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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Physician Assistant program is a natural for this veteran

February 27, 2014
Graduate Steve Hauswirth and his family.

Steve Hauswirth enlisted in the Air Force when he was 21-years old and spent the next ten years advancing in levels of responsibility for medical units. His training, education and expertise grew with each assignment.

Steve’s military assignments spanned medical technician and Independent Duty Medical Technician, to Jack-of-all-trades where he performed medical and dental exams, labs, water sampling/testing, food inspections; anything to do with the health and wellness of the unit.

“Every day we had to inspect all the food and check the temperatures to make sure it was OK to eat,” says Steve. An outbreak of dysentery was not going to happen on his watch.

Steve’s military career allowed him to go as far as he wanted in his medical training and responsibility. But, finally, what he wanted was to come home and serve the rural central San Joaquin Valley.

Steve had met Krystal, his wife-to-be, who was also in the military. Now in the Sacramento area, Steve searched for a school that would allow him to use his veteran’s education benefits and earn Physician Assistant status.

Many military veterans returning home after years of providing high level medical care in the service of their country are finding that there is no place for them to apply their skills in the states without attending an accredited training program and then qualifying for licensure.

Current legislation and benefits, such as the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, American Jobs Act, GI Bill and grant awards to colleges and universities that train veterans for careers as Physician Assistants, are helping to solidify training and keep military medics in the field.

“The VA gave me one year to get into a school or lose the money,” says Steve. He was not going to let his chance to make the most of his extensive medical experience slip away.

He heard about SJVC’s PA program in Visalia and made the trip to check it out.

“I met with the faculty and a few students and learned quickly that there was a very strong military background among staff and faculty; it became my one and only choice,” says Steve, who had just finished 30 units of prerequisites in 14-months, while working 45-50 hours a week supervising an urgent care department.

Steve dove in, leaving his military bride of just one week to start their life together….alone.

“She has been there for me from the beginning,” says Steve. “Who gets married and then lets her husband go away, potentially for two years!”

“The PA program was hard, and I was in the books all the time,” says Steve. “I wasn’t expecting was the amount of community service and outreach we did, which included working with the Veteran’s Caucus of the American Academy of Physician Assistants – in which I was the founding president of the student group at SJVC.”

“It wasn’t until our White Coat ceremony that it finally hit me,” says Steve. “That was probably my proudest moment; when it all felt real to me.”

Then, it was over. And, even before his graduation ceremony, Steve had been offered a Physician Assistant position with Adventist Health. He loves what he is doing in primary care and making an immediate difference with someone’s medical concern or injury.

In his youth, Steve and his single mom and two siblings had also struggled, depending at one time on welfare and food stamps.

“We pulled together, while my mom went to trade school and got her A.S. degree in Secretarial Studies,” says Steve. “I want my life’s work to serve that community we came from.”

Steve is motivated by the need to take good care of his family. Although his 15-year old daughter, Micah, lives out of state, he wants to make sure that she has the opportunities he never had. Steve is also very proud of Krystal, who works in the IT department at Fresno’s VA Hospital.

“In addition to supporting me when I was in school, Krystal was finishing her Bachelor’s degree,” he says. “Now she has a Masters in Business and intends to get into hospital administration.”

They are a family of strong determination and realized dreams. But, there is another vision taking shape.

“We just found out we are going to have a baby,” Steve shares confidentially. The quest continues.