What the White Coat Confers

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David Keahey was home in Salt Lake City when he woke one morning with escalating abdominal pain. As a physician assistant (PA), he was well-versed in the signs of trouble, so when the pain continued to climb, he did what most would do: he called an Uber to go to the hospital.“I wasn’t about to take an ambulance,” said Keahey, PA-C, chief policy and research officer at the Physician Assistant Education Association and the keynote speaker at the 2018 PA White Coat and Convocation at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).
So began an odyssey in the emergency room, he continued, until he was put under observation for 23 hours and his pain reached a “nine out of 10.” Then, to his surprise, he saw a PA he had taught more than 15 years before. “And I pause, not for humor, but for trying to choke back tears,” he said. “Here was this student that I had taught, and before that time was over, three more people I had taught at some point during their training came in to take care of me. There was a circle completed there. … So be prepared to be accountable for everything you do.”
PAs, he added, shoulder a heavy load of responsibility for their patients, symbolized by the donning of their short white coats, a ceremonial milestone in their professional journey.
“It marks the time when students can begin seeing patients,” he said. “There is just nothing like being with a patient to bring home what all this hard work and sacrifice is about.”
Although the new crop of PA students just started classes in early June, their immersion has already included quizzes and exams, standard fare for the prestigious program.
Currently, the SMHS PA program is ranked third in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report, …

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