At Home in a Small Community

By:   December 14, 2015

Corey Rubinfeld – Seattle Class 48

For Corey Rubinfeld, the pathway to MEDEX and becoming a physician assistant began on the ski runs of neighboring Steven’s Pass Ski Resort and, for the moment at least, has brought him back to where he started.

A resident of the tourist mecca Leavenworth, WA, Corey worked for over a decade as a member of the ski patrol at Steven’s Pass, while training in off-seasons as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and as an EMT, and working as an Outward Bound instructor and as a search and rescue team member in Antarctica. Healthcare and medicine were becoming central elements of his life and work in the outdoors.

Then Corey ran across fellow Leavenworth resident Lucca Criminale, who had been a long time member of the Steven’s Pass ski patrol as well. Criminale had left the ski patrol several years earlier, and Corey had lost touch with her. As it turns out, she had become a PA during that time, graduating from MEDEX Seattle Class 39 in 2007, and taking a job in 2009 with the Cascade Medical Center in Leavenworth.

Lucca Criminale, PA-C and Corey Rubenfeld consult with a patient.

The patient complains of foot and ankle pain, so Corey undertakes an examination.

Cascade Medical Center addresses the healthcare needs of local residents and some two million recreational visitors that come to Leavenworth each year.

The lobby of Cascade Medical Center echoes the ski lodge architecture in Leavenworth.

Corey Rubenfeld initially meets with a patient complaining of foot and ankle pain.

Corey uses the neuropathy assessment tool on the patient. With patient feedback, he can localize any areas of numbness or pain.

Corey Rubenfeld, MEDEX Seattle Class 48, and his family medicine preceptor, Lucca Criminale PA-C of MEDEX Seattle Class 39, outside the Cascade Medical Center.

Cascade Medical Center is nestled in the downtown core of Leavenworth, WA.

Corey working in the Field Safety Training Program for the US Antarctic.

Corey installing instrumentation for the Antarctic Program on the Polar Plateau.

Corey on the summit of Denali working for the National Park Service.

Corey with his wife Chandra Llewellyn while working for the National Park Service on Denali.

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“I started running into Lucca again,” Corey continues. “One day she said to me, ‘Hey, come and shadow at the Medical Center sometime.’ I took her up on it, and I think within the first three hours of my first shadowing with her, I told her immediately, ‘I want to do this’ and I haven’t looked back since.”

And doing it he is. Currently a member of MEDEX’s Seattle Class 48, Corey Rubinfeld is in the midst of the first rotation of his clinical year right there at the Cascade Medical Center, where his preceptor is none other than Lucca Criminale, PA-C.

“Lucca always said, ‘Why don’t you come on back and I’ll be your preceptor here.’ And so I took her up on it. We made the request [to the MEDEX clinical assignment team], jumped through the hoops and the paperwork, and well, here I am.”

We wonder how things have been going.

“It’s been great, better than I expected,” Corey says with a smile. “It’s not just having Lucca as my preceptor, but when she is off, I get to work the other preceptors here, too.”

The Cascade Medical Center is a critical access hospital, with an emergency room, ambulance service, acute care clinic, as well as physical therapy and lab service. It’s also a training site for University of Washington medical students, and so there are a number other preceptors and providers who “are really excited about teaching,” as Corey puts it. “The preceptors say ‘Hey, I’m doing this thing,’ or ‘I’m doing that really neat thing’, and grab you for the fun stuff.”

Fun stuff?

Corey out on a family ski tour.

Corey out on a family ski tour.

“I’m referring to procedures that you just don’t get to see every day. From stitches, to joint injections, to biopsies. They do colonoscopies and stress tests here as well. So it’s been to just jump in and see what a referral to those services looks like, and then what happens with that data.”

“Often times we see people in clinic,” Corey continues, “then walk them downstairs to the ER and evaluate them there. Then if they are sick enough, we’ll move them to swing bed or acute care and see them again as in-patients. And then in the next couple of days we’ll go and round on them. It’s been a phenomenal learning experience and small town follow up.”

Leavenworth sees close to 2 million visitors per year. “So we see a lot of folks from outside of Leavenworth, especially on the weekends, coming into clinic and to the ER. But Monday to Friday, it’s mostly locals,” including many retirees and other members of the second-home community that exists in Leavenworth as well.

Corey on early morning ski patrol doing avalanche control.

Corey on early morning ski patrol doing avalanche control.

All this follows what Corey confesses was “a stressful” didactic year back in Seattle. “I was really impressed with all that was covered, but it was way harder than I thought it was going to be,” he says. “My wife and I stacked the deck against us, too, by having a child over on this side of the mountains right in the middle of the didactic year. So I’ve been commuting back and forth every weekend. Didactic year is already hard, and that made it harder. My wife really made it all possible and is an amazing support.”

At this point, Corey Rubinfeld isn’t sure where his next rotation will take him. But he’s certain that after completing his rotations and successfully graduating from MEDEX, he would like to end up right back to where he is now: home.

“Somewhere I got into this thinking, ‘Wow, Lucca has a really fun and stimulating gig in family practice and in the ER.’ So I would love to end up working here in Leavenworth, or down valley further in Wenatchee. There are lots of good options with other clinics, family practice and ER. Moral of the story— this is our home. I love being in a small town and it would be great to stay a part of this small community.”

Dennis Raymond is the Communications Manager for MEDEX Northwest in Seattle, Washington. He can be reached at