May 28, 2015 — Thirteen years ago, David Indarawis was a pre-medical student finishing his bachelor of science in microbiology and cell science degree at the University of Florida. In pursuit of part-time work, he took a job in emergency room admissions — not knowing it would alter the entire course of his career.
“Some of the ER physicians would often mention how great the PA profession is, and at that time I didn’t really know what it was,” Indarawis recalled. “When I decided to learn more, I found that everything about the profession interested me — you can switch specialties after finishing school and have the flexibility to have a family with your career.”
Just before taking the medical college admission test, Indarawis switched to a pre-PA track and began working as an emergency medical technician. He took the graduate record examinations and applied to PA schools hoping to attend one of his top picks — the Duke University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program or the University of Florida College of Medicine School of Physician Assistant Studies.
“Even though I was accepted to Duke, I ended up choosing UF because I thought the curriculum was more rewarding. In fact, others paled in comparison,” Indarawis said. “UF also offered gross anatomy during the first semester, and there are hardly any other programs that still offer that for PAs.”
After graduating from the School of PA Studies, Indarawis became the first PA to work in a full-time capacity in the UF Health ER. He joined the staff with mixed reviews — some of the physicians were supportive of his position, while others who had experience with physician extenders were not.
“I worked really hard to try to set a good precedent to what a PA is and how they can function autonomously in the ER,” Indarawis said.
Following a year of dedicated work as the only PA, Indarawis was promoted to chief physician assistant of physician extenders in the ER — a role that would foster his passion in emergency care and leadership.
“I found that there are many things I enjoy about the ER setting. From pediatrics to geriatrics, you see a wide variety of patients,” he said. “I like the pace of the ER, the different clinical presentations, the procedural aspect — you really have to be an expert in a lot of different areas.”
As the chief PA, Indarawis recruited and hired physician extenders, coordinated meetings and lectures, scheduled extenders within the department and assisted with operational functions of the emergency department. By the end of his tenure in 2013, 12 additional PAs were on staff.
Indarawis went on to become the chief physician assistant of Ocala Regional Medical Center & West Marion Community Hospitals, where he worked for the next year until his wife, Katrina, accepted a job as associate director of graduate professional development at the UF Graduate School. Indarawis rejoined UF as the director of clinical studies of the School of PA studies with a rank of assistant professor. He currently oversees second-year PA students and rotations, while teaching first-year students in the classroom.
“I see teaching as an opportunity to train the next generation and to give back to my profession,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to see students grow academically and professionally. Especially in rotation, you see the second-year students mature in a lot of areas they needed to grow in.”
In recalling his time as a student, Indarawis remembers the mentors who “really believed in my talents, encouraged me to do my best and taught me a lot clinically,” particularly Charles Luetke, M.D., clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine; Jennifer Light, M.D., FAAP, medical director of the pediatric emergency department and chief of the division of pediatric emergency medicine; and David A. Meurer, M.D., medical director for ShandsCair Adult Team, medical director for Gainesville Fire & Rescue Regional Response HazMat, and assistant professor.
In addition to teaching and clinical work, Indarawis has a strong interest in global health, having ventured to Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti, where he plans to return next year. He has been married for 13 years and has two daughters: Alexis, 7, and Cameron, 5. He enjoys fitness, hunting, fishing, and has recently taken up surfing. In the future, he hopes to remain in a teaching role where he can still work in the emergency room to sharpen his clinical skills. He is also considering returning to school to earn his Ph.D. in UF’s new program Public Health, One Health, a research-oriented health degree that emphasizes working across public health, veterinary health and environmental health disciplines.
To honor his defining impact on the PA field, Indarawis was presented the College of Medicine’s 2015 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award.
“I am really honored to be recognized as an outstanding young alumnus, among so many who deserved to be chosen,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t give up during the trying times in the ER, and that I persevered and hung in there. Hopefully I have helped pave the way for PAs to work in emergency medicine — now and in the future.”