Barry Brownstein ’06 fondly remembers the day he became intrigued by his next career path. It also happened to be the same day that he learned what a physician assistant was.
“In the early 1990s I was an assistant fire chief when a 22-year-old man in the fire department asked me to write a recommendation letter to physician assistant [PA] school for him,” Barry says. “He had to tell me what that was.”
PAs are healthcare providers who are experts in general medicine and are a vital part of successful hospitals across the country. Marietta College received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to help launch the Physician Assistant Studies Program, and the inaugural cohort of 15 students entered the program in 2002.
More than a decade after he wrote that recommendation letter, Barry was accepted to and entered the Marietta College Physician Assistant Studies Program. He later graduated in 2006 when he was 60 years old, and is currently the oldest graduate from the program.
As he grew up, Barry’s parents encouraged him to become a doctor, which is exactly what he decided he wouldn’t do. He went on to earn an undergraduate degree and two master’s degrees in both engineering and computer science at other institutions. He served in the United States Air Force, and later worked for a research company in computer engineering. He also started his own consulting company.
“Before the PA program, I enjoyed consulting but couldn’t picture doing it for 20 more years,” Barry says. “My experience of going to the Physician Assistant Studies Program at Marietta College was very unique, and Marietta made it possible for me to radically switch between careers and lifestyles.”
For the past six years, Barry, an Assistant Clinical Professor for Ohio Dominican University’s Physician Assistant Program and a physician assistant at the Ohio Heart Group, has donated to the Dr. Gloria M. Stewart Physician Assistant Scholarship. Stewart helped create the program in 2001 and served as the original program director. The scholarship gives assistance to deserving students who exemplify academic success, character traits and experiences similar to those of Dr. Stewart.
“Since graduating in 2006, Barry has generously given his time and talents to the program by precepting students, guest lecturing, helping with interviews and sharing his simulation and lecture materials,” says Miranda Collins, Director of Marietta’s PA Program. “Because Barry was so instrumental in contributing to the fulfilment of the Stewart scholarship, we felt it was fitting to ask him to be on the scholarship committee.”
In October, the first Dr. Gloria M. Stewart Physician Assistant Scholarship was awarded to Zach Fairbanks PA’19, of Martins Ferry, Ohio, during the annual White Coat Ceremony. Barry served on the scholarship selection committee and was the guest speaker at the ceremony where Zach received his award.
“We had several great candidates to choose from, but Zach was a perfect match for the inaugural Stewart award,” Barry says. “He had really great evaluations from his clinical preceptors from his first few rotations and is a first-generation non-traditional college student who is also balancing raising a family while in the program.”
Once a non-traditional student himself, Barry can relate to the added challenges of balancing an adult and family life with the academic rigors of the program.
“When he started the program, even with all of his education and life experience, Barry maintained a quiet confidence that simply drew others to him,” Collins says. “By embracing his new ‘student’ status and experiencing it to the fullest, he made genuine and long-lasting friendships with his fellow students as well as the program faculty and staff. Now that I know him better, I recognize this is how Barry approaches everything in his life — people and experiences — as if each one is a gift that he will learn from. This is why he is such a remarkable student, alumnus, friend, provider and human being.”
Barry acknowledges that while his Marietta experience might differ from other students, it doesn’t diminish the value or impact that it had on his professional life.
“Marietta opened the door to a huge life change for me and I’ve been very grateful for that, perhaps more grateful than I was when I was a younger guy at other schools,” Barry says. “Not that there is anything wrong with the other colleges I attended, but I don’t think that I realized what a life-changing experience college could be.”
- Claire Berlin
When you endow or contribute to an endowed scholarship, you ensure that your funds will benefit students for generations.
To contribute to the Dr. Gloria M. Stewart Physician Assistant Scholarship, contact Marietta’s Office of Advancement at 740.376.4711 or visit www.marietta.edu/give.