PA Students are Resilient: Student Academy Past President Cooper Couch

During Pandemic, PA Students Prove Adaptability

July 27, 2020

By Cooper Couch, PA

Cooper Couch headshotFrom delayed commencement ceremonies, postponed clinical rotations, and the quick pivot to online learning, PA students across the nation are putting into practice one of the hallmarks of our profession: adaptability. While our new normal can certainly produce high levels of stress, I am continually impressed at how students across the country are quickly adjusting to new conditions and finding ways to make the most of these challenging times.

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This past leadership year, the Student Academy Board of Directors made it a point to prioritize the needs of PA students and celebrate their ability to adapt. From fostering community through a student Huddle campaign, to providing you with student-specific COVID-19 resources, to offering a free student webinar series, AAPA is here for you. We recognize that the current pandemic has had significant impacts on education, finances, and the job market as well. AAPA has been in regular communication with ARC-PA, PAEA, and NCCPA to collaboratively and strategically respond to PA student needs in a thoughtful manner during these unprecedented times.

PA students are responding to COVID-19 in so many creative ways. Savannah Potter from Hofstra University has been assisting respiratory therapists. Hunter Gibbs from University of Alabama Birmingham found a way to help his community as a contact tracing investigator. Rutgers University PA students partnered with a local running store to donate clogs to healthcare workers. Joe Hwang from Mercer University organized a quiz-style competition for all three cohorts of his PA program. Shannon Watson from University of California Davis was able to return to rotations and is still volunteering with the California Health Corps under her RN/PHN license. These are just a few stories of how PA students are adapting to a new normal while also finding ways to serve their communities.

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It is especially important to have effective leaders during times of uncertainty and instability. Forty PA students stepped up to the leadership-opportunity plate by running for positions on the Student Academy Board of Directors. This unprecedented number of candidates demonstrates that PA students recognize the importance of having “skin in the game”!  Congratulations to the 2020-2021 Student Academy Board of Directors who began their term of service on July 1.

On a personal note, my class at the University of Southern California graduated on May 15 through a virtual conferring of degrees after in-person commencement activities were postponed. The program did a fantastic job putting together a virtual celebration, complete with videos from professors and alumni.  My hope is to work in primary care at a federally qualified health center close to home in rural Colorado. I will continue my volunteer leadership by serving as a delegate-at-large with the Colorado Academy of PAs and will be marrying my fiancé, Marty, in September. Fingers crossed we don’t have to postpone the wedding!

As a PA student, the Student Academy wants to know how YOU have been impacted by COVID-19. Please join us on the Student Community Huddle and share your story!

Couch ended his term as Student Academy President on June 30. When not in school, Couch spends his time back home in Colorado with his fiancé Martin and their cattle dog Mila. They enjoy long-distance running, cooking, hiking, camping, traveling, and volunteering together.

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