JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Brooke Army Medical Center recently partnered with the Army Medical Department Center and School at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston to become a Phase 2 site for the Interservice Physician Assistant Program, or IPAP.
The IPAP is responsible for the education of physician assistants for the uniformed services of the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard students first must complete a 16-month didactic phase at AMEDDC&S, which consists of basic medical science courses intended to develop their knowledge of critical medical concepts.
After completing Phase 1, the students continue with their medical clerkships at one of 22 medical Phase 2 sites across the country. BAMC became a Phase 2 site in April.
“During Phase 2 the students go through clinical rotations in several specialties over a 13-month period,” said Lt. Col. David Broussard, Phase 2 clinical coordinator. “After they complete Phase 2, they receive a master of physician assistant studies through the University of Nebraska Medical College.”
The students are also required to pass a national certification exam before they can practice within the Department of Defense, Broussard said.
“Currently we have students rotating in the emergency department, internal medicine, orthopedics, dermatology, and obstetrics/gynecology,” Broussard said.
The Physician Assistant Education Association, the only national organization representing physician assistant education in the United States, accredits the program.
Army officer candidate Shane Tracy is one of the first students to come through the Phase 2 training at BAMC.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity because there are a lot of residents who train here,” Tracy said. “It’s a teaching hospital so when patients come here they know there are going to be students, residents, interns and doctors. The patients are very receptive to having a PA student work with them.”
Tracy is currently shadowing Air Force Capt. Eric Salinas, a PA in orthopedics.
“I think the new PA program is really awesome,” Salinas said. “Because BAMC is the only Level I Trauma Center in the Department of Defense, it’s good that these students are getting to have that unique experience many other students don’t. I think ultimately it will lead to the production of higher caliber PAs in the future.”
Air Force officer candidate Brandy Williams agrees.
“I feel being at a Level I Trauma Center, the experience I’m going to get here far exceeds some of the other choices that we had to choose from,” Williams said. “I like the fact that when you work in the emergency department you are seeing not only military and dependents but also the civilian side.”
Williams decided to tackle the PA program after serving 14 years in the Air Force as a laboratory technician. She is currently doing a rotation in internal medicine with Dr. Thang Pham.
“Everybody has been really welcoming; the docs I have worked with are more than happy to share their knowledge,” Williams said.
“I’m not sure what I would like to specialize in yet, but I like the idea of family practice and being well-rounded in the aspect of being able to handle multiple things,” she said. “But, I haven’t rotated through Ortho yet, and you get to play with power tools there, so I might like that.”
“I’m excited about my next rotation: OB/GYN,” Williams said.
There are currently six students at BAMC and one more will start in December. New students come into the Phase 2 program every four months. Along with the rotations, the students must also complete 180 hours in the emergency department on nights and weekends.
“The physician assistant training is a great program that provides well rounded clinical skills and knowledge which are essential in caring for patients,” Pham said.