James Madison University

PA Student Finishes Rotations in Peru

By: Daniel Vieth '15, '17
Posted: April 5, 2016

Recently JMU’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program added a clinical rotation in Peru as an option for their students. Tyler Prewett (‘03;‘15), a Double Duke and recent graduate of JMU’s PA Program, is JMU’s first student to take advantage of this program, recently finishing his final clinical rotation in Trujillo, Peru. Prewett is now a physician assistant practicing emergency medicine at Augusta Health in Staunton.

Originally from Brighton, England, Prewett is no stranger to world travels. Though he initially became an accountant after graduating from JMU in 2003, Prewett realized that business was not the field for him, and instead traveled around the world volunteering for different agencies. “I ended up working with a few medical teams during that time, learning a lot about different tropical medicine topics,” Prewett explained. “I felt like the work they did was really valued, and that made me want to get into the medical field. I wanted to give back to the world.”

After living in Harrisonburg for a few years volunteering for the local rescue squad, Prewett applied to JMU’s PA Program. This 28-month program is split between four semesters of didactic coursework, and three of clinical rotations, typically in different hospitals and medical facilities around the area.  “Each program differs slightly, especially if you’re going into different fields like family medicine, neurology, or surgery,” said Prewett. “JMU has 12 month-long clinical rotation rounds, including an elective rotation, which many programs don’t have.”

PHOTO: Tyler Prewett emptying trash

When Prewett first started the program, JMU did not yet have any options for international rotations. Luckily for Prewett, this changed when JMU approved an outside program hosting PA students: The Medical Elective Network. “It was actually Jerry [Weniger] and Kristi [Liskey]’s idea to add this component,” Prewett continued. “They asked if I would be interested in essentially being a guinea pig for this project, and I accepted.”

The Medical Elective Network is a provider of Spanish immersion programs in Peru. “My specific program was run by a British ex-pat living in Peru who really emphasized language learning opportunities for medical students,” said Prewett. “He would actually host Spanish classes at his house after our hospital hours.” Though Prewett knew some Spanish from his travels, he explained that the fast dialogue and Spanish medical jargon in the hospitals was still a challenge during his rotations. “It was even difficult to communicate with members of my host family, who were very nice but did not speak any English,” Prewett added. “Because of this, the program really pushed me to learn more Spanish.”

While in Peru, Prewett spent most of his clinical time at the El Regional Hospital in Trujillo, a city in North Central Peru near the coast. “The hospitals in Peru have a similar student rotation process to hospitals in America,” said Prewett. “Even if their technology isn’t quite as advanced as ours, the hospitals are still very modern. I had a similar role to what I did in US hospitals, helping take X-rays, MRIs, patient blood pressure, and so on.”

During his free time on weekends, Prewett enjoyed surfing. “Peru has some areas that are famous for their surf breaks, yet they were never as crowded as American beaches,” said Prewett. He also took the time to visit some of the poorer neighborhoods in the outskirts of Trujillo. “I’ve seen what poverty looks like in other countries, but I think it’s still good to experience it and really appreciate how these people live,” Prewett continued. “It really reaffirmed that I wanted to be a PA and eventually work in impoverished countries around the world.”

Prewett’s goal is to work as a PA for an embassy, where he would be able to travel the world and help people. “I want to bring awareness to what PAs do in other countries, and have PAs be more accepted and recognized in more places,” he continued.

After a post-graduation vacation trip to India, he immediately began his new position as a physician assistant in emergency medicine at Augusta Health in Staunton. “My trip to Peru was all very awesome,” Prewett added. “I felt like the JMU PA program definitely prepared me for all of my rotations.”

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