Small children come to appointments with Patrick Parenzin, PA-C (Seattle Class 39), dressed in all sorts of things: princess outfits, mismatched socks and, not least, superhero costumes. While Parenzin’s attire never strays toward primary-colored Lycra, it seems quite likely that parents and children both consider him a bit of a superman — banishing illness, vanquishing problems, setting things right.
That’s not quite the way Parenezin sees himself. “Medicine is a humbling profession,” he says.
The first PA to serve as a clinical faculty member at the UW School of Nursing, Parenzin completed the MEDEX Northwest program in 2007. His specialty is pediatric orthopedics and sports medicine, and in addition to working at Seattle Children’s, he’s also the clinical director of MedFest with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program.
Parenzin considered becoming a physician, but, newly married and wanting to start a family, he added up the four years of medical school, plus an additional three to five years for a residency. Then he and his wife, Charity, decided against it.
“I know there are real ‘supermen’ and ‘superwomen’ out there — amazing physicians who have a family and do it all, and that’s great,” Parenzin says. “I just knew I wasn’t one of them.” Inspired by role models like former faculty member Grace Landel, PA-C, he opted to apply for the two-year MEDEX Northwest program, instead.
One thoughtful decision followed another. After the first year of didactic training in Seattle, the second, clinical year of MEDEX training consists of six months of one-month specialty rotations. Mindful of the importance of personal relationships, Parenzin set up many of those rotations himself, choosing places that wanted to work with PAs.
Like other grads, he cannot praise MEDEX highly enough. “The program allows you to have a career helping others,” he says. And that is precisely what Parenzin is doing. In addition to his practice, he performs pre-participation physicals — through the MedFest program — for Special Olympics athletes who lack access to physicians or can’t afford the exam. “I can never give back what I get from Special Olympics athletes,” he says. “They remind me of what’s important.”
Parenzin may not be a superman, precisely, but he comes pretty close: with a busy work life, a full volunteer schedule and three young children at home, Parenzin is also finishing up his thesis for a master’s in public health.
“It has taken me much too long to finish my MPH,” says Parenzin. “But my work with the Special Olympics is a continual reminder of the importance of public health to an at-risk population, and of how relevant my education has been.”