Friday, September 27, 2013

Christian Wigfall '10 Reflects on Becoming a Physician Assistant

Christian Wigfall '10 recently graduated from Touro University California with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and a Master of Public Health and just began working for the Family HealthCare Network in California. Christian graciously took time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us about his experiences at Elmhurst and Touro and to share his insights for current students preparing for careers in the health professions.

Christian Wigfall, MSPAS, MPH, PA-C

1.)       What experiences did you have at Elmhurst that helped prepare you for your career and professional school?

Courses, extracurricular activities, shadowing, and internships all played a part of preparing me for PA school and my career. I was an exercise science major, so as part of my curriculum anatomy, physiology and nutrition were all very helpful in preparation for professional school. As one of the doctors I work with always says, "If you know your physiology, you know your medicine." However, going into a career in healthcare requires that you have a broad range of life experiences in order to truly connect with patients. Beyond the basic sciences, the classes I took that helped with this were philosophy, psychology, sociology and even acting. Shadowing that I set up through the Patterson Center for Health Professions also reinforced knowing what I was getting myself into, which was invaluable. 

2.)       What did you appreciate most about your Elmhurst experience?

I appreciated the resources that were available to me. The Patterson Center for Health Professions really helped narrow down what field of healthcare I wanted to go into. I initially was torn over different careers, but after researching a few, talking with them about prerequisites, job duties, etc. I was able to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. 

3.)       What did you enjoy most about attending Touro? Were you concerned about going so far from home? What was it like being in the dual degree program?

I enjoy the fact that it’s finally over!! PA school was intense and grueling on its own. With the additional public health course load, it was definitely the greatest academic challenge I had to undertake. The analogy (that PA programs are like) "trying to drink water from a fire hose" was indeed accurate. In retrospect, I appreciated the small class size, the philosophy of treating both the individual as well as a community, the bonds I made with my classmates, the teachers and preceptors, and of course California's year round great weather. Going to school far from home was a benefit as I was able to solely focus on school.

4.)       How did you decide to work in family practice?

Family practice was low on my list of specialties that I wanted to work in before I went on rotations. Through rotations, I gained an appreciation of the great bond and lifelong relationship that a provider and a patient can have. The ability to become part of a community and make a major impact on it is a great honor and challenge as well.  I am working in a federally qualified underserved clinic whose patient population is mostly made up of migrant farmworkers, uninsured, and underinsured patients. 

5.)    Are there recommendations you have for current undergraduates as they are preparing to become PA’s or even other health professionals?

College is definitely a time to expand your boundaries of what is familiar and comfortable to you by meeting and conversing with people you wouldn't normally talk with and taking classes that seem interesting to you. So I would recommend you challenge yourself and try to grow in every way possible.  Take advantage of the resources available to you, like the Patterson Center for Health Professions. Also if you can, travel as much of the world as possible. It is one of the best investments you will ever make! 

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