My first posting today is on the 2011 Memorial Day holiday. Because of many US men and women, we in our nation continue to enjoy the freedom of speech and ability to pursue our own paths. Very few countries can boast that and yet the citizens of small towns across the nation were indeed many of those who answered the call to defend our core values and beliefs, in times of war and conflict.
From the medics and corpsmen of Vietnam era, came the first graduates of the physician assistant program at Duke University in 1965. Although first pitched to nurses by Dr. Eugene Stead, test case students were ultimately Vietnam War veterans, chosen for their interest and previous medical experience. In the 1990s at MCAS Cherry Point's Clinic, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Vic Germino, one of that premiere 1965 class of PAs-- or Physician Associates, as we were first called.
PA Germino was soft-spoken and humble. He told me he loved medicine and continued to work several jobs, as many of the earlier PAs certainly did-- and still do. I felt as if I had touched the face of history, when I shook Vic's hand!
In the mid-1970s, I was finding my own path. Working as as initially a laboratory assistant, then a technician handpicked by the supervisors of the time and ultimately, a Medical Technologist at DC's George Washington University, I was foundering.
Should I pursue a Specialty in Blood Banking (SBB) or travel another path in medical practice? A colleague in the chemistry department persuaded me to consider another journey. Kevin had been in the Army and recently completed PA training at GWU's program. He worked with a Family Physician in Maryland, and excitedly told me how he loved seeing patients and their families in the office every day. Still working weekends in the lab to support his 6 children and repay his tuition, he told me he saw in me a desire to be with people and thought PA was a perfect course for me. I read, asked more questions and requested the colorful GWU PA program brochures. Another lab colleague was accepted to the PA program a year ahead of me, so I tracked his struggles and triumphs.
For over a year, I prepared for PA school: I diligently saved money for my year's tuition. I volunteered at the DC Free Clinic to witness and participate in hands-on patient care. My bumbling attempts to check throats and ears is now a kind and distant memory.
Until that time, my experience with patients was to draw blood, also called phlebotomy, and sometimes perform special tests, such as bleeding times. It was during those encounters, I realized I enjoyed talking with people-- the first open heart surgery patients, those recovering from various illnesses and sometimes, celebrities who occupied the halls where I pushed my rattling cart of needles and test-tubes!
Arthur Crudup died a poor man on the 2 South wing at GWU Hospital, despite his writing some of Elvis Presley's biggest hit recordings, one of which was "That's all right Mama". Still, Mr. Crudup was a kind person and a guitarist who had me in awe of his experiences. He laughed easily and his gravely voice even sang for me one morning at 6 a.m!
******************************************In further preparation for PA School, I requested and was assured a weekend position at the lab to pay bills, should I be accepted. I took additional courses to prepare me, included the dreaded Organic Chemistry, in which I received a solid B and the medical school parasitology elective. Then, I did apply and received an interview for the 1978 PA class at GW!
Thank you veterans-- for serving in US conflicts and wars! Not only did you assure and protect our nation's values and security, your progeny medics and corpsmen trail blazed the profession I call my own today-- over 4 decades later!
Next: My PA interview and college experience.
Charlene McClure Morris, PA-C