Student

Bryan Bilbao

  • Physician Assistant

After seeing his Spanish-speaking grandmother struggle to get quality care in U.S. hospitals, Bryan set out to become the compassionate and knowledgeable provider that everyone deserves. Fueled by his passion to deliver inclusive care, he is pursuing his master's in Physician Assistant Studies at Penn College.

 

Bryan Bilbao
TAKING THE LEAD

Q&A with Bryan

WHY PENN COLLEGE?

I chose Penn College because they did a great job of making me feel like an individual and not just “another number”. Penn College was extremely affordable for a student in my situation, a student with a bachelor’s degree, and offered me individualized help in all my classes. From my pre-PA coursework to my PA-level coursework, I am able to not only email professors, but also text them and receive individualized feedback whenever I need it. I never feel like a bother to anyone at PCT, even when it came to talking to people such as President Gilmour. The school has that “homey” feel while being able to help ease my stress as I study to become a physician assistant.

WHEN RESEARCHING COLLEGES, WHAT ASPECTS OF OUR PA PROGRAM APPEALED TO YOU MOST?

Some big takeaways I noted were: the individualized experience such as being able to talk or find my professors when I had questions about anything. Even in my PA courses, the faculty to student ratio is about 20:1. I have friends in other PA programs and the ratio is 70-100:1 and professors don’t even remember half their names. I enjoy that our program puts an emphasis on the medicinal approach, but also has a strong emphasis on social determinants on health. Another aspect is the clinic room where we practice physical assessment skills or ACLS/PALS – which gave that real “provider-patient” type feel before going on rotations.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR INSTRUCTORS?

My relationships with my instructors is phenomenal, including Katie the secretary all the way up to Josh the program director. They never make me feel dumb or afraid to ask questions. My instructors are available to me 24/7, and I mean that. Some instructors that ended up leaving and going into practice full time still check in with me and ask how I am doing, what I am learning, etc. They also take the time to help me with my weaknesses individually, but applaud my strengths. Even with how annoying I am, especially with the video projects I do, they all enjoy helping me and seeing me grow as a student and future provider.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS CONSIDERING THE PA PROGRAM AT PENN COLLEGE?

Do it. Whatever PA school you go to, you are going to experience stress and anxiety. The staff in our program does a great job of realizing the stress you are under and trying to be there for you at all costs. Once a teacher had us get up and wiggle and dance to help us calm down before a quiz and another who tried teaching us to practice mindfulness-based practices. Whenever we have discrepancies, questions, or even nervousness, we all can talk to our professors, and they would help us feel good again. Each professor also has years of experience and assists with building your foundation of knowledge so when you get to rotational year, you feel good with the groundwork of knowledge to build upon.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE THUS FAR?

My most rewarding student experience thus far was the video project I did for my medical decision-making class with Heather Dorman. My project commemorated my late grandmother who died from medical complications and had many years of lackluster healthcare due to her not being able to speak English. I saw first-hand while translating Spanish to English how some providers pushed her off.

I made a video interviewing over 10 people of different colors, backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, and disabilities and gave feedback on how to treat patients better. The video received over 12,000 views on YouTube, 200 shares on Facebook, and currently has several articles from local paper agencies talking about the project. 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB?

My dream job is to be a physician assistant in an emergency department. I also hope to volunteer some of my time to those that are disadvantaged or underprivileged and lack reputable and affordable healthcare. I also hope to one day hold a position within our national physician assistant board (AAPA).

IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU ENHANCED YOUR SKILLS BEYOND THE CLASSROOM?

I expanded my skills beyond by understanding that healthcare sometimes is not this beautiful place that some may think it is. It is a sad and grueling occupation and sometimes even the patients get taken advantage of. PCT made me realize that social determinants in health can make a patient suffer more than they should and the only way to combat this is to continually educate ourselves and promote awareness of these types of issues.

Doing videos and spreading my work through various forms of social media can impact and teach not only future providers, but also current providers. Even if only one person watches it, I am hoping that one person takes away something they did not know or acknowledge before watching the videos, presentations, or work I do.

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THAT PENN COLLEGE IS A SOUND INVESTMENT?

I believe that I am now a respectable, empathetic, and hard-working future provider. Penn College reinvigorated in me that all good things come with hard work and dedication. Some people say, “I waste my time studying”. I did not “waste” my time studying every day, weekends, and/or holidays. I studied so intensely and hard because one day I will evaluate a patient whose diagnosis is the one I spent hours and hours learning how to properly diagnose and treat. The person I am taking care of isn’t just Patient 12 of the day. That patient is a human being–someone’s mother or father or son or significant other. I learned hard work and dedication and as my grandmother always said “Education is something no one can ever take away from you.”

WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT STARTING YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?

What excites me most is that I am going to be able to be the provider I always wanted for myself and for my grandparents. I am going to be able to solve a medical mystery and in turn, treat the patient in the compassionate and respectable way I always imagined. I am going to help take care of people and I am excited to have people come back and say “Thank you, I trust you with my life.” I am excited to have a person have more time with someone they love and allow me to help them with their care. And hey, maybe I can practice some of my jokes on patients since my stand up career never took off!

Student Experience

"One person alone cannot change the world, but if one person can ignite the spark and others see it, we can make this world a much better place."

Bryan Bilbao

view bryan's capstone video project

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Physician Assistant Studies

This five-year physician assistant studies program includes three years of pre-professional education, followed by a year of intensive lab-based study and a year of clinical experience in a variety of medical settings.

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