Call it serendipity.
Andre Kerr was resting with his wife. It was an idyllic place by a river in their native Jamaica. Suddenly, a teenage boy began to drown. Kerr and the others jumped in and pulled him out.
Fortunately for the boy, Kerr and an American tourist performed CPR and revived him. At breakneck speed, they rushed the 13-year-old to the hospital. They saved his life. The incident would also change Kerr’s life. He just did not know yet.
Since childhood, Kerr had wanted to become a doctor. He loved science and medicine. His mother and friends called him Dr.Dre. But “honestly, my family was big and medical school was expensive,” he says. “In Jamaica, I thought we could not afford medical school.”
Fast forward to the present. Kerr is an assistant physician at Miami VA Health System in Miami and Broward County, practicing internal medicine and preventative medicine. He is a graduate of the inaugural 2015 class of the Master in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He is the first in his family to attend college and study medicine.
Kerr was so grateful to FIU that after graduating in 2017 and passing his licensure exam in early 2018, he wrote a letter of thanks to HWCOM Dean, Dr. John Rock. The subject line read: “Me, A Certified AP! Incredible!”
“For me, a 42-year-old Jamaican-born black man with a wife and two daughters to care for and provide for and give this opportunity is more than a dream come true. “Words cannot adequately express what this program has given me and done for me and my family.”
Back in that day many years ago – after rushing the boy to the hospital, Kerr discovered that the American who helped resurrect the teenager was a PA. “I said, what is it? In Jamaica, we have no medical assistants.” The man explained that PAs work under the supervision of a doctor. But they can examine and diagnose patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x-rays, make diagnoses, prescribe medication and practice in all medical specialties. Kerr thought it was a perfect fit for his personality.
“As a PA, you are at the center of the patient’s healthcare team. You talk to the patient, the nurse, the dietitian, the surgeon, the social worker. The doctor may not have time to do them all. PA play a critical role and vital to the healthcare team, ”he says.
In 2005, Kerr and his wife – then a registered nurse, now a neonatal nurse practitioner – moved to the United States. In 2015, he was working as a biomedical field service engineer when HWCOM announced the new PA program. Opportunity knocked.
“During my interview at PA school, they asked me why FIU? I said because ‘I’ is for internationals, and you can not become more international than me, so I think I’m here!”
Kerr describes the work during the COVID-19 pandemic as exciting but distressing. “Especially being black and seeing interactions in unsolicited communities. Sometimes it’s great, but mostly humble.”
He is too modest to see himself as a model. However, Kerr hopes to encourage young blacks to pursue careers in healthcare. “It’s a scary reality. Patients have a more natural trust in someone who looks and speaks like them,” he says.
Kerr thinks it helps minority patients be open about their health issues and better comply with the medications and treatments prescribed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants are among the fastest growing and highest paid professions. The average 2019 salary for PA was $ 112,260.
In case you are interested, Kerr will tell you that life as a PA will be “challenging, rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but never boring”.
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