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Alumni assist students on their path to physician assistant career

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In the classroom and in the field, Augsburg College alumni help today’s physician assistant students gain a glimpse into the professional world they’re preparing to enter. Through clinical work and course instruction, alumni share their experience in a high-demand field.

Augsburg’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program was the first of its kind in Minnesota and admitted its inaugural class in 1995. The full-time graduate program educates generalist physician assistants oriented toward service to underserved populations in rural and urban settings.

The physician assistant (PA) concept has evolved over time but continues to increase in relevance. In alignment with health care industry demand, the PA’s role continues to expand.

The Augsburg PA program’s long history in Minnesota is advantageous, according to Jenny Kluznik ’13 MPA, assistant professor of physician assistant studies. PA students spend approximately half of their graduate program in a didactic—or classroom—phase. The latter half of the program is spent in the community where students complete clinical rotations that change every five weeks. Augsburg’s PA alumni serve as educators and lecturers for a course series in clinical medicine and also serve as hosts for the hands-on field work.

Meredith Wold ’07 MPA is a guest lecturer for the program and an adjunct faculty member. She works as a hospitalist PA with an internal medicine team at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

As an undergraduate, Wold was focused almost exclusively on medical school, but during her final year in college she was struck by the teamwork she witnessed between a doctor and a PA in surgery.

Now, after nearly a decade in her profession, Wold values the team-based work of taking care of hospitalized patients.

She weaves clinical episodes from her career into her lectures, which serve to remind students of the whole patient—not just the upcoming exam.

Melissa Oeding ’10 MPA, another guest lecturer, agrees.

“As a recent graduate, I can relate to the student experience, understand how students learn, and provide real-world insight and advice regarding what to expect as a practicing PA,” said Oeding, who works at Minneapolis’ Hennepin County Medical Center.

She’s stimulated by the chance to sit on the other side of the lectern.

“It renews an excitement for my work and career and reminds me just why I started out in the program,” she said. “I feel extraordinarily blessed to have been trained and trained well at Augsburg.”

Guest lecturer Olga Trouskova ’13 MPA sought out Augsburg’s PA program in part because of its emphasis on serving the underserved.

“I went into medicine to provide answers and to heal,” Trouskova said. “Now I understand that great medicine cannot happen without building relationships and trust with my patients.”

She also is a hospitalist PA at Regions and, during her weeks off, serves as a family practice PA at Westside Community Health Services/La Clinica, a community clinic.

Trouskova makes a point of including real patient stories in her presentations to remind students that PAs treat patients, not diseases.

For students, there’s no match for hearing these types of lessons from alumni, according to Wold.

“It shows a level of alumni commitment toward the program and the next generation of Augsburg PAs,” she said. “Early on after graduation I felt a duty, a professional responsibility really, to give that back.”

And teaching is its own kind of gift, according to Trouskova.

“By teaching others, I have learned as well,” she said.

[Top Image L to R]: Augsburg College alumnus Tom Towle ’14 MPA leads then-students Scott Harder ’15 MPA and Christina Pekoske ’15 MPA through the steps of starting an IV.

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