Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant gets his start at GCC
Posted on Monday May 12th 2014
Andrews is on active duty in the US Army, working as an Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia. He has served in the Army for 14 years, and has worked as a PA for nine of those years, including two deployments to Iraq.
His is a true American story: He is a career military man whose concurrent career in medicine is very rewarding. He is married to fellow GCC alum Malisa (Little) Andrews, A.A. ’03 and they live in Virginia with their three children, Collin, 9, Kailynn, 3, and Chloe, 8 months. But he did not start out with a presumption of such future success. Andrews arrived at GCC as so many of its students do – he is the first in his family to attend college, both of his parents dropped out of high school and the culture of poverty that defined his childhood was one he knew he did not want to live, or raise a family in when he became an adult.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I came to GCC,” he said, “I had been working full time in my grandfather’s business (Bostley Sanitary) after high school and an initial failed attempt at higher education at the University of Wyoming. My grandfather’s nickname for me was “Professor” and he really encouraged me to return to college.” In fact, Maurice Beausoleil’s very accurate assessment was that his grandson James was too smart not to go to college.
Andrews took an array of classes at GCC to test the waters and eventually landed in an Anatomy & Physiology course with Professor Beth Erviti, which turned out to be a watershed moment in the trajectory of his career. He loved the class, he loved science and he did very well because he found himself “really wanting to impress Beth because she was such a great teacher and she made me want to do my best.”
That start in the sciences at GCC led to his transfer to UMass, where he completed his Bachelors with a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major and minor degrees in Chemistry, Biology and Spanish. Following that, he joined the Army and received his additional degrees to obtain his Physician Assistant credentials and begin practicing medicine.
Another positive impact GCC had on his later academic pursuits and his life’s work was the English classes he took with Professor Faythe Turner. “She really stands out as an excellent teacher – she was strict, no nonsense, but with a deep sense of wit and humor, and just taught us how to write.” A skill he notes served him very well while writing case studies and his dissertation in graduate school and now every day at work recording case histories or composing patient correspondence or scholarly documentation. “I see others in my office who are excellent practitioners, but struggle to write articles about their fields of study and I appreciate time and again that I had those semesters at GCC with Faythe Turner.”
Although Andrews very much enjoys his work as a PA in Emergency Medicine, he is interested in taking his educational journey to the next level and is preparing to apply for medical school soon. A moonlighting job in civilian life, working with a medically underserved community in Fort Washington, MD, where issues of poverty, drug addiction and obesity, among others, present him with a different and challenging perspective on health care delivery has pushed the idea of becoming a physician with a specialty in emergency care to the forefront. “I really like emergency medicine. I never know what I am going to be faced with and I need to know a little bit about everything,” he said.
But it is not all work for Andrews. In addition to spending time with his family, he is also training to run a marathon and is building a 1965 Shelby Cobra from a kit.
He appreciates all that he has been able to receive and to offer since those first days at GCC. “GCC is a great school that I have really fond memories of and I strongly recommend that people start there. Especially now that college is so expensive, it’s a great way to dip your toes in the water without getting financially wrecked while you figure out what you want to do.”
James Andrews definitely figured out what he wanted to do when he was at GCC and he has gone on to do it very well.