Physician Assistant Grad Enjoys Delivering Rural Care in Izard County

The same broad appeal that moves doctors to practice general medicine is what drew David Brightwell of Melbourne to become a physician assistant.

"I love helping people and treating anything and everything that comes in," said Brightwell, a July 2009 graduate of the program. "It's very exciting. You have to think on your feet."

After completing a bachelor's degree in medical sociology at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, he became a licensed practical nurse through the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville.

Brightwell learned of the physician assistant program after seeing what he thought were medical students shadowing doctors at White River Medical Center in Batesville.

He checked into the identity of the people wearing the "Harding"-emblazoned lab coats and discovered they were PA students. His piqued interest led him to the school's master's degree program.

"It's everything I hoped for," he said. "I hope the people can catch on to everything we can do as a PA for them under the supervision of a doctor."

Brightwell works at the Community Medical Center Clinic of Horseshoe Bend and collaborates with two Mountain View doctors, J.D. Irvin and R.J. Mann, who supervise his work and help review patient charts.

"Many patients assume I'm a doctor, and I have to tell people daily that I'm just a mid-level provider," the 30-year-old said.

His most memorable case to date was treating a 10-year-old girl with recurring headaches. After treating her common symptoms without lasting results, Brightwell began searching for a less obvious diagnosis.

"The only reason I was able to help her was by screening," he said. "A radiologist diagnosed it with an MRI."

Turns out the girl had a very rare pituitary gland tumor, and that led to treatment for the life-threatening condition at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.

Brightwell was glad he could play a role in the successful outcome.