This year we are highlighting Augsburg alumni that are celebrating their first, five, ten and twenty-year anniversaries! In the first blog post in this series, we talk with a graduate from the class of 2017, Omar Fernandes. Omar recently celebrated his first-year work anniversary with HealthPartners as a PA in family medicine. He currently practices in Eagan, MN in an outpatient clinic with two physicians, two other PAs, an ob-gyn/midwifery group, a chiropractor, a pharmacist, a certified diabetes educator, and a dietitian. With one year of experience under his belt, Omar has quite a lot to share with currents PA students about the first-year transition.
Why did you decide to pursue family medicine?
I chose family medicine because I thrive on patient and disease variety, and understanding human development holistically. I see a lot of different signs and symptoms playing out in various and sometimes, very complex rhythms. In clinic, there is not always the classic presentation of a case. I also get to work with an amazing range of patient personalities. You also get to establish amazing relationships. The lessons I’ve learned, especially from older patients, can be life-changing. Your patients are just as much of your teachers as you educate them about their health. Being a PA means lifelong learning that happens every day.
My advice for pursuing family medicine is to know that it is constant and never ends. There will always be something needs to be addressed. After the patient leaves, they should feel assured their concern has been addressed and there is a plan in place.
What was the biggest transition between PA school to your first job?
It was scary having a 3-month break between school and starting my job. You feel like you are forgetting what you learned and that can cause some anxiety. However, once you start, the knowledge comes back fast and you eventually find your stride! At HealthPartners, I ramped up to a full schedule within about five months.
What was a major challenge in your first year?
Staying on time is still my biggest challenge. There is a whole separate world of “electronic patient care” that is closely intertwined, yet also very independent from face-to-face care. You always need to keep a handle on your EMR in-basket because you can really get behind; there’s always a million labs, patients, and forms to address.
Coming up on your first-year anniversary, what are areas you feel more comfortable in now compared to when you started?
Procedures! I’ve gotten to do quite a few, and learned some new ones, too. They tend to come in waves, and there are always opportunities to learn more.
I also love managing certain conditions. Hypertension is one of my absolute favorites! It is chronic, multifaceted and can sometimes be tricky to diagnose. There are so many moving parts to hypertension including various treatment options and still, it can be very difficult to manage. It also requires a lot of patient cooperation.
What tips do you have for students on applying and interviewing for their first job?
Use your networks from school and rotations to advise you on jobs and contract negotiation. If you have multiple eyes look at your contract, you have that many more ideas on what type of compensation package makes sense for you.
While you should apply broadly, be sure you are applying to practice areas you enjoy.
Now that you have more spare time, what activities do you enjoy?
I’ve been doing some traveling and going to different national parks around the country. I was in Death Valley, California over the New Year and that was really spectacular. I also really loved Zion in Utah. I joined the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus last September and our next show is this weekend. I also love doing CME stuff. My next conference is in Santa Fe, NM on wilderness medicine. In general, I think it is important to have a professional advancement goal to work towards.
On a side note, you can catch Omar singing in action at Unbreakable showing March 29th and 30th at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the University of Minnesota West Bank campus! Purchase tickets to attend the show.