WEST POINT, N.Y. (JAN. 12, 2011) -- Keller's loss is the Army's gain as two officers graduated with a master's degree in Physician Assistant Studies Jan. 7 at West Point. Capt. Chris Gonzalez and 1st Lt. Ryan Kissane were the first Army officers to complete Phase II of the Interservice Physician Assistant Program at Keller Army Community Hospital.

West Point joined 13 other installations as a Phase II training site for the IPAP. En route to earning a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree, students must first complete a 12-month Phase I program at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where the IPAP is centrally located within the Academy of Health Sciences, Army Medical Department Center and School.

At Keller Army Community Hospital, Gonzalez and Kissane spent approximately 53 weeks in various clinical rotations to include the emergency department, orthopedics, neurology and pediatrics.
Currently, four more students are engaged in rotations at Keller and will be graduating in September and January 2012.

For Kissane, a former medical section noncommissioned officer, the graduation also served as a promotion ceremony for the newly commissioned Army officer. Kissane will serve as a physician assistant with the 142nd Medical Company in the Connecticut Army National Guard, as he prepares with his unit for a deployment to Afghanistan. He previously served as a medical section sergeant with the 1-102nd Infantry Battalion.

"As a medic I worked with several physician assistants and from those interactions I realized that being a physician assistant was what I wanted to do," Kissane said. "As a medic I realized that I had a love and aptitude for medicine."

He described the training at Fort Sam Houston and West Point as intense and thorough, but would recommend it to others interested in pursuing this career field.

Gonzalez became interested in the PA program at a time in his deployment where he began contemplating career goals. As an infantry officer, Gonzalez served with the 25th Infantry Division and with the 1st Army Division West, at Fort Carson, Colo., on the G-3 training staff. He was an infantry platoon leader and company executive officer before enrolling in IPAP.

"I spent a lot of time while I was deployed trying to decide where I wanted my future to take me," Gonzalez said. "That included many conversations with our assigned PROFIS physician, who introduced me to the idea of becoming a PA. After doing research about the profession and specifically the Army's program, it was a no-brainer at that point."

Gonzalez, a Class of 2001 graduate, enjoyed returning to his alma mater and was able to gain a new perspective of the West Point experience outside of a cadet uniform.

"It was unique seeing how much goes into each cadet's education and preparation for the Army," Gonzalez said. "I am amazed at all the hard work that goes into making each cadet successful; and how much time and effort each person, from the tactical officers, professors and medical personnel, put into their jobs."

Gonzalez said the PA training has prepared him well to take on his new assignment with the 3-73 (RSTA) Squadron, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"(Physician Assistants) in the Army are expected to operate with little supervision and at the highest level of competency," Gonzalez said. "Those expectations translated into an environment in which the staff at KACH demanded the most of us and pushed us to excel to new levels of proficiency. Without everyone's generosity and diligence, we would certainly not have had the rewarding experience we are leaving with."

To learn more about the Army's PA program, visit www.usarec.army.mil/armypa/.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16