Congratulations Class of 2016!

Just wanted to give a shout out to the Class of 2016 who recently graduated. It was a gorgeous day full of sunshine and smiles. Good luck on your next step!

I might be only a first year but I may or may not have a countdown until my own graduation in my phone already  (723 days).

Body Painting Masterpieces

Yay body painting! So Dr. Cynthia Bennett is a HUGE fan of body painting as a teaching/learning tool. She has made a true believer out of all of us as well. We had an intro to body painting at the end of January where each lab group picked a random part of the body from a list she provided and we painted it on one of our members. The paint is specifically made to be used on the body, although it can stain clothes (which is one of the reasons we get to dress down). We chose to do the knee and the ligaments of the knee. You can see some of the pictures at the bottom.

We just had our first practical exam in the donor lab today and so yesterday we had another body painting day. This one was more focused on what we were learning (head and neck as you might be able to tell from the pictures:). We were able to paint some arteries, veins, nerves, muscles, bones and more. We even had a marvelous professional body painter come in and give us some hints on technique and execution. I was able to get a lot more pictures this time and hope you get a glimpse of what an amazing experience it was!

I’m not going to lie, the first time we painted it was an interesting experience, but I wasn’t quite sold on the idea. I am not very artistic and didn’t really think it would help me personally. I was so WRONG! I REALLY enjoyed our second body painting session. It helped that I had extensively studied and had a vested interest in the subject matter. It was a great way to translate what we were learning onto a living human body and see how the structures correlated with one another and moved. At the end each group presents to the class what they painted and gave some more information about the structures (origins and insertions if it was a muscle, stuff nerves innervated, etc.). This presentation aspect was another good way to internalize what we had learned while painting and to learn more about what other people had done.



The Great Cape Escape: Be a Hero

They were all standing proudly side-by-side at the ready, their stares zeroing-in on the guns set neatly aligned on the grass 20 yards away. Their capes were blowing gently in the breeze; their shields glistened in the sun. These heroes had a job to do and if they failed, we’d all certainly die a horrible death. Everybody knew it: Death by zombie-infected bites. We all know how that ends and it’s not pretty.

The zombies were also waiting, disheveled and swaying in their staggered line. Their gazes were fixed half on the super heroes, and half staring blankly at nothing in particular. I felt sorry for them. From their clothes, I could imagine a life that was once theirs: a bride and groom, a well-dressed businessman, teenagers on their way to young adulthood, a pregnant woman out for a walk. Life can be so cruel.

The signal was given and the battle was on. The superheroes raced at the speed of light to their weapons, turned around and sought to destroy these groaning, grasping zombies who lunged at them. With their little 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old trigger-fingers activating as fast and accurately as they could, the heroes doused the zombies with tiny little water streams. One by one, the former living went down, but it wasn’t easy. It was a fight well fought with beautiful death scenes, as if they had been rehearsed before. Thank goodness for this victory, because if it weren’t for our young and fearless that afternoon, the next big event probably never would have happened due to zombie infestation.

It was the first annual Great Cape Escape. Here’s the idea: be a super hero and run a 5K/10K for a good cause. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much of a costume showing. I figured people would show up, check out the scene and say something like, “Next year. We should definitely dress up next year.” This was not the case, and I am happy to report that I felt underdressed in my purple cape and yellow arm bands. What was I thinking?! I couldn’t have found a headband or something? The heroes of the afternoon came out with custom-made t-shirts, headpieces, facemasks, tutus, leggings that matched capes, and even socks that had mini capes for good
ness sake. I mean there was even a dog that was more costumed up than me!  (Note to self: borrowing my 3-year-old nieces’ cape won’t cut it for next year.)GCE-185

If you recall earlier in this recap, there were a pack of zombies that were heroically slain on the field behind the Francis center. I don’t know how to say this, but well, they weren’t actually dead. I don’t know for sure the physiology behind why exactly water doesn’t kill people dressed up like zombies, but they all came back to life and most of them ran the race too. So there we were, putting our differences aside and zombies, super heroes, civilians, dogs and babies in strollers were doing a 5K/10K in harmony. It was beautiful.

Along the way, our fellow PA students who volunteer
ed for the day guided us all along the route with giant purple foam hands. It must be noted here that this particular afternoon was a hot one, hot and muggy. But every time I rounded a corner and looked up to see our people dancing on the sidewalk with these giant ridiculous foam appendages, it put a smile on my beet-red face and lifted my hot, sweaty spirit.

The heroes ran like the wind and the zombies ran faster than any living dead I have ever seen (except in “Dawn of the Dead”). But in the end, I think the hardest part of the race was deciding the winner of the costume contest. Prizes were awarded to the best group costume and best male and best female costume, as well as 1
st, 2nd and 3rd place runners for the 5K and 10K. Gift cards, mugs, metals, applauses and cheers were presented to the respective winners, but really everyone was a hero that day. From the runners, to the zombies, volunteers, supporters and vendors, even that good-looking dog that was better dressed than me. (I’ll show you up next year, dog. I promise.)

We are all stewards for the less fortunate in our community. The goings on of that day: the epic battle before the race, the race itself and the post-race fun, will last well beyond that one Sunday in September. Together, we raised $10,000 for the Open Door Clinic, which is a non-profit clinic serving the unde
rserved of Alamance County. Elon’s PA students volunteer there every Tuesday and Thursday nights, giving us a chance to appreciate what we learn in school. But now, all our efforts will continue beyond those two nights a week. That is at least until the zombie invasion of 2016.


The Ultimate Marathon

“If you want to win something, run 100 meters.
If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

-Emil Zatopek

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved to run.  Unlike the others on my youth basketball team, I never thought of running laps as a punishment. I enjoyed seeing how fast I could go and always liked the challenge. When I was older, I began to participate in track and cross country and continued to engage in running whenever I could. For me, it is the feeling I get after a run that keeps me interested in continuing the hobby. There is nothing like pushing your body past the point you think it can withstand. Afterwards, while your heart is beating against your chest and sweat is rolling down your face, the sense of accomplishment that overwhelms you is one that I look forward to each time I take on a run.

I have only participated in a few half marathons, a handful of 10ks, and who knows how many 5ks; but each time, it is always a unique experience and one that I am grateful for. I am grateful not only that I have found a hobby that brings me so much joy, but also that my body still allows me to participate in such a rigorous activity. So why am I telling you all of this? Well 5 months ago, I started what is perhaps the most challenging task of my life: PA school. After the first month of what was considered an introductory month, I thought to myself, can I honestly do this? Then came the past four months, which were anything but easy. It was one night during my second month of school that I really doubted if I had what it takes to become a PA. So I called a friend, doubt oozing though the phone, and what he said to me changed my overall perspective of PA school. As I was explaining how tough classes were and how there was just so much information we had to learn and I did not think it was possible to retain all this information, he stopped me and said, “Brittany, you love to run. How about you think of this as a marathon? Take it one mile at a time…”

My first thought was, “Silly friend, you don’t understand what I am going through. This is nothing like running!” Of course, I did not say this to him. Instead when I got off the phone, I began to ponder his analogy. Keep in mind, I have never actually ran a full marathon. Half marathons are the closest I have gotten. But I do recall that each time I get to the half marathon start line, I have to remind myself, “One mile at a time.” There is no way I could successfully complete the 13.1 miles if before the race I constantly focused on how many miles I would be running. No, instead I just go to the start line and say, “Okay, I wonder what this first mile is going to be like?” Then when I get past the first mile, I do the same with the second and so forth. Until finally I get to that last mile and I think to myself, “I got this!” However, I would be lying if I said there weren’t any challenging miles. Usually around the 7th-10th mile I hit a wall where I really doubt if I have what it takes to finish. But all it takes is seeing a familiar face in the cheering section encouraging me to keep it up for me to continue to push through. Or if my friends couldn’t find a spot to cheer for me during this stretch, I mentally focus on how I know that through my training and perseverance I can complete this task: “Just keep your feet moving; don’t stop!” And each time I pass the finish line at the 13.1 mile mark I am so excited for myself and also so thankful I didn’t sign up for the full marathon because another 13.1 miles at this point seems impossible!

So yes, after contemplating my running experiences I began to correlate it with my time in PA school. From the day we started in January when we had 27 months to go, I quickly learned that you cannot think of this program as being 27 months long, otherwise you’ll feel extremely defeated. Instead, I started taking it a week at a time. That may not sound like a lot to those who have not participated in such a program. But each week in PA school is full of enough exams, quizzes, standardized patients, late nights, and early mornings to keep you occupied. And there are days, even weeks, where I get overwhelmed, even to the point where I question if I am strong enough to complete this program. That is the point when I really get uplifted and encouraged by my friends and family! They are just like my cheering section during a race and help me realize that yes I can in fact do this. And luckily, after each module thus far, we have had the privilege of taking a weeklong break. I like to think of these breaks as my water pit stops during a race. Just like a water stop, these breaks are a quick opportunity to become refreshed and rejuvenated before returning back to the difficult race at hand.

And then there is always the finish… That moment you are anticipating even before you begin the race, that moment you are so overwhelmed with accomplishment that you can barely stand it, that moment that made all the sweat, struggle, pain, and training worth it. This is a moment I have yet to experience in PA school, but with each day I am looking more and more forward to it. That moment when I graduate and know that I have been equipped with all the essentials I need to be a successful PA, that moment I can finally say, “Yes I did it!” As much as I am looking forward to this day, I am trying to remember to make the most of the journey along the way. Because for me, at the end of the day about 90% of the race is the experiences I have along the way. So during these next 21 months I am going to try to remind myself not to take this time for granted. Instead, I am going to embrace these long days, late nights, tears, laughs, mountains of information, and heaps of ingested coffee for all that it is worth. I am so very thankful not only for my family and friends outside the program that encourage me each and every day but also for the family and friends I have made within the program. Hands down, there is no way I could succeed without the other 37 students or teachers by my side each day and the inspiration I gain from all of them. So here we go, Class of 2017, five months down and only 22 more to go! I look forward to where this journey takes all of us and excitedly await the day we successfully cross the finish line of PA school, otherwise known to me as  “The Ultimate Marathon”.

Shout out picture to my running buddies who have stuck by my side since day 2 of PA school!

Shout out picture to my running buddies who have stuck by my side since day 2 of PA school!

Volunteering at Open Door Clinic of Alamance County

PA school has to be one of the most difficult things I have taken on in my 25 years of life thus far. There are definitely moments when I’ve questioned whether or not I have what it takes to learn everything I need to, deal with all of the stress of PA school, and manage to keep my sanity. In addition to these trying moments when I wonder what I was thinking when I decided to start this crazy 27-month journey, there are the times when I realize this is my passion and what I was put on this earth to do.

As PA students at Elon, we are given the opportunity to volunteer on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Open Door Clinic of Alamance County. The Open Door Clinic provides healthcare to the uninsured and underserved population in Alamance County. We have the opportunity to interact with the patients by writing down their chief complaint, past medical history, and medications. We take all of their vital signs and triage the patients as well.

Volunteering at Open Door Clinic is a great opportunity and helps me realize just how much I’ve learned in my 10 months at Elon. I recognize the medications the patients bring with them and I know what condition the medications are being used to treat. I know what pertinent history questions to ask the patient based on their chief complaint. The healthcare providers will also pull us into the patient rooms when they see something that is a good teaching point. They’ll ask us questions about what certain physical exam findings indicate and what diagnosis it points towards. I know this alone is great practice before next year when we get “pimped” on clinical rotations. “Pimping” is pretty much a round of questions asked by your supervising physician. They keep asking you questions regarding the diagnosis until you get a question wrong. It definitely keeps you on your toes.

One of my favorite memories from volunteering at Open Door Clinic was when a patient came in with a chief complaint of abdominal pain and tightness. It was a wonderful moment for me as a student because I knew where to go with my questions. It was great to know that I was able to connect her chief complaint and responses to history questions. I was able to develop a differential diagnosis in my head, something that we work on throughout our entire time in the program. This gave me a sense of accomplishment and helped me realize that I can do this!

It’s so satisfying to see how much of an impact we can have on these people’s lives. It’s moments like this, when I’m able to put what I’ve learned to use and help someone, that remind me it’s worth all of the stress and late nights. I cannot wait to start my dream job!

Jessica Stevenson PA-S1