quickly changed my perspective of medicine and made me excited to join the PA profession.
During my training, I assisted in the birth of an infant, initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a hospitalized patient and observed one of the first surgeries aimed to alleviate lymphedema in breast cancer survivors.
My most memorable experience was participating in a reconstruction surgery. The patient had a segment of his mandible (jaw) removed due to bone cancer and the team of surgeons replaced the jaw with a piece of his fibula (leg). It was inspiring to witness not only curing a patient but also having the capacity to rebuild.
What I know now
Life-changing experiences happen in medicine. I am equipped with these experiences from patients and lessons from faculty, which will serve me in my first job as a PA and probably for the rest of my life.
I have learned how to diagnose and treat diseases and have seen patients pass away, despite modern medical advances.
Developing the skills to be a caring clinician is a process. It is possible to go from being a hesitant emergency room volunteer to a physician assistant thrilled by surgery and its potential.
The turning point
At this new stage of my journey, I am grateful to my mentors and PA educators who believed in me.
I will excitedly join the healthcare team as a PA, prepared to collaborate with experienced surgeons, respected clinicians and dedicated nurses. I will not forget how far I have come and how much is left to accomplish.
Kimberly Mackey, MPAS, PA-C is a December graduate of the University of Texas Medical Branch PA program in Galveston, which is a part of the Texas Medical Center.