“It’s like a crash course in medicine,” Richard Zapata, a physician assistant student enrolled at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Midland, said of his summer internship at a Brownwood medical clinic.

His 216 hours of clinical training at Central Texas Women’s Clinic, under the guidance of Dr. Michael Schultz, is sometimes described as “rural clinical training.”

Zapata has been in Brownwood since May 11, and his training here will conclude Tuesday.

Zapata said the course is like taking four years of class in two and a half. There’s advanced anatomy and physiology, hematology, oncology and pharmacology.

“Those are just the big ones. There is tons of other stuff too,” Zapata said. “We do a lot of hands-on clinical work too and students are required to do some work in the cadaver lab in Lubbock as well.”

One of the differences between Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s course of study and other medical schools is one of the exams that students are required to take.

“We do a ‘whole-man’ physical exam where we are teamed up with other students and we must examine them completely,” Zapata said. “Other schools bring in actual patients, but we work on each other.”

Zapata said he believes doing his training in a smaller city has its advantages, and gives him more options.

“Across the board, you get to do more,” he said. “You are given more exposure and a lot of times you’re licensed to do more in a rural area.

“I have really enjoyed it here with Dr. Schultz and the gang. There’s great hospitality in Brownwood, not only in Dr. Schultz’s office, but also in the hospital and even around town and in Wal-Mart,” he said.

“Introducing your community to a future practitioner and the opportunity for the student to continue the learning process in a rural setting is a win-win situation for both the community and the student,” Ronnie Laurance, director of special projects for the Big Country Area Health Education Center in Abilene, said.

Zapata said he may find himself not far from Brownwood after his final training rotation in Abilene in the area of psychology is complete.

“I am looking to work in a smaller town, like Abilene, and likely I will end up there,” Zapata said.

Zapata’s career preference, however, is somewhat different than the experience he has had in the Texas Women’s Clinic.

“I am really interested in surgery. I am a surgical kind of guy. I really dig it,” he said.

After going through his crash course of studies and having almost completed his eight rotations of training, Zapata said one thing is certain.

“Nothing really interests me other than health care,” he said. “I love it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”