In recognition of Veterans Day, we reached out to our current military students to share stories of their journeys in the military, and from serving in the military to serving as PAs, using these prompts:

– What branch or branches of the military do you serve or have you served in?
– What is/was your rank?
– How long have you been serving/did you serve?
– What is a memorable place, operation, and/or experience from your time in service?
– What and/or who inspired you to become a PA?
– How does your desire to become a PA align with or originate from your military experience?
– What do you most look forward to in your career as a PA?

These are the ones they shared.

Amanda Lugo, TAC 10

Branch: Army
Rank: Sergeant
Served: 4 years

Memorable Experiences:
I am a Gold Star Spouse; my husband died while serving in the Army in 2018. Before he died, we always talked about how I would go to PA school after the Army, and he would stay in and do his 20 years. Whenever I think about giving up, I think of how proud he would be of me, that I finally made it into PA school. He always supported that dream and asked me every day, “What did you do to achieve your goal of getting into PA school today?” He asked me this on almost a daily basis, so it felt so good when I was accepted to UW. John, my husband, taught me that life is short, and not fair. So make the most of each day while it’s here.

I was the only female in every unit that I was in. I never had accommodations for being female while deployed or while in the field training, and I am very proud of that. It is not easy being in a male dominated field, but I feel like I was excellent at what I did, and always did more than what was asked. There were times with foreign nationals where they would see me and act very surprised, or even not know exactly what to do, most often just ignoring me because they didn’t want to cause any issues. You couldn’t pay me enough money to enlist again however. I always told myself, I’d rather enlist and hate it than always wonder. The army taught me to be a leader, to be calm in crazy situations, and to live life to the fullest. 

Inspiration to Become a PA:
The military uses PAs to their fullest potential, and it’s an excellent career to transition to from being an Army medic. The next step in that career progression is a physician assistant! After the Army, I worked at an urgent care in Colorado Springs, and about 75 percent of the PAs that I worked with there were veterans as well. I think it’s easier to transition from a career in the military to being a physician assistant, given that PAs are more often than not a second career type job. 

Military Experience and Becoming a PA:
The Army gave me a ton of health care experience; I worked in a lot of different areas in health care and that allowed me to really decide that physician assistant is the best career for me. I have a degree in athletic training, and normally those students go on to physical therapy, however with my experience in the Army, I was exposed to physician assistants, which altered that path for me.

Shaun Dulay, TAC 10

I’m HM3 [Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class] Dulay and I did 6 years in the Navy. I wanted to start my medical career as a Corpsman to uphold the tradition of being the most decorated rate in the U.S. Navy with us having 22 Medals of Honor, 199 Navy Crosses and 984 Silver Stars to this date. When I found out Dr. Eugene Stead, Jr. created the first PA class at Duke University with ex-military corpsmen, I knew I had to follow their footsteps and continue the tradition and work hard to become a PA myself.

Halfway through my contract, I was stationed in NH Bremerton in 2015, where I was assigned to a Labor and Delivery unit. I thought to myself, “As a male, I want to get out to another department right away.” After I witnessed & helped deliver that first newborn with the doctor, my admiration for my medical career took a new path. L&D was the best three years of my medical career. I learned so much about newborns, more respect for women, and how fathers react to birth. 

I can’t wait to give back to the community as a provider and continue saving lives in the future. Go Navy!

Will Marshall, SEA 56

Branch: Army
Rank: 1SG [First Sergeant]Served: 20 years

Memorable Experience:
Out of all the experiences I had over 20 years in Special Forces, working with the Gold Star children for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) was the most rewarding. In 2021 I escorted Gold Star kids of fallen service members around Washington DC who were graduating college with scholarships provided by the foundation. Many of them got immediate job offers at the CIA, museums, and even large businesses such as Berkshire Hathaway, and it was great to see all of our fundraising and planning efforts pay off.

Inspiration to Become a PA:
Working with many great PAs over the years convinced me that I wanted to take this route when I retired. In the military, PAs are very autonomous and almost all of my medical supervisors were PAs. Most people in my former career field either go PA or Physician and I really enjoy the flexibility, work-life balance, pay, and level of care that PAs provide.

Military Experience and Becoming a PA:
MEDEX and Duke PA programs were originally founded to give veterans with extensive experience a chance to continue to practice healthcare without having to completely start over. Additionally, the military really instills a sense of service and this is one of the main reasons I chose MEDEX, a program that is focused on nontraditional applicants that will go on to work in underserved communities. Upon graduating, that is something that I really want to continue to do – ideally for the DoD or a rural community.

Looking Forward to a PA Career:
I look forward to continuing to work in Emergency Medicine, but in a different role. I enjoy being continually challenged and learning new things, and one of the great parts about being a PA is the flexibility to change specialties or even teach someday, which is something I would really enjoy doing after establishing myself. The only way the profession can continue to grow is if we all continue to give back and get active with our local communities and stay involved in legislative efforts.

Tanessa Kenny, SEA 56

Branch: Army
Rank: E-5, Sergeant
Served: 9 years

Memorable Experience:
I deployed to Iraq in 2018 where I worked on a small team responsible for training Iraqi forces in combat medicine. It was an extremely humbling experience and solidified my desire to help those in vulnerable situations.

Inspiration to Become a PA:
I worked under a flight surgeon PA, Colonel Molstad, who really encouraged me to pursue a career in medicine. It took me nearly the entire time I served to complete my undergraduate degree alone, but he was always in my corner, pushing me through on days I wanted to quit. Had it not been for his encouragement, I honestly can’t say where I’d be today. I look forward to the day I can show him I made it. 

Military Experience and Becoming a PA:
Being in the Army taught me the true value of teamwork, which is pivotal to becoming a PA. 

Looking Forward to a PA Career:
My strongest desire in becoming a PA is to hopefully inspire someone the way my mentors inspired me. One of my most valuable memories is sitting across from my doc who said, “One day you’ll be sitting where I am, having this conversation with someone else.” That conversation changed my life for the better. If I can make a positive impact on just one person’s life, I’ll know all the time and effort I’ve put into this was well worth it.