Army skills come to the physician assistant program

Major David Walker announced as faculty member in the PA Program

Major David Walker has been added as a new faculty member to the Physician Assistant (PA) program at the UMKC School of Medicine. Walker’s path to UMKC was a bit unique.

Initially, Walker came to the department for an internship through the Army Career Skills Program, which sponsored his time at UMKC. The Army initiative helps veterans transition to civilian careers. During the internship, Walker worked closely with the PA faculty on day-to-day delivery of the curriculum, while he was involved in all aspects in the classroom including skills instruction and assessment.

Julie Banderas, assistant dean, Graduate Health and Professions, said it’s the first time the Physician Assistant program has worked with the Army Skills Program. “We saw this as an excellent opportunity with mutual benefits,” she said.

Walker experienced many teaching opportunities in the military, teaching areas such as biology as well as training medics and mentoring fellow troops. “As you move up the ranks in the military, you’re always looking behind you to train your subordinates and bring them up as well,” he said. “Those opportunities gave me a great deal of experience with the student-teacher and mentor-mentee dynamic.”

According to Walker, there was much to like about UMKC and its PA program. “I was drawn to the mission at UMKC, how involved they are with the community,” he said. “The program’s emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion was important as well and their focus on recruiting students with diverse backgrounds.”

Walker enlisted straight out of high school, two weeks after graduation to be exact. “With my birthday in July,” he said “I wasn’t even 18 yet at the start of basic training.”

He originally served as a military intelligence technician. According to Walker, the job sounds like a big deal but adds, “I was basically an IT guy.” An “IT guy” with top security clearance nonetheless. He worked the first couple of years for the National Security Agency, deployed in Iraq. That’s where he met his wife and after their son was born, he began looking at his future after the military.

He landed on the physician assistant program through the military, an inter-service PA program accredited through the University of Nebraska. Through the program, military members train at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, then perform clinical rotations at a military treatment facility. Through the program, he not only received his bachelor’s degree but a master’s degree and then a commissioning to officer as a first lieutenant as well.

Walker was drawn to a physician assistant career for a number reasons, in particular the challenge the position would offer. “I like putting puzzles together,” he said. “My patient is telling me their symptoms, I’m performing the physical exam. I’m finding the pieces to put together to figure out a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan with them.”

According to Eric Johnson, program director for the PA program, Walker is a great addition to the team in the PA program.

“Major Walker’s military experience, while significant, is not the only contribution he brings to the PA program,” Johnson said. “He brings racial and gender diversity to the program faculty as well as a role model to all our students, but especially to those whose background and experience may be similar. Often overlooked is David’s correctional medicine experience, which presents unique complexities that few clinicians encounter.”

The UMKC Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant Program is a seven-semester program based in the UMKC School of Medicine and has been accredited since 2014, with more than 100 alumni PAs. Walker joins a faculty team of three other full-time PA faculty members and nearly 60 current students.