‘Where I Wanted to Be’

Tyler Pape, PA-C, has overcome a lot to get to his PA Celebration

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Growing up, Tyler Pape, PA-C, was the kind of kid who had a plan for everything.

“I was super-determined,” he said. “I wanted to have my life all figured out, all of the time.”

But the funny thing is, life doesn’t always cooperate, and Tyler knows it all too well. Still, when the College of Health Sciences virtually commemorates its inaugural class in the Physician Assistant Academic Residency Program on Friday, Tyler will be there alongside his four classmates.

“I’m really thankful to be a part of the College of Health Sciences, just for all the opportunity they've given me and how dedicated they are to taking care of their students,” Tyler said.

But it was a winding road that led him here. And yes, there were times when Tyler wondered if life would take him elsewhere.

In a fun twist, Tyler came to PA school after participating in another new program: the inaugural Human Health Sciences major.

“I was able to shadow different majors in high school,” he said. “And I was able to shadow a PA at Bluegrass Orthopedics named Derek Winebrinner. Derek loved his job; he loved the life he was living, and that was the initial appeal to me. What more could you want? Then, when I arrived at UK, I learned about Human Health Sciences, and their pre-PA track. I thought it was the perfect fit for me.”

After that, he knew where his path would lead. UK’s PA program is well-established; it offers a variety of PA residencies and has partnerships with UK HealthCare and Baptist Health. For Tyler, it was a no-brainer to enroll at UK. It was also an easy decision because he grew up in Lexington as a UK legacy. His mother was a gymnast for the Wildcats and his father was a police officer in the area for 30 years.

“I was raised by some really great parents,” he said. “They paid for my schooling and I’m super-grateful for that. So, I wasn't going to waste a single minute or a single dollar of it, you know? I was given this gift, so I wanted to take advantage of it and to use it well.”

When he graduated, he applied to PA school. And life threw him his first curve ball.

“I didn’t get in,” he said. “That was hard for me as a pretty privileged guy who's had a really great life — it was one of the first times I've really been told ‘no’ to anything that really mattered to me. It was hard to deal with for a few months.”

He had a while to think about it. He would have to wait a year before he could apply again. Then, as he put it, he “started to turn the cruise ship around.”

“I started to do what I needed to do,” he said. “I started to make goals of things I wanted to accomplish. I shadowed more health workers. I enrolled in more courses. I worked on my interviewing skills.”

And in the middle of it all, a tragic accident resulted in the death of his brother.

“It was hard on my family and on me,” he said. “Sometimes life isn't fair, and things don't really happen for a reason, but you just kind of have to go with it, you know? But I was able to be less invested at school at that time and more invested in my family, which was helpful. It was pretty tough, but it's also part of my motivation to work in trauma and emergency general surgery.”

When it came time again to apply for PA school, Tyler was ready. He’d practiced his interviews, and he had a good idea of what he wanted to accomplish in a career.

The second time around, he made it in. And he excelled.

“Tyler is a remarkable person — I have a great deal of respect for him,” said Leslie Woltenberg, PhD, assistant professor in Physician Assistant Studies. “He is a shining example of our students’ remarkable ability to achieve and grow during very challenging times. I am so proud of Tyler and his journey!”

“Tyler has always been ahead of everyone else when getting things done for the residency program,” said David Fahringer, MSPH, PA-C Emeritus, Interim Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies and Program Director of Master's and PA Residency Programs. “He cares deeply about his patients, the staff that he works alongside, and really everyone. He is a wonderful example for the program.”

This weekend, Tyler will celebrate with his classmates, and on Sept. 13, he will begin his new job in surgery for Baptist Hospital in Lexington.

“Overall, I think about the College of Health Sciences, and how it’s done so much for me,” he said. “There are all sorts of really great people that helped me along the way. The residency helped me explore trauma, emergency medicine and more; it was a real opportunity for growth. It’s certainly taught me how much I can learn and how much I can really manage as well.

“It’s where I wanted to be, and I was glad to finally get here."