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Physicians assistant student at PHSI

"Dr. Coen Klopper was my push to go back to school," said Caroline Fuhrer, a current physicians assistant student at Philip Health Services, Inc. (PHSI).

Fuhrer is receiving hands-on experience during a six-week internship under Klopper's supervision. A student at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, she is enrolled in the School of Health Sciences physician assistant studies program. Fuhrer began at PHSI May 17 and will be working in Philip until June 24.

"Klopper kept telling me that I should be more than a nurse. Now, I am his first student intern. He's wonderful," said Fuhrer. Already a registered nurse for 18 years in Vermillion, she met Klopper while doing emergency room work. Coincidentally, 10 years ago, her youngest of four children was delivered by Klopper.

"I left nursing because there were times I couldn't help my patients enough," said Fuhrer. "I grew up always caring for things. I have eight brothers and sisters. Medicine just intrigued me. It's an ongoing learning process. I also know that medicine is not all about curing. Some people don't understand that. Sometimes it's sitting with that patient and their family when they die. It is about life and death. Also, it's teaching a patient how to live with a disease." She and her husband, Darren, have four children, ages 10 to 18. Three of her children are diabetic.

Fuhrer tells a story on Klopper. "My youngest has always considered him as her doctor. She even brought a doll with a broken arm to him. He 'cast' it with plastic tape. He's just a good man."

Fuhrer's family lives near Irene, just north of Yankton. "I grew up in rural South Dakota on a little farm. I'm never leaving South Dakota. It's my home, and this is the kind of medicine I want to practice." Fuhrer's master's thesis was titled, An Intensive Look into the Healthcare Shortages, Costs and the Role of the Physician Assistant in Alleviating the Burden of Primary Care Provider Shortage.

With her masters in physicians assistant studies behind her, and after finishing this Family Medicine II rotation in Philip, Fuhrer plans to graduate with a full PA degree in December of this year. Then, in January, she will take her physicians assistant national certification board exam.

Fuhrer is not negatively singleminded. Her hobbies include semi-professional photography, home gardening and working toward becoming a hot air balloon pilot. "I'm waiting to take my pilot's exam after I take my boards. My biggest interest, though, is my kids," said Fuhrer.

"This community of the Philip area has been so kind, gracious and courteous - which is really saying something with me being five hours away from my family," said Fuhrer. "I would like to thank Dr. Klopper, the staff, the community for making me so welcome. This is exactly why I am in medicine."