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How a PA Student Found a Home with Med School Tutors

One year ago, in March 2019, I sought out “Med School Tutors” in desperate need of help. But there was one small problem – I was not a student enrolled in medical school, but instead was enrolled in a master’s program in Boston that trained graduate students to become physician assistants (PAs). As I filled out the online application, I had to name the medical school in which I was enrolled. I fudged the answer a bit, and listed a world-renowned institution in Boston. It got me a return phone call, but I knew that I needed solid reasons to give when my subterfuge was discovered. As suspected, I was told on the phone that “we only tutor med students.” Then, I earnestly explained why MST was uniquely qualified to tutor me as a PA student.

Truth be told, I was in a tough spot in regards to my education status in Physician Assistant (PA) school. I had completed clerkship # 7 (out of a total of 9 clerkships), but I had recently failed two “End of Rotation” (EOR) exams, and one more failed exam would result in my dismissal from our PA program. Not only did I need to pass the retake exams, I needed to successfully complete two more clinical rotations and pass both EOR exams, and finally, to pass the Summative Exam to complete my education. It was mutually agreed upon with my faculty advisor that I would take time off from clinical rotations for a period of remediation, in order to fill in my knowledge gaps. I searched diligently for a PA student tutor, but I found absolutely NOTHING available, even amidst the plethora of medical education overflowing in Boston. So, I sought advice from a few well-informed PA educators, but they too came up empty handed. Since our PA training has similarities with medical school education, I started looking into tutors for medical school. What consistently came out as top-shelf, over and over, was “Med School Tutors.”

That’s how I landed in the spot I was in, on the phone with an MST coordinator, trying to convince them that they should walk out on this limb with me. The life of medical doctors and physician assistants are interwoven, from its foundation, through the model of training, and into the clinical setting. I needed to illustrate this with clarity, so I laid out these points:

  • Dr. Eugene Stead, the founder of the PA profession, was Chair of the Department of Medicine at Duke University’s medical school, & developed the first PA program in 1965.
  • Dr. Stead witnessed that most medical schools, during World War II, initiated an “accelerated medical education model”, in order to address the shortage of doctors at home & on the battlefront.
  • Dr. Stead began his initial PA program at Duke utilizing a similar “accelerated medical education model”, and enrolled its first 3 students; they were military medics who had returned from Vietnam.
  • The early years of growth in the PA profession occurred because its earliest advocates were doctors.
  • Today, PA programs still use a similar “accelerated medical education model”, which includes 12 months of didactic education, followed by 12-14 months of clinical education.
  • PA/med school training for patient care is similar: it’s based on history & physical exam, developing differential diagnoses, ordering labs & diagnostics, and enacting a plan of treatment.
  • Dr. Stead wanted each PA to have a mentoring relationship with a physician, in order to have access to the doctor’s greater depth of medical knowledge.
  • The physician/PA relationship, therefore, is not about opposition, but about symbiosis, a mutual benefit so that exceptional care can be offered to patients.

I tried to make it clear that the similarities between PA students and medical students far outweigh anything that differentiates us. “Therefore,” I said to the MST coordinator on the phone, “‘Med School Tutors’ is the best option for me, and they would not need to change their approach to tutoring.” To my surprise, the MST coordinator replied, “Wow, John, you have made some very strong points! Let me share these notes with my managers to see what they think, and I’ll get back to you.”

Soon after, I was delighted to be informed that my proposal was accepted! I was eventually connected with my tutor, who was a 2nd year resident in Emergency Medicine in a large hospital in Chicago. He was a gem of a tutor, and my experience far exceeded what I had hoped for. I crushed both of my re-takes, completed my last two clinical rotations with a restored confidence, passed both EOR exams, and finished strong by passing the Summative Exam to complete my education as a Physician Assistant. My experience with tutoring changed me, and I hope to become a better clinician because of it. I also found a home for myself at “Med School Tutors”, and a home for any PA student looking for tutoring assistance.