First and foremost, I wanted to thank my father, the "OG" Hunro, PA-C for his inspiration and motivation over the years. I wanted to thank Medelita for honoring me as a Medelita HIP Ambassador and gifting us with matching father-son scrubs and white coats. I also wanted to thank my family, friends, mentors and peers who have influenced me in some way or another to a) continue this path b) share my story c) inspire me to aspire to also inspire others! The TL;DR (by a little bit) blog is on Medelita's blog section. Finally, Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers out there! Y'all inspire more people than you know.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” My dad always told me this and if I had a dollar for every time he brought up this quote, I would be able to pay for PA school. Alright, probably not full pay for it but if PA school tuition nowadays was how much it cost about 30 years ago, when my dad attended his PA program, then I'd be pretty close to it.
So, yes, my dad is in fact a PA. No, I’m sorry, friends. I can’t ask him to write a letter of recommendations for your or a pre-PA student you might know. And no, it really wasn’t easy getting into PA school despite him being a PA (as some people have assumed).
Some people have also assumed that my dad had always wanted me to become a PA also. Not really. My dad at one point, did not want me to go into medicine. He also really didn't want me to follow his footsteps and become a PA like him. It took a lot for me to convince him that I wanted to do this and I wanted to be just like him.
He always told me that he and I were different in terms of our life and our upbringing. He came here as a young, adult refugee, without family. While I was born here in the United States. He had to sleep on the kitchen floors of crowded apartments with a whole bunch of people in Long Beach. While I had my own bed and room. He struggled to get his G.E.D. with his broken English. And I had ample opportunities to further my education and opportunities to pursue my various passions, medicine, sports and music. Essentially, I had a better life than he did.
No parent wants their kids to have to endure the same hard ships that they had to overcome. Obviously, I did not experience the Khmer Rouge regime. I had no idea what it was like to have to ration porridge and salt. I had no idea what it was like to lose your parents and siblings to the Killing Fields. I had no idea what coming to America as a refugee was like. I had no idea what it was like to live with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
Despite not experiencing these traumatic events first-hand, I felt my father's pain and despite our disagreements and us butting heads, I am inspired. I picked up various traits and the values he has instilled in me. Despite how much our lives differed, I still saw similarities between the two of us.
Trying to convince my dad that I wanted to pursue PA school was definitely a battle, and maybe because of my own lack of confidence or upbringing. My parents were split before I could even remember living in a "normal home". I was between Long Beach with my mom and the Inland Empire with my dad every other weekend and during the summers. Growing up, I was a troublemaker yet caring. Smart yet lazy. Loud, outspoken and outgoing yet reserved, shy and alone. I honestly felt like bouncing between my parents' homes did that to me but I have embraced trying to find that balance. I bring this up because I was rebellious towards not wanting to "follow my dad's footsteps", hence the film-making degree and time spent on the arts of music and film. At the same time, I found myself volunteering with kids with neuromuscular diseases, coaching the youth and serving the homeless, things my dad would have been doing.
He wanted me to either do something away from medicine or "go all the way" and become a doctor. I thought about it... Heck, I was about it. Until I really knew what that life was about. I did my due diligence in deciding between MD/DO/PA/NP, etc. I shadowed various providers, worked alongside different providers in an array of specialties and settings. Once I made my decision, I presented my dad with the things I had done to solidify my decision and told him, it may not be what he wanted, but it's happening. His son was going to become a PA.
Through those experiences and my own familial obstacles, there were four aspects in life that were extremely significant to me. Again, after doing my due diligence and deciding on PA school after being on the fence about PA and MD/DO, I realized how the important things in life related to those four life aspects. Once I decided to follow my father’s footsteps and become a PA, I never looked back. Because of my preparation over the years and the opportunities to work towards, apply to and interview for PA schools, I was lucky enough to be accepted to two PA programs. Programs I am able to continue my path towards becoming a PA like pops, with these four life aspects in mind.
Life Aspect #1: Family
Despite my parents’ separation at a young age and splitting the time between mom and dad, I was always taught that family comes first. My father would pick watching my basketball games and volleyball tournaments over extra urgent care shifts. He even scheduled family vacations around my school and sports schedules. There was also a time that I broke my nose from playing football and despite telling him that I was about to have a closed reduction in a few days, he took that surgery date off, and drove a couple of hours to Riverside, in order to bring me to the surgery center and back home. Although my family upbringing wasn’t “traditional” or “ideal”, they were always there for me, especially my father. I vow to reciprocate this and will do my best to balance my future family and career as a PA.
Life Aspect #2: Medicine
I loved the science of medicine, process of problem solving and all of the good and bad feelings medicine encompassed. What really motivated me often was what clinicians he had worked alongside had told me, "Your dad is an amazing PA." Several NP and PA students he was a preceptor for, also told me the same thing. "You're lucky to be able to learn from your dad. He knows what he's talking about."
It wasn’t until I was about 24-years-old when I realized that my father was a clinician I can look up to. I admired the way he practiced medicine and how he educated his patients. Dad always said, “Medicine is as much of an art as it is a science.” He explained how medicine was an art in how we practice it. We utilize the tools and knowledge acquired throughout the years of prior PA school experiences, didactics, and rotations in order to deliver quality patient care. I took and cherished every opportunity I had to watch him. I saw how he educated his patients at our community health screenings and his clinic. I also listened to how he goes about making different diagnoses. I realized I was witnessing greatness and I was beyond blessed to have him as a valuable resource to learn from.
Life Aspect #3: Humanity
Through the various projects that my dad has done, I can't pinpoint another person who is on his level in terms of humility as a humanitarian and generosity as a philanthropist. In the early 2000's, he and I co-founded "Project, Thank You America". An annual family tradition in which we serve warm Thanksgiving meals (with a twist, adding traditional Cambodian food to stable Thanksgiving dishes) to the homeless and hungry neighbors in the Inland Empire. This was our way to "Thank" America for opening the Golden Doors to America for us Cambodian refugees.
Internationally, he has done even more. He has gone on a number of medical mission trips to Cambodia (multiple times) and Haiti. I had wished to go with him but because of a) school schedule conflicts b) lack of skills, I couldn't go. However, his trips inspired me to go on my own medical trips to Honduras (twice). And also inspires me to go on future trips to Cambodia, once I become a PA. Also in Cambodia, he created a library for the kids and community in his old village in Cambodia so students would be able to read, write and speak English. For months, we collected books to be sent to Cambodia and set up English classes for the students.
Life Aspect #4: Legacy
My favorite all-time quote is “Aspire to inspire before you expire.” As a PA, my father has inspired young Cambodian-Americans to pursue higher education as well as possible careers in the healthcare field. He would encourage his medical assistants who were interested in transitioning into nursing, further their education. He would also thoroughly educate and teach his nurse practitioner or PA students who rotated with him. This impact on the future shows how selfless and passionate he is.
It’s not just the continuation of my family legacy, as my grandfather was a traditional Cambodian medicine man; and not just a Long Beach or a Cambodian-American legacy, populations where there are socioeconomic struggles. It’s a legacy for minorities in medicine and the future of medicine. He has been giving back to the next wave of aspiring healthcare providers and professionals. He continues to also give back to the communities we come from and for that I admire him and aspire to continue that legacy. Following my father’s footsteps to continue this PA family legacy is something that will be truly worth all of the struggles and stress I'll encounter during PA school.
Not many people knew or know about his story or legacy yet. But it’s one that I am proud to be apart of and it is one that I hope to build upon as a PA in the future. After my indifference regarding my father's roles, I have embraced how fortunate I am to have him as a father and to have a father who is a PA. I am inspired, blessed and absolutely lucky to have a father like him, who I can look up to. He has been and will continue to be role model for me with regards to family, medicine, humanity and legacy.
The fact that even PA’s such as Mr. Dwayne Williams, author of PANCE Prep Pearls, recognizes how special it is to continue my father’s footsteps in becoming a PA-- I can only hope to be half the man and PA that my father is.
Dad, because of you, I vow not to quit when the going gets tough, when didactics seem impossible and when I encounter my future patients. I vow to practice medicine with integrity, compassion, empathy and wisdom, just like you. Thank you for the opportunity to continue this PA family legacy.
Happy Father’s Day and I love you pops!
-Aaron Hunro, soon-to-be PA-C