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Monday, October 7, 2013

October 6-12 is National PA Week, so we at the Elon PA program have had a few special events to mark the occasion.  One such event was joining with Allied Churches of Alamance County, a local nonprofit, to provide and serve a meal for people who need it.  There were several ways to take part: some classmates baked cookies to be served for dessert, some helped with meal preparation, and some of us came later to serve the meal—not to mention some of our PA faculty, who donated the food for the main course and also worked alongside us.

I arrived just before the meal was to begin.  As is apparently their custom, they asked for a volunteer to say the blessing, so I took them up on the offer.  I noticed a couple of the people in line audibly giving thanks alongside me.  We had plenty of volunteers on hand, so I ended up helping people to their table, sometimes carrying a bowl of soup when hands were full or offering to get a drink.  We are currently studying Behavioral Medicine in class, and earlier that morning someone had just mentioned the much higher prevalence of mental illness that exists among the homeless.  I thought about that fact as people came through the line.

I enjoyed interacting with people, especially some of the kids who were there.  I saw a beautiful baby girl whose father informed me that she was about to turn a year old; her greenish-gray eyes sparkled as she smiled, her mouth covered in chocolate from the cookie or brownie she had just eaten.  Another family included a trio of preschool-aged children, a boy and two girls.  One of the girls said something about dancing and ended up twirling around in her skirt for me.  Another young child, about to leave with her mother, for whatever reason decided to hug my legs to tell me goodbye.  Several people said a sincere “thank you” as they were heading out, which I graciously accepted, with the sense that I was doing so on behalf of all the others who had donated and served.

As we kick off PA week, tonight I was reminded of the beauty of life.  Whether in plenty or in need, in sickness or in health, life is beautiful.  I was reminded that it’s good to be thankful, and it’s good to know and care for others.  I was reminded to value the things that matter—to live for things that last forever—and in that process I received joy.  After many months of studying at a breakneck pace, regularly spending hours alone in a room with just me and my computer, tonight I thought ahead to the clinical aspect of medicine, which will be starting for us soon.  It’s easy in PA school to get lost in the books, and to think about the incredible technical difficulty of (one day) doing a comprehensive History & Physical on an unwell patient, and then to think about the vast amount of knowledge needed to use those findings to make an accurate diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.  Just getting started down that path has taken an enormous amount of work, but it struck me tonight that if the practice of medicine is anything like my experience at Allied Churches, this career may bring me more joy than I’ve been anticipating.  For that, I am thankful.

Seth Abel, PA-S