Even though Jim Corbett, PA-C (Yakima Class 1) graduated from MEDEX Northwest’s physician assistant training program over a decade ago, he can clearly remember his first day of school.
“We sat down and one of the instructors said: if everything there is to know about the human body is this hospital, and everything that you should know about being a PA is this room — we want you to know what this chair is,” says Corbett.
It was a reassuring introduction, and it made an intensive two-year medical program seem achievable rather than overwhelming. And it implied that the program’s graduates would continue to learn and grow as they matured in their practice. Corbett certainly has found that to be true.
“When I got out [of the program], I was ready to start learning medicine,” Corbett says.
Corbett, who now works at the Republic Medical Clinic in Republic, Wash., didn’t take a direct route to a career as a physician’s assistant. He fished in Alaska, and he worked for years as a painting and drywall contractor — alongside a man who had painful arthritis. It was a wake-up call for Corbett. “I remember thinking: I’ve got to do something with my head and not my body,” he says. After working as a medical technologist for a few years, Corbett realized that he wanted to work more directly with people. Then he found MEDEX Northwest and applied to the MEDEX site in Yakima, Wash.
During Corbett’s first year of school, his wife and three small boys stayed in Spokane; he moved to Yakima. Corbett visited his family on weekends, an arrangement that let him concentrate on the didactic portion of his training, and he returned to Spokane for a series of preceptorships in his second year.
The six-month family medicine preceptorship definitely left an impression. “When they shipped me off to Wellpinit, a little tiny Indian village about 45 minutes to an hour outside of Spokane, it was a perfect environment to learn what rural medicine is about…it prepared me for where I am today,” Corbett says.
Now Corbett works in the clinic during the day; at night he’s on call for the emergency room. He makes clinical visits to a remote clinic in Curlew, Wash., and he takes care of inmates at the Ferry County Jail. It’s busy, Corbett says, especially when the clinic is missing a doctor, as it was last spring. Still, Corbett understands that rural care isn’t for everyone.
“There are a lot of people who would not like to live this remotely,” he says. “But I really like small towns and rural living.” It’s been a great place to raise his kids, he says, and, thanks to MEDEX Northwest, he feels like he’s found his niche. And, as much as he loves being in a small town, he’s glad he’s still in contact with the emergency medicine doctors he met during his clinical year at MEDEX.
“When you’re out here alone, and you get on the phone and you talk to somebody and have them help you,” Corbett says, “it’s a lifesaver.”