From Army Reservist to PA

The Army Gave David Rivera Direction

November 11, 2018
Staff Sergeant David Rivera serves in the army reserves. He is set to graduate the Physician Assistant Manhattan program in 2019.
Staff Sergeant David Rivera serves in the army reserves. He is set to graduate the Physician Assistant Manhattan program in 2019.

“I joined the military when I was 20,” said Rivera. “I wasn’t sure what to do with my life and I stumbled into becoming a medic. It made me realize I enjoyed learning about how the body works and wanted to help people overcome their illnesses and injuries.”

As a reservist, he is required to spend one weekend a month in the army and an additional two weeks each year. His service became full time twice, when he was picked up for active duty by two different units in 2006 and 2010. During his time with the reserves, Rivera worked at Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery as a unit assistant in the operating room or as a patient care assistant on the post-operation floors. Rivera credits the army with providing him with a sense of direction as well as mentors.

“As a kid growing up in the Bronx, we didn’t get a lot of mentors,” recalled Rivera. “In the army you have a lot of men and women who care about young people like myself. I had a lot of people who helped create the person I am today.”

In addition to his responsibilities as a medic, Rivera served as an instructor in several bases across the United States. As part of the army, he travelled with his unit to different parts of the world including Italy and Germany. Lately, his work has focused on training first-responders to deal with mass-casualty events. His experience as a medic led him to his career choice as a physician assistant (PA).

“In the military I came across a lot of PAs and their knowledge inspired me,” said Rivera. “What I loved about PAs is that they had enough information to treat and diagnose most of the injured soldiers we saw.”

His military experience also led him specifically to Touro’s PA School. He chose Touro’s program after it was recommended by other veterans.

“The staff is incredibly caring,” said Rivera. “They treat us with respect and they understand what it is to be studying to be a PA. If there’s any issue with my reservist duties, they’re quick to resolve it. They are very understanding when my training conflicts with my school work.”

He is set to graduate in 2019 and plans to focus on emergency medicine.