First Year Student Blog: Joe Chang

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Joe Chang, PA-S

Reflections from the First Semester

I began my journey as a PA student at the Duke Physician Assistant Program (DPAP) auspiciously, culminating with the White Coat Ceremony during the first week of orientation. This intimate ceremony initiated each of us into the PA profession, following the path of past and current PAs, who have contributed greatly to our profession.

Soon tJoe Chang's small grouphereafter, I met with my fellow group members within the small group I was assigned to for this semester. Each of us had varying life and clinical experiences with diverse ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the values of the PA program at Duke. We met regularly during our Patient Assessment and Counseling course as well as our Evidence-Based Practice course and Common Practice Labs (CPL). We shared our joys, pushed through the challenges, and collectively shared a common genuine bond throughout the semester.

Amongst the small group coursework sessions that occurred during the semester, the CPLs are my favorite thus far. At each CPL, we discussed differential diagnoses and planned a treatment plan for simulated patients with various symptoms, medical conditions, and co-morbidities in a case-based format led by a facilitator. The CPLs were designed specifically for the unit (Cardiology, Hematology) that was presented and covered during lecture. This enabled us the opportunity to bring our Clinical Medicine, Diagnostic Methods, and Pharmacology courses into one cohesive unit that can then be applied to simulated cases.

The CPLs were invaluable as symptom presentations for heart and blood conditions often present similarly and are difficult to differentiate. I often reflected how I could differentiate between stable or unstable angina, or how I could differentiate anemia of chronic disease from iron deficiency anemia with a simple iron study and complete blood count. Yet, as a direct result of the CPLs, I slowly gained confidence in my ability to learn and apply pharmacotherapy concepts and laboratory findings to complex simulated symptoms and etiologies.

At the end of the semester, our small group was overjoyed. We did it―we survived our first semester at DPAP! Most importantly, I faced my doubts and pushed through the challenges.

We met as a group of individuals initially―with goals and aspirations of becoming exceptional PAs. Collectively, we bonded as one in our journey as life-long learners. One can best express this path through the works of Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune. Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more…

Destination: TBD.


Joe Chang is a second-year PA student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email joe.chang@duke.edu with questions.

Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.