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PA Student David McGehee GS’17 Awarded Veterans Caucus Scholarship

Wallace Boeve, director of the physician assistant program, presents the inaugural Vic Germino Legacy Award from the Veterans Caucus of the American Academy of Physician Assistants to David McGehee GS’17.

As students filed into their Anderson Center classroom on May 22, there were shrieks of joy, hugs, and excited chatter between quick sips of coffee.

“It’s the first time they’ve seen each other in five months,” explains one of the professors in the room, leaning over with a chuckle to explain the chaos that happens after clinical assignments keep the tight-knit physician assistant cohort apart. The group was back on campus for end-of-term meetings and to honor a fellow classmate.

His classmates may not have known it, but David McGehee GS’17 is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He served for six years, doing basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois and studying Persian Farsi at the California Defense Language Institute before being stationed in Augusta, Georgia, and then Bahrain, a nation on the Persian Gulf. He completed two tours, one on submarines and one on surface ships.

McGehee is one of at least 133 current Bethel students who have served in the military, and he was recently honored with a cash prize and the inaugural Vic Germino Legacy Award from the Veterans Caucus of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).

“In a profession which is founded on a strong tie to the U.S. military, we are excited to recognize and honor David for his past military service, as well as potential future service to our country,” says Wallace Boeve, director of the physician assistant program.

"David has been a joy to have in the program. From our first time meeting him in interviews to his work in the program, he is one of the most genuine and sincere people you will ever meet,” says Boeve. “As chair of his master's thesis project, I have also been impressed with his quality work ethic and excellent follow-through. He is going to make an amazing PA, exemplifying Bethel’s commitment to excellence and service."

The award—one of 12 nationwide—was accepted by Boeve on McGehee’s behalf at the AAPA national convention earlier this month, in remembrance of decorated U.S. Coast Guard veteran Victor Hugo Germino. Germino was one of the three original graduates of the first physician assistant program at Duke University. As one of the first PAs in the United States, he provided medical care at bases across the country, on an icebreaker on Arctic and Antarctic scientific expeditions, and through clinical and compliance work. He later spent 25 years in occupational medicine, providing care in such settings as the Alaskan oil pipeline and an open-pit gold mine in Uzbekistan.

Germino was a model of the diversity of the physician assistant profession, which was inspired by the techniques used to quickly train medics for service in World War II. It continues to be a growing field, providing quicker and more affordable medical training for both traditional clinical settings and mobile, compact units like those in which Germino served. McGehee doesn’t know exactly where his career will take him after his white coat ceremony in August, but he’s strongly considering serving once again in the military or with veterans.

He says that his time in Bethel’s physician assistant program wasn’t unlike his time serving overseas. “There are 31 of us, all going through this thing together,” McGehee says. “You build this incredible connection with the rest of the group. It’s been a great experience.”

Bethel began its physician assistant program—just the third in the state—in 2013, and students have since received incredible pass rates on their national certifying examination. McGehee’s cohort will be the third to complete their training.

Find out more about Bethel’s physician assistant and healthcare programs.

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