2021 Tillman Scholar

Zach West

Stanford University

As a PA, I aspire to be a leader and educator; as a writer, I want to broaden the public’s understanding of PAs through telling compelling stories.”

Zach’s path to medicine was anything but conventional. After studying history and philosophy in college, he taught English in Germany, sold rare books on Madison Avenue, and worked as an editor and writer. But he felt that a deeper sense of purpose was eluding him. After reading a book on the Green Berets, he decided to enlist and pursue the arduous path to becoming a Special Forces medic.

In Special Forces, Zach not only found the meaningful service he’d been looking for, but also discovered his passion for medicine. On hospital rotations, working alongside physician assistants, he was impressed by their knowledge, scope, and enthusiasm, and soon set his sights on becoming a PA in civilian life. After serving in Iraq and South America, he went on reserve status and took postbac science courses for PA school. While applying to school, Zach worked as a paramedic in Manhattan—where, in spring 2020, he found himself on the front lines of a devastating pandemic.

As the city’s 911 call volume reached unprecedented heights, he worked long hours trying to save his fellow New Yorkers from COVID, an ordeal that only renewed his resolve to provide quality care as a future PA. Zach has begun PA school at Stanford, a program he chose for its emphasis on leadership. In addition to medical courses, he is taking creative writing electives, and hopes to one day broaden public understanding of PAs through writing books and articles about his and other providers’ experiences in medicine.