So I had a cool experience the other day… I was talking with a patient and her spouse about some of their concerns which included chronic back pain and spinal stenosis as well as anxiety and depression.
We talked about past surgical interventions, current treatment options for the stenosis and then switched to a discussion of mental health. At the end of the conversation, one of them said to me, “You know a lot about a lot.” It was very flattering and I thanked them for the kind words.
I explained that I seem to have an unquenchable curiosity and that I love to read and to learn. I think they were surprised when I told them that I was planning on pursuing a doctoral degree after several years in practice as a primary care PA.
I explained that I received my current medical training at the Master’s level. My program was quite condensed and covered 88 credits in 24 consecutive months. I received about 2,000 hours of didactics and 2,000 hours of supervised clinical training. The doctoral program that I have chosen is the Doctor of Medical Science at Lincoln Memorial University which will add an additional 18 months of didactics and advanced clinical training including point-of-care ultrasound taught by physicians associated with LMU’s osteopathic medical school. There is no other program like it.
The Doctor of Medical Science degree began at Lincoln Memorial University in 2016 and in the subsequent four years, several other programs have developed. However, many seem to focus on leadership, policy, and research offering classes in Organizational Leadership, Healthcare Administration, Disaster Medicine, Global Health Issues, Health Care Law, and Evidence-based Medicine. That’s all well and good but that’s not what I want. That’s not what my patients need, in my opinion. That’s not the skill set the patients I mentioned earlier appreciated in me.
I in no way intended to belittle any other program or any of my colleagues as they simply seem to have different goals. I’m not paid by or otherwise affiliated with LMU. But I want my patients and my physician peers to know that on top of my PA training and years of experience, I am choosing advanced training in nephrology, cardiology, hematology, endocrinology, infectious disease, etc. These are the things that matter in my everyday practice.
I don’t suspect completing this degree will satisfy my curiosity but that it will exponentially accelerate my learning and my capabilities and ultimately allow me to provide better care for my patients. That’s what they have come to expect from me as a PA and what they should continue to expect from me as a PA doctor.