By Christi Mays
During his last two years of high school, Santos “Junior” Sarabia started getting very sick. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory condition of the large intestine, Junior suffered through debilitating days that often landed him in the hospital. Just days after graduating from Mexia High School in 2013, he was admitted into the hospital with a life-threatening infection.
Junior had felt ill for days but thought it was a side-effect of a new medication. He finally decided to text his gastroenterologist, who, despite being on vacation, called Junior immediately and told him to go to the emergency department; “We’re going to take care of you,” the doctor assured him. The infection was so serious, Junior later learned he was only about two weeks away from death.
Ever since that life-altering flare-up, Junior has felt grateful for his physician who took time away from family to ensure he got immediate care.
“It was a defining moment where I thought, ‘I really want to do this for someone too. I want to be there for them and be that reassurance that everything is going to be OK,” Junior said. “I really understand what it feels like to be a patient, and how scary and fearful and vulnerable and frustrating it can be.”
Knowing first-hand how terrifying these life-and-death situations can be is what ultimately led him on the path to becoming a physician assistant. He is one of 40 students who make up the first cohort of the Master of Science in Physician Assistant program at UMHB. The 28-month program launched in January and is the only MSPA program available between Dallas and San Antonio.