Second year physician assistant studies (PAS) student Allison Christian has a fresh outlook on her chosen field after attending a medical mission trip to Pedras Negros, Mexico with UK PAS alumni and many of her fellow classmates. In Mexico, Allison participated in real-world experiences that increased her confidence in her own clinical skills and knowledge.
“As a new PA student, I was anxious to see patients with the supervising providers and with the assistance of a translator due to the language barrier,” she said. “But, as soon as my first patient complained of mild chest pain, my education, training, and instincts immediately kicked in. I felt very comfortable asking the patient questions about their current condition.”
Participating in this opportunity combined with the exceptional education I’ve received as part of the UK PA program has eased much of the stress before my clinical rotations begin in July,” Christian continued. “I feel much more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”
The health care system in Mexico is based on a class system, and Christian was able to provide care to some of the most socioeconomically vulnerable populations in Pedras Negros. “I cannot put into words the gratitude we saw on each patient’s face as we delivered care,” Christian said. “I came away with a better appreciation for the many health care amenities we have here in the United States.”
According to Christian, the experience challenged her both emotionally and physically as a student and practitioner. “Each patient we treated was different, and I had to adapt to each situation due to the language barrier and translator’s explanations,” she said. Most patients would not have specific words or definitions pertaining to what was ailing them. I was pushed to creatively communicate with each patient in a way they would understand.”
Christian said the health care providers who attended the trip offered exceptional mentorship. Students were able to discuss their individual cases with their supervising provider, present a differential diagnosis, and talk through what a treatment plan would look like for each patient. “They challenged us to think about what labs, imaging, etc., we would order for our patients back in the United States,” she said. “This week-long trip really felt like a mini clinical rotation.”
Christian said her biggest takeaway from the trip was learning to treat the patient as a whole instead of only thinking about individual diagnoses. “We interacted with patients and sometimes their entire family,” she said. “We were truly given a holistic glimpse of how health care functions in an international setting."