PA Tim Kang Shares His Healthcare Career Journey — And Offers Advice

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Timothy Kang grew up with parents who suffered many health complications. His father struggled with heart disease and had a coronary artery bypass graft procedure at just 52 years old – so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone, including himself, when Timothy decided he wanted to go into the medical field. His particular interest was cardiology, for obvious reasons.

The Family’s Health Advocate

“As the oldest of my two siblings, I felt a responsibility to help my parents when it came to their doctor's appointments, as they had difficulty speaking English. I remember looking for opportunities to expose myself to healthcare as soon as I got my driver's license so I could gain experience and further help my parents through their struggles.”

Tim, now 25 years old, works at Baystate Franklin Medical Center (BFMC) as a Physician Assistant/Associate at Baystate Cardiology – Greenfield. But he isn’t new to BFMC, because he’s been volunteering or serving as a Student Ambassador here for many years.

Volunteering in the Hospital

“I contacted Becky George who brought me in to help out on the Spokes (patient rooms). My responsibilities were centered around anything non-clinical. I restocked gloves, cups, lids, etc. However, my favorite thing to do was bring patients water or ginger ale when they asked for it. This led to my first exposure to talking to patients about their illnesses, lives, and their families waiting for them back home. To make a long story short, I fell in love with developing relationships with patients. I loved hearing their stories and connecting with them. I remember thinking, ‘I can't wait to come back and help them through medicine someday.’ It's still surreal to me that I am in that position now.”

Becky George, Baystate Franklin Manager of Volunteer Services, welcomed Tim. At first he volunteered at the hospital every week on a regular basis, but it became tougher as the months and years went on because of school. For at least a couple years, he always came back for a shift or two, whenever he found he had the time, even through college.

Watching Healthcare Pros ‘Work Their Magic’

In his senior year of high school, he heard that BFMC had a Student Ambassador Program that allows students interested in a healthcare career to shadow healthcare professionals in different specialties – everything from cardiology and obstetrics to radiology and more. Local high school students are given the opportunity to shadow members of the hospital for a six-week period, standing alongside surgeons and other medical professionals who walk them through procedures. They are provided a chance to see a variety of jobs available in the hospital.

Tim’s interest in healthcare was growing, so he thought becoming a Student Ambassador would be perfect for him. He applied and was accepted into the program and shadowed nurses, doctors, PAs, NPs, people in IT, imaging technicians, surgeons, just about everyone, he says, and watched them “work their magic” in various settings and even got to “shadow” in the stress lab, where cardiovascular patients are tested so that diagnoses of coronary artery disease and irregular heart rhythms can be made, and also so doctors can plan treatments of different heart conditions.

“It was awesome - easily the coolest thing I had the opportunity of being a part of at that time in my life. It solidified my desire to be a part of the healthcare world. I was also able to learn enough that I knew that the PA profession was something I wanted to strive for.”

Tim graduated from Pioneer Valley Regional School and attended Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston for its 3+3 program, where he did 3 years of undergraduate studies in pre-med followed by 3 years of PA school. He admits he was looking at practicing in a more urban area – he didn’t have plans to return to Franklin County.

Then his girlfriend of 7 years told him she wanted to move back to Franklin County. Tim says it took him a few months to give in, but he eventually did.

‘The Best Thing That Happened to Me’

“Now, I'm admitting that it ended up being the best thing. While looking for a job, I happened to get an email from the team that facilitated the Student Ambassador Program at BFMC. They were asking past participants where they were in life and if they had pursued a career in healthcare. I replied and explained that the Student Ambassador Program was the best thing that happened to me in high school, and that I had just became a PA. Becky wrote back and helped me get connected with a recruiter. One thing led to another, and I was able to get the job that I have now. I was very excited during the interview process. I loved that I had the potential to work for Baystate and to return to my roots. Now I wake up every day excited to go to work and wear my badge proudly through the halls and in the office.”

A Special Interest in Cardiology

Tim says the beauty of being a PA is that you don’t have to specialize in any particular field of medicine, but he always wanted to work in cardiology and that’s where he ended up. It struck his interest because of his father’s ordeals with heart disease, among other reasons.

“Since then, my father has been dealing with his comorbidities (other medical issues along with heart disease) and struggling to understand the instructions of his providers due to his inability to speak English comfortably. To help him to the best of my ability, I have taken a special interest in cardiology.”

There is no “typical” day for Tim at work, at least not yet, he says. He does everything from see patients to stress testing, where patients walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while their heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored. He loves that it’s something different every day. Tim plans to stay with BFMC for the foreseeable future.

Serving His Community

“I'm very happy to be serving the community that I grew up in. I am excited to be working for an organization that helped me fall in love with medicine. Everyone I've met at Baystate Franklin has always been nothing less than supportive of me, and I want nothing more than to be surrounded by that going forward. I have nothing but pride to be practicing medicine for the people of my community and to be working for Baystate Franklin today.”

He says what’s so special about working at a community hospital is that most of the people he works with, like himself, are members of the community who care deeply about others who live there. He says it’s much easier to remember everyone and their conditions because you already know so many of them, and you know the environment where they work and live, and that fosters strong relationships and very importantly, trust.

Advice for Getting into Healthcare

“Knowing your community makes it much easier to relate to your patients’ struggles. This can be very important when creating treatment plans, especially preventative, because the provider is better able to provide local resources to ensure good care. If I were to give any advice to anyone considering healthcare as a profession, I would say get experience in any way possible, before and during your journey – volunteer, shadow professionals, whatever you can do. I've known a lot of friends and heard stories of many people going into medical programs before getting exposure to healthcare, and then realizing that being hands-on with patients and interacting with various patient populations isn't for them. Even if you know that healthcare is for you, it's great to get practice and learn how to create a strong relationship through compassionate interpersonal communication. Other than that, find something that you have passion for and keep working hard. The light at the end of the tunnel is real, and you can get there.”

Learn more about careers at Baystate Health.

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