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Dreams Revived

Even though Robyn Dettmar, MPAS, PA-C, claims with self-deprecating flourish that she was an unusual child, it might be just as accurate to say that she simply had a very strong and irrepressible scientific curiosity.

Upon having her tonsils removed, she requested she be able to hang on to them for further study, and in eighth grade, after having dissected a frog in her biology class, she asked her parents for another frog to dissect for Christmas that year.


Her parents split the difference between encouraging her scientific pursuits and giving her a deceased animal, and she received a microscope instead. But Robyn’s desire for a scientific pursuit, specifically medicine, was born and stayed with her, until she became an undergrad. That’s when the cutthroat nature of her school’s premed program did not resonate with her, putting her dream on pause. This pause lasted for a while, but in the meantime, she received a degree in community nutrition, married her husband and accompanied him to Ireland while he completed a master’s degree. Robyn started her family there, then returned to the States and supported her husband while he pursued his PhD. She had three more children, raised them, became a childbirth educator, got certified as a lactation consultant for the health department, almost went to nursing school, and then, at the age of 40, entered her first year of PA school. She practiced health care as a PA for over 15 years, in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics and urgent care. That’s when Robyn decided to throw another iron in the fire, get a second master’s degree, and pursue another love: teaching. MBKU was her first interview a week after graduation. “I had no intention of taking the job because of the commute,” she recalls. “But then I just fell in love with this program and the people in it. This is a really unique, amazing program, and I am so in awe of the people who put it together! We train our students to a very high standard and hold them to that standard, yet we are so kind to them and support them so much, and I love that!”


It is clear after just a few minutes of speaking with Robyn Dettmar that she has found a home for her enthusiastic compassion at MBKU. Her long and varied path to becoming an educator at the School of PA Studies has given her a perspective deeply informed by the philosophy that first and foremost, a health care provider should genuinely care for their patients. "If you really believe in something, the students love it when you’re passionate,” she says. “An example that I use all the time is: Suppose a patient comes to you with psoriasis. You won’t see it most of the time. It may not be in an obvious place. But think about how that’s affecting them. You have to talk to that patient and consider how this condition is impacting their life. As their PA you must care about them enough to go a little deeper. One of the things I like to tell students is that if a patient has a smart PA or doctor, they’re lucky because they’ll figure out what’s wrong. If they have a kind provider, then they’re also lucky, because if they can’t figure out what’s wrong, they’ll go the extra mile to refer them to someone else. But if they have a PA who is smart and kind, then they have hit the jackpot! I had a student come up to tell me, ‘I’m going to be smart and kind,’ and I was so happy, because I knew she would be, and I knew that meant we were doing our work well.”