First Year PA Student Blog: Amanda Bassett


“Hey there, Amanda,” a man standing by the entrance to CVS greeted me.  

“Hi Pockets, have you checked your glucose today?” I asked.  

“It is as sweet as ever; I am basically running molasses!” he joked.  

“Pockets” was one of the first patients I treated as a street-based EMT. Our friendship started off on the right foot – literally - when I treated his right foot for a fungal infection. For patients with diabetes like Pockets, a simple fungus can easily become a critical infection, like MRSA, and a life-or-death matter.  

Over five years of treatments, or what Pockets calls "pedicures," we developed a bond of trust, which I have come to realize is an essential element of patient-centered care, particularly for those with limited access to care like the homeless. Sometimes, it takes multiple visits over the course of months to build the trust necessary to get to the core issues affecting these particularly vulnerable patients' mental and physical health.  

About one month after I was first introduced to Pockets, he came into the clinic for the treatment of a recently drained abscess. I asked him if I could reapply the dressing in a few days. Feeling ashamed, he said, "No, it's just a bug bite." To put him at ease, I gave him the necessary supplies and instructions to do it himself. Later, he returned, excited to show me that he had followed my instructions precisely. It was a small enough moment, but it touched me deeply to see Pockets, in this modest way, begin to take ownership of his own health; all he needed was someone to educate and encourage him. Education places patients at the center of the discussion and gives them the tools and confidence necessary to take control of their own care. By leveraging educational resources such as visual diagrams or helpful mnemonics in care plans, medical professionals can help patients move from passive recipients of care to active partners in maintaining their own health. I admit, I teared up over Pockets’ wound dressing, but it’s small victories like these that keep me motivated and committed to this professional path.  

As a first-year student in the Duke Physician Assistant Program, I feel so fortunate to be a member of a community whose mission includes support for providers committed to meeting underserved communities' needs. During National Homelessness Awareness Month, I am particularly reminded of how important our role is as healthcare providers. We have the opportunity to work on the front lines, crafting creative solutions to the challenges standing in the way of providing healthcare to the most vulnerable. When convention continues to fail so many, it’s incumbent upon us, the next generation of health professionals, to push back, educate, and innovate. 

Amanda Bassett is a first-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog monthly. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, or Duke University.


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