Carson Valley man heads back to school | RecordCourier.com
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Carson Valley man heads back to school

Linda Hiller, staff writer

Mike Scott is just the kind of family man people like to root for: he served his country in the military, he loves his family, he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has had his share of setbacks, and yet he has high goals and is willing to work hard to attain them.

Recently, Scott came steps closer to realizing two of his childhood dreams – being a policeman or a doctor.

Growing up in Henderson, Scott’s dreams were shelved when he joined the U.S. Army and became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division after graduating from Basic High School in 1987.

“I learned so much in the Army and got to see the world,” Scott said. “But one experience there changed my life. It was during a firefight in Panama in 1989 when we were caught in sniper fire.”

Scott said his unit was engaged with the enemy when another American unit entered the area, unaware of the enemy snipers and engaged in friendly fire, requiring Scott’s unit to divide attention between the enemy’s sniper fire and the American unit.

“The snipers took advantage of the situation and shot three of our guys,” he said. “I went to help the medics working on one of the guys who was shot – I was holding the IV, and praying that he’d live – that was about all I could do. He didn’t live, but from then on I realized that I wanted to be able to help in those situations, not to just stand by.”

Scott, who became a medic, served in the Gulf War and was exposed to things he’d never seen before – the social extremes of the rich and the poor, and nerve gas.

n Slight detour. In 1995, Scott was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease where the patient’s immune system, for unknown reasons, becomes hyperactive and attacks normal tissue.

“No one in my family has lupus,” Scott said. “We really don’t know where I got it from – if it was the nerve gas or not. I can deal with it, though, many people have much worse cases than I do.”

Scott received a medical discharge, sending him on a search for another career, something very important to this 30-year-old husband and father of four.

“Prior to getting out of the military, a friend had told me about the MEDEX program at the University of Washington, so I applied,” Scott said. “I never really expected to be accepted, and although I do have enough college credits from over the years to probably put together a degree, I don’t have one.”

MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant Training Program is designed to train physician assistants, emphasizing their placement in underserved rural areas in the Northwest.

Though he was competing with many candidates with much more formal education, Scott was selected for the program – one of two from Nevada – after a long wait, during which he worked as fitness director at Nevada Fitness in Minden.

Ironically, while he’d been waiting for that phone call, Scott completed the Western Nevada Community College Police Academy and was awaiting the graduation ceremony, something he had to forego because the Scott family needed to move to Seattle pronto.

“I loved the police academy classes, but this was too good to pass up,” he said.

Mike and Lisa, 32, have been married for 13 years and have four children, Michael, 12, Amanda, 10, Nicholas, 5, and August, 2.

The MEDEX program will turn Scott into a licensed physician’s assistant in two years. The first year will be spent in Seattle while Scott attends classes on the UW campus. The second year, the family will return to Carson Valley while Scott studies with a physician – he hopes through Barton Memorial Hospital – since they gave Scott a $3,500 scholarship toward his $24,000 tuition.

n Wants to settle here. Scott hopes to study under Dr. Thom Merry, a busy family practitioner working at Barton’s satellite facility, the Carson Valley Medical Center in Gardnerville.

“I thought it was awesome that Barton Hospital stepped forward to help him out and assist him,” Merry said. “He’s certainly a deserving young man with a good history of supporting his country and his family, and in the future, we hope that he’ll come back and join us here on the Merry medical team – he’s going to be an outstanding physician assistant.”

Gerry Conley, a Barton administrator, said the $3,500 grant is obligation-free, simply designed to help a good cause, but he hopes Scott will return to work under a Barton physician.

“Mike seemed like a really neat young man and dedicated to this community,” Conley said. “He has to find a physician sponsor, and we hope that he does come back here. Mike is our first sponsor to a PA school.”

n What they can do. Physician assistants can do almost everything a licensed physician can, including diagnosis, surgery and dispensing medicine, but they can’t admit a patient to a hospital and generally must work under a collaborating physician.

Because they are in demand, Scott said a starting PA should be able to make $60,000 to $70,000, a far cry from his army pay, he said.

“I’m the most educated person in my family, and I’ll be the wealthiest,” he said.

The Scotts left Carson Valley on Sunday for their year in Seattle. Because it was a fast move, Mike was unable to go out and secure some matching funds for Barton Memorial Hospital’s $3,500 grant.

n What you can do. If you’d like to help support Scott’s education and return to the Carson Valley, an account has been set up in two area banks, Greater Nevada Credit Union, account 787937; and Bank of America, account 004961179720, Route 1224-00724.

“I can’t wait for the classes,” he said. “I like to see the positive effects of my actions, and I know being a physician assistant will offer that. “