Add the intangibles: curiosity, observation, good judgment, experience, and concern for your patient. A person's life hangs in the balance.
The young man's father had fallen several times within a couple of weeks, prompting them to visit a local hospital emergency room. More than one ER, in fact. When nothing was found, the pair was sent home. But the father kept falling. And the son remained concerned.
"Skull CT scans weren't as common as they are today," says Dave Luce, who was on duty in Philadelphia's Episcopal Hospital clinic at a time when the young man brought in his father after another fall. Relying on his training and experience, Luce noticed something during his hands-on examination of the elderly patient. "When I checked his eyes and vision, I could see swelling of the optic disk, and I knew that wasn't good." In short order, this patient was on the operating table. Surgeons drained a subdural hematoma, taking pressure off the brain and saving the man's life.
Today, Luce recognizes how far the medical profession has progressed since his early years in the field. He carries such memorable experiences from his 32 years as a physician assistant clinician into his teaching and mentoring at Midwestern University.
I want to give back to patients and the profession while I'm helping educate new PAs. I love the synergy of teaching and seeing patients."
— David Luce, M.M.S., PA-C, Downers Grove
"To enter this profession and not see patients is not an option for me," says Luce. "I feel I need to do both as a role model for students. It takes discipline, but it's important." In addition to teaching at Midwestern, Luce sees patients up to eight hours each week at the Downers Grove (IL) Family Practice Clinic and at The Bolingbrook Christian Health Center, a clinic for underserved populations in Bolingbrook (IL). "I want to give back to patients and the profession while I'm helping educate new PAs. I love the synergy of teaching and seeing patients." In MWU's first-year didactic curriculum, Luce teaches Clinical Medicine, Physical Diagnosis, and Medical Writing. He also received his M.M.S. degree from Midwestern in 1999.
Luce serves as the faculty facilitator for MWU's Underserved Medicine Club, a group that sponsors community'oriented medical projects, such as a day-long, student-run health fair for an inner-city Chicago community. He also helps organize medical missions to El Salvador — MWU students raise their own funds to make the trip — providing healthcare to underserved populations while working with a local medical professional. And Luce is part of MWU's Collaborative Health Advocate Team, an interdisciplinary effort where students and faculty work together on service learning activities such as diabetes management patient education.
"It's important for me to be able to mentor both students and new faculty members," says Luce. "I've worked hard over the years to improve my own teaching. When I'm having a good day, it's so rewarding to see students 'get' it and participate in lively discussions with each other." Luce also appreciates MWU's emphasis on teaching that complements its solid basic science research opportunities. "As faculty members, our focus is on students and our doors are open. We have a healthy and supportive environment that starts with the University president — she goes out of her way to foster a sense of belonging, of community, and that's just one of the reasons Midwestern University is such a great place."
David Luce, M.M.S., PA-C, is assistant professor of Physician Assistant Studies in the College of Health Sciences at Midwestern University's Downers Grove (IL) Campus. He advises MWU's Christian Medical Association and the Underserved Medical Club and serves as a site visitor for the PA accreditation and review committee.