Ignition. A flash of burning light filled the night air as a woodpile lit prematurely at our homecoming bonfire. Next to me, my best friend’s shirt caught on fire. I watched as flames enveloped his chest and he fell to the ground. A bystander acted quickly, jumped on my friend, and smothered the blaze. Powerless, I watched as the ambulance took him away. At that moment, a separate fire ignited within me to increase my knowledge and skills so I would never again watch helplessly in a time of needー this is why I chose to enter healthcare.
This blog exists to provide tools and insights into healthcare and personal health and wellness based on my own experience and research. I want to help a wider audience than I currently serve in my clinical practice. My goal is to improve the lives of as many people as possible.
Mental Health Struggles
My parents divorced when I was only four years old. At such a young age, I couldn’t help but feel that I was the cause of their frustration with each other. Depression has been present for most of my life. I remember beginning to feel overwhelming sadness when I was in fourth grade. By fifth grade, most days felt like a mountain to climb and it was all I could do to roll out of bed. I felt broken and worthless and thoughts of suicide often invaded my thoughts.
Through junior high school, my pains intensified and my grades slipped. I missed almost as many days of school as I attended, and I endured some bullying. My saving grace was football. I loved football and wanted to be the best. I discovered weight training during the second half of my eighth-grade year and I began lifting weights after school. This was enough to get me to regularly attend school and my grades began to improve, but I still had a bevy of psychological baggage.
Though my parents were no longer married, they still loved me and could see that I was struggling. I can’t imagine the stress they must have gone through, now having children of my own, deciding what to do to help me. In tenth grade, they scheduled my first session with a counselor and exhorted me to attend. It wasn’t helpful. It wasn’t that the counselor wasn’t qualified or excellent at his job, but it was that I had built such a high, thick wall around my emotions that I refused to let anyone in. However, it was on the drive home from one of these counseling sessions that everything changed.
My dad had brought me to this particular session. On the way home we stopped to get something to eat, and I could see in his eyes his love for me and how much he wanted to help. That realization was a breakthrough, and a portion of the wall I had built came tumbling down. Enough so that he could get a glimpse into what I was feeling inside. I began to share with him some of the things that I was feeling; the hurt, the self-loathing, the isolation.
I began to open up to counselors and the emotional weight of my childhood started to lighten. I discussed depression with my family doctor and he prescribed medication to help. Between years of counseling and the aid of medication, the depression and anxiety I once felt have diminished greatly to the point that it no longer has a hold on my life.
There are lessons that I have learned from those experiences. I believe that my struggle with mental health has made me more compassionate, understanding, and empathetic than I otherwise would be. The person I am today and the desire I have to be a force for good in the world have been molded by my battle with mental health. I haven’t gotten better on my own though, it has taken a team of individuals and friends to get me where I am today. For that I am grateful.
During my first semester of college, I applied for a two-year service mission for my church and I was sent to Montana. While among the people there, I developed a love for service and learned how helping others can enrich our lives.
I later participated in humanitarian trips to Guatemala and Malawi. Both experiences gave me a greater understanding and appreciation for other cultures. I gained a larger appreciation for the simple things that I often take for granted like fresh drinking water and indoor plumbing. I also gained a greater desire to improve the lives of those around me in any small way that I can.
I am currently a member of Rotary International and strive to continue to serve in my community.
I completed my undergraduate coursework at Snow College and Utah State University. I then applied to the Physician Assistant (PA) program at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMU). I graduated in 2019 with a Masters of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) and passed the national certifying exam, becoming a PA-C. I later returned to RMU and completed the Doctor of Medical Science (DMsc) program with an emphasis on healthcare administration and leadership. Despite struggling through junior high school as I mentioned earlier, I have always had a love for learning and enjoy sharing what I have learned with others.
Pizza and Other Things
After graduating from RMU as a PA, it took several months to land my first job. Our living funds were running low and I had a wife and two sons to support. So, I got a job delivering pizza. It was a humbling experience to have a master’s degree and to answer to a 16-year-old high school student as my boss. It was ultimately a good experience and I learned a lot from that 16-year-old about working hard and customer service.
My first PA job was in orthopedics and I loved fixing people. It was so satisfying to have a patient come in with a broken bone, place them in a cast, and watch over time as their wounds healed, ultimately becoming like new. I also really enjoyed working in the operating room. I loved working side by side with the surgeon to replace worn-out joints and fix broken bones.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic ended elective surgeries for a time, which was the bulk of our surgical cases. I was placed on furlough and was out of work for more than two months. When I returned, my collaborating physician had decided to leave the practice and the remainder of the practice could not justify keeping me. I was let go permanently as was again in search of employment.
I found a job in home health. I really liked working with the geriatric population, but the hours and commute were draining both physically and mentally. I knew that to be the husband and father I desired to be, I couldn’t continue to work in home health. I picked up the phone and reached out to one of my former classmates inquiring about any open positions he might be aware of.
Two weeks after initially contacting him, he let me know that his company was hiring and I applied. Two months later my family was moving 250 miles south so that I could take a job in pain management.
One Last Thing
If you made it this far, I am grateful for the time you took to read this and deeply value every relationship I make from this blog.
Thank you for reading.
I hope that life brings you health, freedom, and happiness.