First Year Student Blog: Paul Solis

Monday, November 5, 2018

Paul Solis, PA-S
Paul Solis, PA-S

PA school is like camp. I bet that’s not what you were expecting, so I’ll explain. See, I grew up going to summer camp and then became a counselor once I turned 18. Camp is my happy place. You get to meet new friends, learn new skills, and develop into a better human being. Some of my best friends are people I went to camp with and I firmly believe that’s where I learned how to be a good friend to others.  

In PA school I’ve already met tons of new friends. The neat thing is that my 88 new friends were all handpicked by a team of intelligent and passionate individuals that would later become our role models and mentors. We do fun things together outside of the classroom, like going to the beach, concerts, and sporting events. We’ve gone hiking and offered up our time to serve the community together. Needless to say, my fellow campers here at Camp DPAP (Duke Physician Assistant Program) are pretty cool. I don’t know everyone in my class as well as I’d like to yet but trust me when I say that everyone here has got what it takes.   

The one drawback to being in a class full of intelligent, driven, and compassionate people is that at some point you start asking yourself, “So what the heck am I doing here?” It’s easy to feel like an imposter. I can guarantee you that this unsettling feeling has crossed the minds of most of my classmates. I remember being 8 years old and feeling similarly during my first week at camp. Eight-year-old Paul did not feel like he belonged at camp. There were songs I didn’t know, games with rules I didn’t understand, and all these other kids who didn’t seem to struggle with it at all. Except that we all felt a little out of place. Once someone voiced their disquiet with this strange environment, we bonded in our shared trepidations and the real fun began. It has been much the same here at Camp DPAP.    

Growing up, I never felt like a "cool kid.” My classmates were funnier than me and I felt like I was weird.  Then I went to camp and I figured out that all kids are weird. At camp you were encouraged to embrace your truest self and use that to shape your experience. This manifested in unbelievably different ways and created a niche for any and all. There was no pecking order. You couldn’t win “best at camp” — that simply wasn’t what the experience was about.  

On a similar note, we’ve been encouraged since day one here at Camp DPAP that competition is a thing of the past. It doesn’t matter who is in the top of our class. We aren’t competing for scores that might help get us better job opportunities in the future — we are here to learn. We are encouraged to pool our resources and to help each other, because the information is fast and often complex. I often prefer to study by myself as I need some time with the material to truly understand it. This doesn’t stop my classmates from sending a useful resource my way when they come across it, though. The classes before us have also made themselves available to give advice based on their experiences. 

Like anybody who has ever had a strong camp experience, I think my camp is the best. So far, it’s been quite evident that everyone is trying to help everyone else succeed. It is far more supportive than I thought it would be before arriving at Camp DPAP. My classmates and I have seen each other succeed and we’ve seen each other struggle; that more than anything always amazes me. It has really been quite something to be a part of such a supportive environment with my 88 new friends, and I look forward to how we’ll grow together on the way to becoming practicing PAs. 

Paul Solis is a first-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog twice a month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.