Edwin Enwia always enjoyed the medicine in his 10 years as a paramedic and firefighter. He would arrive on scene, conduct his assessment and drop the patient off at the hospital. However, Enwia felt frustrated that he often had no idea what would happen after that point. He wanted to be involved in caring for his patients and felt incomplete in this process.

Not one much for school, he knew he had to go back to seek more from his career path and at 26 years old, he started taking general education classes at Long Beach Community College. However, after this first semester he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In and out of the hospital for almost a year, he began to really understand how it felt to be a patient.

“It sucked at the time, but now that I look back, I can see how that experience opened my eyes when it comes to talking with patients and understanding their struggles,” Enwia said.

After coming out of that ordeal, Enwia persevered and went back to school to complete his degree. Initially, he thought medical school was his path, but when he ran into his oncology physician assistant getting coffee, he found himself on the pathway to becoming a PA.

He found the profession was a better fit for his personal goals of growing a family, exploring his commitment to his community and keeping himself grounded.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Enwia said. “I have grown a lot in my interprofessional relationship with colleagues. I have been challenged, but I am really fortunate to grow with my fellow students, who have in turn found value in me.”

During his time in the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, he has been not only an example of a student who excels, but remains humble in serving the local community. He spent one summer teaching men at the Midnight Mission and then returned to the program set on inspiring others to volunteer their time.

“Take a chance and invest in yourself,” Enwia said. “The rewards reaped by the sowing of your time and effort today is well worth its weight in gold and will certainly influence the lives of those whom you will care for as a medical professional.”

As he graduates this year, Enwia sees many opportunities in his future — the first of which may be growing his family. Wherever his journey takes him, he said he hopes he can one day return to USC one day to teach future PA students.

— Claire Norman