Physician Assistant Program: Student Profile
Chris Bertino spent 10 years as a medical lab technician in his hometown of Cooperstown, drawing blood and performing EKGs and other diagnostic procedures. Helping those people every day convinced Bertino he could do more—so after earning a bachelor's degree from SUNY Oneonta, he enrolled in the Physician Assistant master's degree program at Upstate Medical University.
"I really enjoyed building relationships with patients and their families," Bertino said of his work at Bassett Healthcare. "I had experience with cancer patients and dialysis patients. You see them so often, it helps build strong relationships with them."
Bertino, who has a BS in human biology, enrolled in the charter class of Upstate's PA program in 2009. The first 15 months of the 27-month curriculum are primarily classroom training, followed by a year of clinical work and research.
"The one-on-one you get from everybody here is a huge benefit," Bertino said. "You collaborate with other College of Health Professions programs and the medical school, so there are many more resources."
Upstate's PA students benefit from being part of an academic medical university, where there's a Human Anatomy Lab and Clinical Skills Teaching Center on campus. Several teaching hospitals are within walking distance, and PA students take anatomy, pharmacology and behavioral science with students from Upstate's College of Medicine.
After their 15 months of didactic training concludes, Bertino and his classmates will spend 12 months training with preceptors in one of several cities and communities in the region. Current clinical sites are in Canandaigua, Carthage, Cortland, Elmira, Geneva, Oneida, Saranac Lake and Utica.
"The idea is to build a relationship with the community we're in, and help those communities so that they want us to work there (after we graduate)," Bertino said.
Bertino's career plan is to settle in a small or mid-size community in the region that needs medical professionals. That meshes with the mission of Upstate's PA program, which is to fill the need for primary care providers in medically underserved communities in Upstate New York.
The PA profession is one of the fastest growing health care careers in the nation. The number of PAs has grown from 43,000 in 2001 to more than 73,000 in 2009, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Bertino looks forward to joining those ranks in 2011.
When he was young, Bertino was treated by a Physician Assistant in a pediatrician's office. "It was a positive experience, absolutely," he said.