JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The second-ever graduate from Madigan Army Medical Center's Interservice Physician Assistant Program became a PA and an officer on Feb. 1 at Madigan.
First Lt. Thomas Choi began his graduation day as a sergeant and a PA student with Madigan's IPAP Phase II program.
"Today, Sgt. Choi finishes an intense 29 months of learning designed to provide the uniformed services with highly competent and passionate physician assistants who model integrity, strive for excellence and are committed to lifelong learning," said Maj. Nathan Williams, the IPAP Phase II coordinator at Madigan.
By completing 13 months of clinical rotations at Madigan, from operating rooms to patient wards, Choi entered a profession created more than 50 years ago to address a lack of medical doctors in military and civilian health care systems, according to Williams.
He shared that the Army IPAP has consistently ranked in top PA programs in nation, and it exceeds national averages for first-time national board certification pass rates.
"The Army PA has served the nation in all conflicts and peace-keeping missions since the Vietnam War and will continue to play a critical role in the health care of our fighting force," Williams said.
Choi's desire to join the military PA field sparked six years ago.
"It was my initial encounter with God that really instilled a desire to pursue care of the needy, so that's when I first decided to look into the PA profession," said Choi, who started his career as a medic before applying for the PA program.
He took over 100 exams, put in over 2,200 hours in clinics and surgery and wrote a master's thesis as a part of his journey to enter his new career field.
"When I look at Sgt. Choi, I see the definition of perseverance … and it won't end today, so your perseverance, what's gotten you to today, will serve you for the rest of your career and hopefully a long profession as a PA," said Lt. Col. Laurel Neff, the Madigan IPAP medical director who presented Choi with his diploma.
He now joins the more than 800 other PAs serving in the armed forces.
"From the start of his training, I have observed Sgt. Choi's professionalism and enthusiastic commitment to learning that will continue to serve him and his patients well. He has been lauded by his preceptors as an intelligent, efficient and empathetic provider who has set the bar high for future IPAPs here at Madigan … I'm proud to have him as a peer," said Williams.
Choi's parents pinned on his first lieutenant bars in the ceremony that served as his commissioning as well. As one of the military's newest PAs, Choi is heading to Fort Hood, Texas, to care for the Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division. He said he's most excited about making his own decisions and having an impact on the Soldiers for whom he'll be responsible.