When Andrew Casburn got stir-crazy during the pandemic, he decided to take the skills he learned at Union College overseas. So in 2022 he and his wife, Jess, packed their lives into six suitcases and flew halfway around the world to Auckland, New Zealand, where they are helping to establish the physician assistant profession.

Unlike the United States, New Zealand doesn’t have its own official registry for physician assistants. As a board member of the New Zealand Physician Associate Society, Casburn and other PAs are trying to change that. “Ever since PAs came to New Zealand, we’ve had a PA society that’s been working with the Ministry of Health to create an official registry for PAs in the country,” he said. “It looks like we’re heading towards being registered in the next year or so. That would allow us to have our own prescribing rights and increase our autonomy. It will also standardize what we can do throughout the country, which hopefully will encourage other PAs to come here to work.”

“We love traveling and always thought it would be cool to live abroad someday,” Casburn said. “Jess did tons of research and decided that if you want to work abroad as a PA in a country that still primarily speaks English, you should go to New Zealand. It took some getting used to. First of all, we’re driving on the left side of the road. There was a big adjustment period as we looked for a rental house, got found where to shop and set up a bank account. But overall, we really enjoyed the challenges, especially because the weather is great.”

New Zealand’s cultural differences extend into the medical field. “I had to adjust to how they do medicine here,” said Casburn. “In a government-funded healthcare system some treatments, speciality visits and surgeries are going to have a longer wait time than in the States, but they are mostly free. Primary care visits are free for children and, in my clinic, $20 (about $12 USD) for adults. Nearly every medicine I prescribe currently is free. It is nice knowing I don’t have to worry about the cost of medical care for the patient or if insurance is going to cover what they need.”

When he was a teenager, Casburn was inspired to enter the medical field when he witnessed his great-grandmother fall. “She ended up shattering her femur,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do in that situation. She had a complicated surgery, but she did survive. That experience really pushed me to want to know what to do in those types of medical situations to be able to help people.”

Growing up in Lincoln, Casburn knew where Union College was. He attended Lincoln Southeast High School and ran past Union’s campus often. But it wasn’t until he began applying for PA programs that he discovered Union for real. “My entrance interview at Union was so personable and laid back,” he said. “They just wanted to get to know who I was.”

After Casburn began the program, his appreciation of Union grew. “Everyone there is very nice. They aren’t trying to make things excessively hard to weed out people. They’re just very genuine on how they approach training and teaching the students and I really appreciated that.”

One of Casburn’s most vivid memories of his time at Union was participating in the foot clinic at Matt Talbot. “We washed people’s feet. We did nail care, foot care and gave away lots of shoes. It was a Christlike type of serving and it was very humbling to put myself in that position. It brought me back to why I was doing what I was doing, which was to show compassion to other people.”

Annika Cambigue is a senior English and communication major at Union College