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Like Father Like Son: Following My Father's Footsteps to PA

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard my dad say this quote, I’d be able to pay for PA school. Alright, probably not but if PA school tuition was what he paid about 30 years ago, then maybe.

Yes, my dad is a PA. No, I’m sorry. I can’t ask him to write a letter of rec for a pre-PA student. And no, it wasn’t easy getting into PA school despite him being a PA.

Contrary to popular assumption, my dad didn’t always want me to go into medicine, let alone become a PA. But I got lucky when my preparations in applying to CASPA was met with the opportunities to interview and get accepted into a couple programs. However, it took a lot for me to convince my dad to follow in his footsteps.

But why?

He always told me that he and I were different. He came here as a young, adult refugee, while I was born here. He slept on the kitchen floors of crowded apartments in Long Beach while I had my own bed. He struggled to get his G.E.D. with his broken English. And well, I essentially had more opportunities and a better life than he did.

As all parents, they never want us to go through the same hardships as them. Obviously, I could never experience the Khmer Rouge regime, losing your siblings and parents to the Killing Fields or coming to America as a refugee. However, I still felt his pain and was inspired. I still picked up traits and values he instilled in me and despite our differences, I still drew similarities to him.

Through my own experiences of working with patients in different clinics and specialties, shadowing various providers, and my own familial obstacles-- I saw that there were four huge aspects in life that were important to me. After being on the fence about medical school or PA school, I came to the realization of how the important things in my life related to those four life aspects. Once I figured that out, I knew I wanted to follow my father’s footsteps and become a PA… like pops.

First and foremost, for me was family. Despite my parents’ separation at a young age and splitting time between my mom’s house in Long Beach and my dad’s in the Inland Empire, I was always taught that family comes first. This was evident when my father would choose watching my basketball and volleyball tournaments over extra urgent care shifts. Or when he drove a couple of hours to bring me to the surgery center for my procedure. And although my family upbringing wasn’t “traditional” or “ideal”, they were always there for me. Something that I vow to reciprocate and balance for my future family and career as well.

Next was medicine. I loved the science, problem solving and feelings that medicine encompassed. What really motivated me to follow his footsteps, was what clinicians he has worked alongside, told me; “Your dad is an amazing PA.” It wasn’t until my mid-20’s when I realized that my father was a clinician I looked up to in terms of how I practice medicine in the future. He always told me, “Medicine is as much of an art as it is a science.” It’s an art in how we practice it and utilize the tools and knowledge acquired throughout the years of prior PA school experiences, didactics, and rotations. Any and every opportunity I had to watch him educate patients at our community health screenings, or listen to him talk about making different diagnoses-- I would be honed in because I realized I was witnessing greatness and I was lucky to have such a valuable resource to learn from.

Third was love for humanity. Through the various projects that he has done, I’ve looked up to him as a humanitarian and philanthropist. In my early teen years, he and I co-founded Project, Thank You America in which we serve thanksgiving meals to the homeless and hungry neighbors in the Inland Empire. This was our way to “Thank” America for allowing us, the Cambodian community, to come here as refugees. Internationally, he has also gone on numerous medical mission trips to Cambodia and Haiti— something that inspired my own medical trips to Honduras as well as my future trips to Cambodia, once I become a PA. Along with these projects, he also created a public library in his old village in Cambodia so students would be able to learn how to read and speak English.

Finally, the last aspect was legacy. My favorite quote even to this day is “Aspire to inspire before you expire.” As a PA, my father has inspired so many young Cambodian-Americans to pursue higher education and possible careers in healthcare. He would always encourage some of his medical assistants who were interested in transitioning into nursing or help his nurse practitioner or PA students he was a preceptor for. It’s not just continuation of my family legacy, or a Long Beach legacy or a Cambodian-American legacy. It’s a legacy of minorities in medicine, giving back to the next wave of aspiring healthcare providers and professionals as well as the communities we come from. Following my father’s footsteps to continue this legacy is something that will be worth the struggles and stress of PA school.

No many people knew or know about his story or legacy but it’s one that I am extremely proud of and one that I hope to build upon. I’ve embraced how fortunate I am to have a father who is a PA. I find myself unfathomably inspired, blessed and lucky to have a father like him to look up to. He has been a role model for me in those huge aspects of my own life; family, medicine, humanity and legacy. I can only hope to be half the man and PA that my father is.

Dad, thank you for the enormous amount of inspiration and sacrifice you have given myself, fellow PA’s, the medical community and the world. Because of you, I vow not to quit when didactics gets tough and I vow to practice medicine with integrity, compassion, empathy and wisdom. Thank you for allowing me to continue this PA family legacy. I can't wait to also be a Hunro, PA-C.

Happy Father’s Day and I love you pops!


About the author:

Aaron Hunro is an aspiring PA-C in Long Beach, California. Raised by refugees, Aaron is passionate about giving back to a world that has given him so much life experience and valuable lessons, which he accomplishes through volunteerism, advocacy, motivation and art. When he isn't working or studying, Aaron enjoys using rap and hip-hop as his outlet to vent and storytell his life experiences. Follow Aaron on Instagram!