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I grew up in my grandparents house in a small rural Minnesotan town. As a child, I would wander through the cornfields pretending I was on a trek through the jungle in search of some secret ancient relic. I would imagine then that I was hopelessly lost and feign I would never find my way back. Of course, I always found my way back to the house when it started to get dark. Grandmother would be finishing making dinner. My grandfather would be waiting patiently at the head of the table, tractor grease still on his hands. He would smile as I placed my treasures on the table, a handful of rocks. Finally, we all would sit, say grace and eat our meal together. That feeling of safety. That feeling of a quiet joy. That was home.


My immersion into medicine began when I applied and was accepted into a pre-medical preparatory internship early in college. I toured medical facilities, took mock exams, practiced patient care scenarios and shadowed physicians from the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota among other amazing experiences. I was captivated. Having an ever inquiring mind and being a great problem solver, I found a new passion. I would spend much of my free time at college going through case studies and researching symptoms of diseases and ailments. It was during this time I diagnosed myself with a complex hormonal disorder, which was later confirmed through blood tests. This was one of the biggest changes in my life. I had been dealing with symptoms since I was very young.


Upon completion of my internship, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I was still not totally taken with the role of a physician. I felt that I would best be suited as a supportive associate than the head of a clinic. As one would expect, I began looking into nursing and other allied careers, but none seem to be as fitting.


After graduating from college, I returned home to a full house and with a new perspective. I was stunned. Like many in rural communities, a great deal of my family I realized were uninsured or suffering from a chronic illness or both. And this was not unique to the area. I discovered that, through a combination of factors, health disparities in the rural population was very real. This led to my desire to go into primary care. Being able to provide continual care for an individual all through his or her life and helping to decrease the chronic disease burden through education, management and preventive measures would be a dream.


While helping my family I encountered the physician assistant career. I talked with healthcare professionals and read and researched. Finally, I was able to get the opportunity to shadow a PA. This experience solidified my aspiration in becoming a physician assistant. I was struck by how much time he would spend with each patient. He even drew out pictures and diagrams when patients did not to entirely grasp their situation. “Making sure they [the patient] understands is very important,” he said. I also appreciated the teamwork between him, the nurses and the supervising physician. They genuinely value each other's expertise and worked as a tight-knit and effective unit.  


What closed the book on my decision to become a PA in primary care that plans to serve the rural community is the flexible scope of practice a PA can give. As a physician assistant in primary care, I would be able to provide a wide range of care, which would be particularly valuable for this community. I am reminded of when my grandfather deeply cut himself while tilling the field. A PA could provide such services such as stitches as well as discuss with the patient about their high blood sugar reading.


Although I have been on my fair share of adventures, there is something about the country air that lures me back home. A few things have changed since I’ve been back. My grandfather still gets up before dawn, but for breakfast now he only eats two eggs and two slices of bacon, skipping the toast due to the diabetes he was recently diagnosed with. My grandmother was found to have dementia. I listen tenderly to her tell me the exact same story from the newspaper more than five times as we drink coffee. This time, I want to bring back more than just a handful of rocks. I want to help bring good health and peace to my family as well as the rest of the country folk. As a physician assistant I could do just that.

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