By Kate Hunger
A career in medicine was not what Paul B. Allen, Sr., DSc, MPAS, PA-C, FAAPA, physician assistant studies assistant professor envisioned when he joined the U.S. Army.
Allen, PA program director and chair, shared the story of his military service and medical career as the featured speaker at the Veteran’s Day program and reception held Nov. 9 by the Military Health Institute. Also speaking at the event were Byron C. Hepburn, M.D., Maj. Gen. USAF (Ret.), MIH Director and William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, University President.
“I began my career in the U.S. Army with a desire to be a combatant,” Allen told the audience. “As harsh as that may sound, the ideals instilled in my youth of becoming a warrior were strong. I came by my profession in medicine, and subsequently as a medical educator, completely by accident.”
Allen was selected for training as a Special Forces medical sergeant, not as a Special Forces weapons sergeant, as he had hoped. With the encouragement of mentors, he progressed in both his military career and advanced education, becoming a PA, deploying multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a doctoral degree, holding numerous leadership roles and eventually leading postgraduate education for the U.S. Army Physician Assistant branch.
The military was an excellent training ground in medicine and in service, he told the audience. Similarly, he said, the University could find many excellent student candidates among veterans looking for a way to continue serving and should look for ways to help them use their training and skills by “creating pathways to ease their transition to a civilian career in medicine.”
Allen noted that veterans make up 13.6 percent of the faculty at UT Health San Antonio, compared to about 8 percent of the population of Texas and approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population. He theorized that the larger representation of veterans on the faculty at the University is a result of a natural progression from one type of service to another.
“I think as human beings, generally we tend to orient ourselves towards the good and meaningful,” Allen said in his remarks. “Those of us who have been given the opportunity of a medical profession while in uniform can move very easily from national service to serving our local communities.”
Indeed for Allen, working at UT Health San Antonio enabled him to put his training and skills to use while satisfying his desire to serve.
“This job provides meaning for my existence,” Allen said. “It allows me to use my knowledge, skills and abilities gained through my military service beyond the military. I see clearly the purpose in our University’s mission to make lives better and in our mission in research to ease human suffering. Ultimately, UT Health San Antonio is a place where I can continue serving others through educating our next generation of providers, serving San Antonio, the state of Texas and our nation.”