Heather Heggem, director of physician assistant program, 406.657.1193,

RMC Media Team, 406.657.1105,

PA students take, proffer advice before and after their clinical rotation year

BILLINGS, May 16, 2014 – First-year students in the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program will spread across the U.S. in August as they begin clinical rotations after a year of didactic classroom study. At a picnic on May 13, they visited with returning second-year students taking their cumulative exams, who will complete their degrees this summer.

The second-years shared their stories from the first six of their eight rotations, learning at work in very varied hospitals and clinical settings.

“Bob Wilmouth was a primary instructor. In my surgery rotation in Loveland [Colo.], I believed I was in over my head. Everything I’d thought was baloney he’d told us about valve-replacement surgeries turned out to be 100 percent true. All I wanted to do was thank him [and] tell him ‘You were right on the button,’” said second-year student Melissa Rider.

In a two-week span in Worland, Wyo., Gabe Blomquist did physical exams of three separate presentations of AAAs (abdominal aortic aneurysms). “I had been quizzed by Bob on exactly that – a strong abdominal pulse. We got the CT back and saw an enormous AAA.” Blomquist heads next to Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena, Mont., for a pediatric psychiatry rotation.

 Zhongfeng Liu of Penglai, China, was already a doctor in China from Shandong University, and is taking her PA certification in order to practice in the U.S. Liu also credits the preceptors and her field-site medical providers as fine teachers. “I loved all of them” at six different clinical sites, she said. “They all have different styles. For me, they correct my English also.”

The PA program requires students to bring clinical experience when they first enroll. Liu had also worked in lymphoma research at University of Nebraska Medical Center. Rider, from Las Animas, Colo., had been an EMT. Blomquist, from Ryegate, Mont., worked as a mental health technician.

Current first-years, about to head out for clinicals, liked to hear their stories. “The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know,” said first-year James Dassel of Indianola, Wash. Alexandra Ornholt of St. Johns, Newfoundland, said, “Go with the flow.”

“The students have a close relationship with the instructors,” said first-year George Onyango of Kisumu, Kenya. “You are not swayed and don’t lag. You share ideas."