Tag Archives: Physician Assistant

UMKC PA student inspired by emergency room care

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Name: Kevin Du
Anticipated graduation year: May 2023
UMKC degree program: Master of Medical Science – Physician Assistant
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

When Kevin Du, MMS, ’23, lost his father to an acute myocardial infarction three years ago, he was numb, but he remembers that a care provider in the ICU stopped to comfort him.

“I remember how kind she was and how heard I felt,” he says. “Looking back on that is what initiated my interest in the physician assistant profession, and I know that I want to be that type of provider in my career.”

Du is currently enrolled in the physician assistant program at the UMKC School of Medicine. He says the pace of the program can be a challenge, but he loves the small class sizes and the support he receives from the staff members.

“Also, we are a smaller cohort, so we receive more personalized attention from our amazing, supportive faculty when we need it.”

“UMKC is culturally diverse and encourages students to be understanding of others’ backgrounds. I admire the commitment to the community.”

Du is a first generation college student. His parents immigrated to the United States following the Vietnam War and settled in Kansas City. While his parents’ goals for him were more focused on having a happy life than the pursuit of an advance degree, Du would like his achievements to inspire future generations in his family and make his mother proud.

“I want to pay my mom back for all the sacrifices she made for me and validate my parents’ choice to immigrate here,” he says.

Du believes his confidence has allowed him to learn new things and expand his opportunities.

“We are a smaller cohort, so we can receive more personalized attention from our amazing, supportive faculty when we need it.”

“I will always be the first one to volunteer or answer a question,” Du says. “Whether I answer correctly or perform well does not matter to me. I take all my successes and failures in stride and just treat everything as a learning experience.  After every experience I ask, ‘How did I do that, and can I do it better?’ This has given me a positive outlook on life and more perspective on how I can improve on myself.”


Du is the president of the UMKC Physician Assistant Student Association and appreciates the inclusivity of the UMKC environment.

“UMKC is culturally diverse and encourages students to be understanding of others’ backgrounds. I admire the commitment to the community.”

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.

UMKC physician assistant student focuses on treating the underserved

Kevin Du, a first-year physician assistant student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, has experienced patients at their worst while working in the emergency room at University Health Truman Medical Center.

“I see the impact the social determinants of health have on certain populations,” Du said. “In the emergency room, we see a lot of immigrants and persons of color and that really resonated with me coming from a first-generation family.”

It made such an impact that Du is now part of a unique Area Health Education Centers Scholars program that helps prepare health professions students to care for rural and urban underserved patients in small interprofessional teams.

Throughout the two-year program, students take part in didactic and community activities that focus on areas such as quality improvement and patient-centered care, as well as cultural competency and emerging issues in health care. Interprofessional education events that bring together students from differing health care fields are also part of the curriculum.

Du is taking part in the scholars program in conjunction with his physician assistant studies at the School of Medicine. Much of the coursework for the AHEC program is done individually but participants also work interprofessionally once or twice a year with others throughout the state.

“My biggest reason for doing this program is to become more culturally competent and to be able to recognize any biases I may have so that I can be a more understanding patient care provider in the future,” Du said.

Before starting the physician assistant program at UMKC, Du served as an emergency room technician at Truman Medical Center, now University Health Truman Medical Center, as well as a technician in the cardiovascular ICU at St. Louis Barnes Jewish Hospital and as an EMT/technician with an urgent care center also in St. Louis.

Now, he says his goal is to work in an urban core medical center where he can reach those in need of help.

“I have seen the struggles that my parents went through and how they were treated regarding health care,” Du said. “I truly want to help the underserved population when I graduate from UMKC.”

UMKC physician assistant student taking part in health policy fellowship

Kyle McLafferty, a second-year physician assistant student, met with Congressional leaders during a three-day workshop in Washington, D.C.

Kyle McLafferty kept one eye on his classwork and another on the legislative process during the latest legislative session in Jefferson City, Missouri.

The second-year physician assistant student at the UMKC School of Medicine realized an interest in politics and health care policy during his undergrad days at the University of Missouri. His brother, Sean, a political science major at MU at the same time, was a major driving force in Kyle’s developing interest.

Now, he was following the process as it took place with the potential to affect his future.

“I really got interested in physician assistant legislation during this past legislative session in Jefferson City,” McLafferty said. “There were a few bills in the legislature that we talked about in class. We were tracking those bills and it was interesting watching the legislative process and how it relates to my future career.”

Students taking part in the Physician Assistant Education Association Student Health Policy Fellowship program spent three days in Washington, D.C.

In September, McLafferty got a first-hand view of the process on a national level when he visited Washington, D.C., as a member of this year’s Physician Assistant Education Association Student Health Policy Fellowship. The yearlong program provides fellows the opportunity to learn more about health policy and advocacy in promoting the physician assistant profession.

Fifteen members of the Physician Assistant Education Association were selected from programs across the country. The fellowship began with a three-day workshop and visit to the nation’s capital.

Fellows spent one day learning about legislative policy, bills and issues being discussed in Congress, and how to best state their case as advocates for the physician assistant profession. The next day, McLafferty met with three of Missouri’s congressional representatives: Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, and Representative Emanuel Cleaver. They discussed issues ranging from diversity to physician assistant education and education funding.

“We’ve learned in school about how the legislative process works, but you don’t really learn the politics of it, the hurdles that come up, the part that party politics plays,” McLafferty said. “Being there and experiencing it in real life helped me to better understand the intricacies of how things get done and how our government works.”

Fellows will spend the next month developing projects to promote the role of physician assistants in their own communities. McLafferty said the fellowship experience has already given him a better understanding of how he can make a positive impact on the profession.

“I feel more empowered to affect change in the future after just being in Washington, D.C., and getting to talk about things that I’m passionate about to an audience that has the power to do something about it,” he said.

Physician Assistant students take part in 2017 White Coat Ceremony

Members of the School of Medicine’s physician assistant program took part in the reading the PA Professional Oath during the annual White Coat Ceremony on April 15.

Eighteen students from the UMKC School of Medicine’s master’s program for Physician Assistants took the spotlight at the UMKC Student Union on April 15.

The class read aloud the Physician Assistant Professional Oath as part of the program’s White Coat Ceremony, marking a milestone in the journey toward completing  the Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant degree.

At the School of Medicine, the annual rite takes place at the beginning of the students’ fifth semester of the seven-semester program. It signifies the time of students transitioning from the classroom to the clinical phase of their training.

This was the third year of the White Coat Ceremony for the school’s PA program, which celebrated its first graduating class last May.

Following a brief welcome and introductions from program director Kathy Ervie, M.P.A.S., PA-C, Jim Wooten, Pharm. D., and associate professor of medicine for the departments of Basic Medical Sciences and Internal Medicine, offered brief remarks of encouragement.

Members of the PA program faculty then placed the white coats on their students’ shoulders. The white coat is considered a mantle of the medical profession and the ceremony emphasizes the importance of compassionate care and expertise in the science of medicine.

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation initiated the White Coat Ceremony to welcome students into the medical profession and set expectations for their role as health care providers by having them read their professional oath. Today, nearly 97 percent of the AAMC-accredited medical schools in the United States and Canada, and many osteopathic schools of medicine conduct a White Coat Ceremony. The Foundation partnered with the Physician Assistant Education Association to provide funding to establish the first White Coat Ceremonies for PA programs at the end of 2013.