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Looking Across The River
by U.S. Army Vincent Byrd
William Beaumont Army Medical Center
November 5, 2020

During the afternoon of October 2, 2020, U.S. Army Officer Cadet Kristel Burgeis found herself standing on the Northeast Lawn of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, surrounded by friends and family. She stood at the position of attention, wearing her “dress blues”, as the sunlight reflected off of her second lieutenant rank.

October 2, 2020 - Officer Cadet Kristel Burgeis receives her Master in Physician Assistant Studies during the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Interservice Physician Assistant graduation. (U.S. Army photo by Vincent Byrd, William Beaumont Army Medical Center)
October 2, 2020 - Officer Cadet Kristel Burgeis receives her Master in Physician Assistant Studies during the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Interservice Physician Assistant graduation. (U.S. Army photo by Vincent Byrd, William Beaumont Army Medical Center)

Born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, when she was ten years old, Burgeis' family selflessly moved to El Paso to create a better opportunity for their children. After graduating high school, she attended El Paso Community College.

"I had a good childhood. I grew up right across from the University of Texas at El Paso. Right across the river, "said Burgeis. "I feel like I struggled a little bit because I was still trying to learn the language."

Before joining the Army, Burgeis worked several different jobs, including serving as a receptionist, selling cars and providing roof repair estimates.

"I had several jobs. I needed to help my family," Burgeis said. "During this time I was attending community college also."
During her first enlistment, Burgeis was a health care specialist. While she enjoyed the career field, she eventually decided to submit her Interservice Physician Assistant Program packet.

"From a young age, I had dreams of becoming a doctor or nurse, something in the medical field; that's what I love doing," said Burgeis. "Being a physician assistant wasn't my initial goal; it was later in my career I discovered the program and wanted to apply."

The Interservice Physician Assistant Program offers well-qualified officers and enlisted Soldiers the opportunity to become a physician assistant through a two-phase program. Phase One is 16 months; students learn the basic medical sciences and take clinical medicine courses during that time. Phase Two is approximately 13 months and consists of supervised clinical rotations through 22 primary care and specialty services. The program requires at least 60 semester hours of college prior to applying.

"The course is very difficult, you have highs and lows but with the support of my husband and mom I continue to achieve my goal," said Burgeis.

Physician assistants are the primary medical provider to Soldiers at the battalion, brigade and division levels. They are responsible for unit medical readiness and training medics. At the same time, they provide garrison healthcare to Soldiers, family members, and other beneficiaries.

“Officer Cadet Burgeis has been a pleasure to work besides. She has always been the kind of Soldier who is looking for the next big step. She is always striving to better herself and putting in extra hours to reach her goals. Burgeis carries herself with professionalism and always has a smile on her face. She will make an excellent Army Physician Assistant and the Soldiers under her care will benefit greatly," said Capt. Andrew C. Evans, Interservice Physician Assistant Program Phase II Coordinator.

"I am the first generation in my family to finish college. I am proud of myself,” she said. “My mom said, ‘this is why we immigrated to this country, to see my kids’ dreams come true,’ ”said Burgeis. "I am significantly accomplished and blessed to have two degrees and Masters. I am very thankful for the opportunity.”

"Being Hispanic is who I am, I am proud of it, I love everything about my culture," said Burgeis.

From September 15 to October 15, the Nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by paying tribute to those from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America.

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