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To introduce myself, my name is Mackenzie, and I am the blogger for posts about the clinical phase of PA school. Clinical phase is the second year of PA school when we finally leave the classroom to do our six core rotations and two elective rotations over the course of 14 months. At this point, we have just finished up our first three rotations and are preparing to enter our fourth. It is amazing to me to think that half of our core rotations have already passed and exhilarating to think that in less than a year we will be in clinical practice.

My time in PA school has been a little different from many of my classmates, mainly because much of my time has been spent on the highway. My husband and I live in a small no-stop light town where I use the word “town” loosely considering we were categorized as a village on the last US census. My husband’s job prevents us from moving full-time to Elon, meaning much of my first year was spent commuting back and forth on the weekends. After living here for three years, we are still considered new transplants to this community, much in the same way that people who have lived here for fifty years are considered new transplants. To be from here is to have been born here. The last names of the Community Watch Board match the names on the headstones in the cemetery dating back to the 19th century. The church next door to us will celebrate its 200th anniversary before long. The ideas of change and progress are met with the skepticism of generations learning first hand that change and progress will leave this small community behind. To live here is not to be from here, but it is to be immediately accepted with open arms. I love my town I wasn’t born into, and I share no names with the cemetery.

This past rotation, I was able to spend six weeks in Family Medicine with our local doctor here in town. My preceptor was incredibly knowledgeable, expecting long differential diagnoses for each patient we saw and challenging me in developing my treatment plans. Guidelines for medications were often adjusted for what patients could afford and even sometimes for what the pharmacy had in stock. We saw more disease processes in that small rural office than some hospitals because the majority of our patients would never make the commute to see a specialist down in the Triangle. Many of my visits began and ended with hugs, and patients wary of a student practitioner immediately burst into smiles upon learning that I lived just five minutes down the road. Social histories consisted less of the standard questions and more of finding the connections of all the neighbors and acquaintances we had in common.

There is a special connection in serving the community you live in. It makes me think back to the times of country doctors and helps me remember why I chose to become a PA in the first place. Our profession was founded on serving the underserved. Our rotations take us into state of the art operating rooms and nationally ranked hospital’s ICUs, but my favorite rotation so far was practicing medicine in a small “town” often forgotten.