Larry Aguirre, DMSc ‘20, PA-C, was working in psychiatry in northern California when COVID hit, “I am also a medical officer in the Army national guard, and was activated and sent to work in Los Angeles in skilled nursing facilities.” Like many others, he has to balance his civilian employment with his Army National Guard duties, all while completing his DMSc coursework.
“Of course it has been challenging, but the way the coursework is structured to be flexible, it was made possible. Also, it was obvious to me from the beginning that this doctoral program was designed for students with demanding careers. The way the doctoral project is spaced out over each semester, and with excellent mentorship and feedback to guide us through (Dr. Nancy Reid), you’re left with a great doctoral project at the end of the program,” he says.
Dr. Aguirre’s specialty is psychiatry, working primarily with youth populations. “The flexibility of the PA profession allowed me to shift from where I began, in primary care, to psychiatry, due to the needs of our population. I completed a primary care psychiatry fellowship with UC Davis, and also worked with a psychiatrist in my geographic area.” Dr. Aguirre says being able to meet the urgent needs of the patient population right in front of you is what being a PA is all about. “This is very crucial, especially in rural areas, and it is amazing that we can do that as PAs, to shift where we are needed to fit the clinical needs in front of us.”
Earning his DMSc has helped Dr. Aguirre continue to meet those needs, “One of the things I really enjoyed about the DMSc experience was my interaction with my fellow colleagues in the program. They are all hard working, very engaged and dedicated professionals; very motivated individuals. It was great being able to learn from each other.” He also reflects, “The focus on clinical applications was very practical. With each and every class, you can tailor it to your own practice needs. I was able to research and study different aspects and questions about my own clinical practice in psychiatry, and other students could research in their own areas.”
Dr. Aguire reflected upon what the DMSc might accomplish for the PA profession,“As PAs, we have seen this evolution of the career — from a certificate, to an undergraduate degree, to Masters, and to the doctorate level. I am glad to see that the PA profession is moving in the direction of the doctorate degree. Plus, for entry into administration and management, as well as academic arenas, and potentially in the government arena as well, the doctorate degree is needed. It is great that PAs have the opportunity to be recognized for the depth of training that they have gained over the years.”