Spartans of UD: Connor Golden

Dec 9, 2020

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people.

Connor Golden (C’17), of Peosta, Iowa, will graduate with a master of science in physician assistant studies (MSPAS) on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. He is the keynote speaker of the White Coat Ceremony to honor the MSPAS Class of 2021 on Friday, December 11, 2020.

1. When did you know you wanted to become a physician assistant?

“I always felt like I was going to work in the medical field in some capacity. I have many nurses and health care providers in my family that have embedded in me the desire to help people. I, however, did not make the decision to pursue a career as a physician assistant until I broke my leg in 2016 in a work accident. I had dropped out of school and began working as a logger with no true plans on what I was going to do with my future. After this accident, I was recovering and began talking about going back to school, finishing up my undergraduate degree and reestablishing my pursuit of a career in medicine. I began speaking to some of the physicians, nurses, and PAs I knew to pick their brains about why they chose the path they did and if they would do it over again. I really liked the idea of the level of autonomy and flexibility PAs had. I made the decision to finish my undergraduate degree at UD in 2017, applied to UD’s MSPAS program, was accepted, and began the program in 2018.” 

2. During your time in the MSPAS program, you served as class president, held a seat on the Curriculum Committee, organized and participated in community outreach and fundraising events, and served as the MSPAS graduate student representative to the Board of Trustees. What did you learn from those various commitments?

“I had to learn early in PA school to be very efficient with my time. My wife and I had our first child six weeks before I finished my first semester of the program and our second child in the middle of my clinical year. Juggling everything has been tough at times, but making sure I am constantly being productive in some fashion, whether it is prepping for a committee meeting, answering emails, or making time to be a dad and husband, has been very beneficial for me."

“I would also say I have learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes work it takes to keep the program running and to continue to mold it into a more perfect educational experience. As a student, I see the material we are taught and the tests we take. As a member of the Curriculum Committee, class president, etc., I have learned there is so much more to the puzzle and it truly opened my eyes to the level of commitment the faculty and staff of the program have to our success as students and future health care providers. It invigorated me to ask for opportunities where I and the rest of the class could help to alleviate the workload, and it has inspired me to give back and help the program if I am able to in the future.”

3. You received the UD MSPAS Class of 2020 Leadership Award. What leadership advice do you have for students who are interested in becoming a physician assistant?

“Be a team player. Yes, PAs make autonomous medical decisions and are often looked to by the staff for decisions on what to do, but do not let that go to your head. You are a member of a team whose central focus is making a better experience for the patient. I have at times helped clean patient rooms, given flu shots, swabbed patients for strep, COVID-19, and influenza, started IVs, and done many other ‘traditional nurses’ jobs.’ If a member of your team is too busy to do something and you have the time, help out. Although, often thought of in this manner, leadership does not have to be authoritarian. I believe leadership is embodying a certain mindset that resonates with the rest of the team and inspires that team to function like a well-oiled machine. Leadership should be fluid, ruled by a majority, and goal oriented.”

4. What are your plans after graduation?

“I have accepted a job as a neurology physician assistant for Medical Associates Clinic in Dubuque that I am greatly looking forward to. I also plan to go on a trip with my wife at some point (if COVID-19 allows) to celebrate being done with school. I would love to help give lectures for the MSPAS program, serve as a preceptor for future students during their clinical year, and find ways to give back to a program and school that I feel has done so much for me.”

5. Where is your favorite spot on campus? Why?

“I’m not really sure I have a favorite spot on campus, but I will say I have a favorite time on campus. I would often ride into Dubuque with my wife in the mornings and get to campus between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. It was always peaceful that early in the morning. I would often go up to the top level of the atrium in the University Science Center and sit at a table by the elevators and study. In the summer, the morning sun comes through the windows. In the winter, it is dark, but the big Christmas tree gives off some light. I became familiar with the morning custodial staff, enjoyed my morning coffee, and studied. I always felt that was my best time to focus on what I wanted to do. I also spent an enormous amount of time with classmates in the group study rooms in the library and frequently camped out in those rooms for countless hours before big exams.”