Big Apple Medicine

By Matt Hawkins
August 20, 2014

Matt Heck ’14 showed his passion for compassion through medical field volunteer work as a Bradley student. After graduation, he carried that passion to an internship at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

The internship, at one of U.S. News and World Report’s top 15 hospitals, is paving Heck’s path toward a career as a physician’s assistant.

“With a little compassion and care, we can heal the world,” he said. “Maybe that’s a little Mother Teresa-esque, but it’s the core of who I am and the practitioner I aim to be.”

As an undergraduate, Heck put a human touch to health science classes through volunteer work in Peoria and Central America. He is a veteran of medical missions trips to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. He also tutored youth at Peoria’s Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

Those experiences prepared him to embrace Manhattan’s diverse culture.

“I have a true passion for humanitarianism, so it’s been great to be exposed to such variety in patient population,” Heck said. “Helping them has helped me grow immensely.”

Heck is fortunate to be assigned to a small otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) team, which means he’s built a strong working relationship with his mentor PA and other team members. Because of those relationships, he’s received an unusually close view of patient care.

In one case, Heck said the team encountered delays when ordering special trachea tubes for a congenial 91-year-old man. The team worked through numerous emails and phone calls to resolve issues, then spent 90 minutes explaining the equipment to the man and his family.

“The family was so grateful for all of the help my PA was able to provide and our jolly little patient requested a picture with her,” Heck said. “That showed how powerful caring compassion can be.”

In addition to applying character-forming lessons from the Hilltop, Heck frequently recalls lectures from faculty like Prof. Ted Fleming and Dr. Craig Cady. Lectures on anatomy, anatomical abnormalities and complex diseases provided valuable information needed in the hospital setting.

“Remembering all these things makes me smile and feel incredibly grateful for the professors I had,” Heck said.

In the midst of work on the floor, lectures and exams, Heck is looking ahead to next year and beyond. He’s busy refining long-term plans for the many doors PA certification will open.

 “One of the most beautiful aspects of the PA profession is that there is such diversity,” Heck said. “Being able to experience one of these arenas prior to a clinical learning time within graduate school was crucial to better understand where I was heading.”