Harmon current physician's assistant student

by Del Bartels

Philip Health Services, Inc. is hosting another physician assistant student. Derek Harmon started his first rotation, in Philip, October 17 and will continue through November 23.

Though under the main tutelage of Dr. Coen Klopper, "I kind of bounce around. They all seem to take care of me," said Harmon. "People know I want to learn and they are taking advantage of that. I have never been treated so respectfully in my life."

"I think he's a good kid," said Klopper. "It's important that we get these kids to know the small-town family medicine, and maybe end up working in a small town."

Harmon is a Lake Mills, Iowa, 2006 high school graduate. He completed his undergraduate work at Augustana College in Sioux Falls in 2010 with a double major in biology and Spanish. He plans to finish his physician assistant requirements from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion in 2012.

The Philip rotation is the first of 10. Harmon will then receive hands-on learning in Watertown, then in Mobridge, and then he is not sure where. "I'm still unclear on my vision of where I want to go, but this program is showing me the benefits of family medicine. These providers would do anything ... for their patients. It's incredible, relieving and inspiring that medicine hasn't lost all of that," said Harmon.

Harmon received his first taste of the medical field when he went on a medical mission trip with an Iowa church group. Having had three years of high school Spanish classes, he ended up interpreting for a doctor in Guatemala for several weeks. "That's what sparked my interest," he said. "I was really thrown into it, kind of like here. You are forced to learn; a high learning curve."

During his junior year in college, Harmon spent eight months with the Red Cross in Costa Rica in an immersion program, "like an exchange program to learn Spanish, but I got to help with the medicine area as well." The region was suffering from affects of major mud slides. "I didn't have any certification at the time, but you were just thrown in stuff."

"The worst thing (about the Philip rotation) is being far away from home. The first few days I feared that would be bad, but this place and the people are almost like home. The worst thing has turned into the best thing," said Harmon. "I think it boils down to respect, not only from the providers but also from the patients. You don't see that in many big cities."

"I'm new. I'm young; I don't know anything. I'm a perfectionist and my hardest critic. Medicine is my story. I'm growing there. It's high learning, but been good," said Harmon. He likes that he actually has many instructors so he is exposed to everyone's way of thinking. He's been "taking core with everybody."