A Dream Expedition

Posted on June 17, 2024 by CAHP

Jess Green in doctor's office data-lightbox='featured'

When Jess Green, a physician assistant studies student, read about a University of South Alabama alum who was living and working as a physician assistant in Sitka, Alaska, her dream of visiting the largest U.S. state quickly became a reality. She reached out to the faculty in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies to find out if they could help her coordinate a clinical rotation there, and they were happy to help. 

Green grew up in New Hope, Alabama, just outside of Huntsville, on a 60-acre horse farm where she spent much of her free time barrel racing and teaching horseback riding lessons. Being surrounded by nature and the mountains of north Alabama led her to have a special appreciation for the great outdoors and new adventures.

“I like hiking. I like the outdoors,” Green said. “I was always drawn to Alaska. It’s one of those crazy things you hear about, the Last Frontier, so I’ve always been interested in visiting there.” 

When she found out that she could complete a monthlong clinical rotation in Sitka, Green excitedly asked her husband if he would be interested in making the trip. His own passion for adventure led him to quickly agree, and they began their travel plans. 

In April, the couple flew out of New Orleans, Louisiana, into Seattle, Washington, and made the decision to have an eight-hour layover, so they could visit the original Starbucks and sightsee around the area. Soon after that the adventure began, flying from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska, Juneau to Ketchikan, and Ketchikan to Sitka.

Jess standing on Coast

“They call it ‘The Milk Run’ when you go through Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka,” Green said. “It’s like a bus. You stay on the plane. Some people leave. Some people get on, and then you go to your next stop.”  

Green completed her clinical rotation alongside Cora Kuhns, ’18, three days a week at a state-run boarding school and learned about the impact primary care providers can have on rural communities like those in and around Sitka. While there, the school experienced a flu outbreak with nearly a quarter of the 300 students ending up sick. The entire healthcare team had to work together to quarantine the students with symptoms and ensure that those with no symptoms stayed healthy.

“I took on a couple night shifts to help with them,” Green said. “I transitioned as they needed me to fill in, and I didn’t end up getting the flu. I was grateful for that.”

She enjoyed getting to know the students and learning about the different native Alaskan cultures. During her days away from the boarding school, Green worked a few 12-hour shifts at the local emergency room and completed additional shifts at an urgent care. 

Jess standing with her HusbandWhen they had moments of free time, Green and her husband nurtured their sense of adventure with outdoor activities including camping trips, daily hikes, kayaking and watching wildlife. They spotted sea lions, otters, whales and eagles on several occasions and traveled a few miles west to check out Alaska’s Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano that rises 3,202 feet.  

“The sun would set at 10 o’clock at night, so we would go on hikes pretty much every day when I got off work,” Green shared. “We would have time to go on three-, four- or five-mile hikes. We would go to the beach almost every night to have fires on the beach.” 

One moment that they will remember forever was the night they stayed up late and admired the Northern Lights for the first time. They certainly didn’t expect to see them again in Alabama a few weeks later.

In late April, Jess and her husband returned to Mobile for Jess’s remaining clinical rotations, but they hope to return to Alaska someday.

“Our plan is to go back, but I have a feeling we’re going to fall in love,” Green said.

PA school is known for being rigorous and course-heavy, so Green encourages her peers to always prioritize their mental health, their physical health and their support systems while also finding time for joy. 

“You can still enjoy life! You can still do fun things that you want to do,” Green said. “You just have to prioritize studying and make some sacrifices.”

She never wants to say no to too many things and always tries to say yes to adventure. Two yeses she is especially thankful for are those that led her to Mobile, Alabama, and Sitka, Alaska.

“I’m really grateful to have come to South and gotten in here. I love this program,” Green said. “We’re really tight-knit. It’s been awesome. I’ve seen some amazing things. I’ve experienced Mardi Gras and made some incredible friends.”


Share on Social Media