AAPA18 Keynote Jeff Evans: The Man Behind the Mountains

PA Jeff Evans Shares His Experiences as a PA and Adventurer

April 5, 2018

By Abby Boshart

PA Jeff Evans
PA Jeff Evans

Jeff Evans is a mountaineer, a leader, and the AAPA18 general session keynote speaker. He began his career as a wilderness EMT in Joshua Tree, California, and later graduated from Drexel University’s PA Program.

Jeff’s love of the Himalaya and continuing desire to pay it forward sent him to Nepal with a mobile medical team following the devastating earthquake in 2015. The following year, Jeff accepted the role of Chief Medic for the highest helicopter based Search and Rescue team to ever operate on the flanks of Mount Everest. In 2017, Jeff served as the medical lead for a trauma team on the front lines in the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS. He has been featured on ABC’s Expedition Impossible, CNN, The Doctors, and The Travel Channel.

We asked Jeff 10 questions to learn more about the man behind the mountains.

His favorite adventure
Evans: It’s hard to distill it down to a favorite. I suppose I’d have to go with my Everest expedition with my buddy Erik, who is blind, and our amazing team back in 2001. It was the quintessential illustration of a group of people working for something that is bigger than any one person—tackling something that had never been done before with a very high chance of failure. That trip had all the key ingredients for a life-changing adventure.

When he knew he wanted to be a PA
Evans: It was June of 1996 to be exact. I was guiding clients on Denali (also known as Mount McKinley) in Alaska and at the same time deliberating on my next professional move. I had four options: continue being a climbing guide, go to paramedic school, go to medical school, or get into nursing.

One of my clients happened to be a PA and I got to spend three weeks on the side of a mountain with him, so I was able to pepper him with questions and get solid advice. Once I became familiar with the profession, I never looked back. I was fortunate enough to have been accepted into the PA program at Drexel a couple years later.

How being a PA makes him a better climbing guide
Evans: Many of my clients and climbing partners decide to climb and adventure with me largely because of my medical training and experience. I have built on my work as an emergency medicine PA to include high altitude and austere medicine skillsets which have served me well on expeditions over the years. I also attribute much of my critical thinking skills and teamwork approach to years of working in the Emergency Room with large teams.

On serving as a PA in Iraq
Evans: It was fulfilling, frightening, exciting and powerful. It was an honor to work alongside some very talented RNs and paramedics in such a challenging environment. It also gave me an even deeper sense of gratitude and respect for the men and women who serve our country, especially the combat medics and trauma teams. Also, it turns out that putting chest tubes in a non-responsive patient while taking mortar fire is not an everyday occurrence.

The biggest challenges he’s faced
Evans: Raising a kid, guiding my friend Erik, who is blind, to the top of the world, going to PA school, and becoming fluent in Spanish.

Why he started climbing
Evans: I was (and still am) a very restless kid. I couldn’t sit still and always was curious about what was around the next corner. This led me to move out to Colorado when I was 19 and quickly discover the allure of the Rocky Mountains. My rock climbing and mountaineering became all-encompassing and helped to carve out my desire to go to PA school and ultimately focus on expeditionary medicine.

His scariest moment
Evans: I’ve had a few.  I’ve been in a couple avalanches and was targeted by ISIS with mortar rounds. I’ve taken some fairly big falls on the sides of rocks and fallen into bottomless crevasses while I was roped up. Perhaps the scariest was when I became a dad at the age of 35.

What he loves most about speaking
Evans: I get the opportunity to have a platform to share anecdotal stories from my life experiences and distill the impactful, real-life messages that come from those experiences. In doing so, I always hope to encourage folks to look for opportunities to be servant leaders, develop strong rope teams, optimize their efforts in the face of adversity, and be of service to the people around them. If I can inspire even a few folks to move their personal and professional trajectories in that direction, I’ve done my job.

What he’s most excited for at AAPA18
Evans: I’m super fired up and extremely honored to be able to address my PA colleagues. Honestly, it will be a dream come true for me. The fact that I get the opportunity to share my stories and themes with a group of PAs that make the world a better place is humbling to say the least. Well, that and Clawdia!

Something most people don’t know about him
Evans: I’ve seen 107 Grateful Dead shows (all prior to Jerry Garcia’s passing in 1995).

Make sure to register to see Jeff Evans and all the other amazing events at AAPA18.

Abby Boshart is a communications associate at AAPA. Contact her at [email protected].