Yale PA Online Student Volunteering to Help with COVID-19 Crisis

William Eisenhart

William Eisenhart is using his military experience and connections, as well as his current physician assistant (PA) training, to play an active role in the fight against COVID-19, and to ensure that other PAs also can make a difference. Eisenhart, a second-year student in Yale School of Medicine’s PA Online Program, is a member of the West Virginia National Guard as an explosive ordnance technician and special operations medic (SOM).

Eisenhart joined the Navy after 9/11 and became an explosive ordnance disposal tech. He briefly left the military to serve as an intelligence analyst, before returning as a medic. After leaving active duty, he reenlisted in the Army National Guard as an SOM. 

Over the past month, Eisenhart has been collaborating with Special Operations Medic-Coalition (SOM-C), Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, and Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) students and preceptors. IPAP is the PA training program for all the armed forces. Military medics, doctors in civilian settings, and medical providers around the globe have been actively sharing information in a variety of venues—from conversations in secure chat rooms, to more routine emails and Zoom calls. 

Because Special Operations Medics have unique experience working in austere settings, creating pop up clinics, and supporting populations with minimal supplies, they realized they could provide valuable guidance during the COVID-19 crisis. 

For example, SOM-C and a major civilian hospital discussed the idea of using portable military mechanical ventilators to augment the hospital. While it was determined that the specific military ventilators could not support an acute respiratory distress syndrome patient, the ventilators still could play a role with patients who had respiratory depression because of shortness of breath or pneumonia.

Eisenhart created a PowerPoint presentation on military ventilators in civilian hospitals, including the limits of a specific ventilator, to discuss with the IPAP students at Fort Belvoir, who will be in combat settings with ventilators. “I am doing what I can for the PA students to be value added in a triage or ICU setting if that surge occurs,” Eisenhart explained.

Another topic SOM-C and civilian doctors discussed were pop up hospitals, including issues of security, triage, ICU capabilities, and limitations. Several representatives from SOM-C shared their experience dealing with pop up situations, including comparing the patient bandwidth with the capabilities of the US Navy Hospital ships. 

Members of the SOM-C also connected with military doctors from Europe to learn about their experience with COVID-19. These discussions are providing valuable insight on the crisis. The Special Operations Forces doctors in Italy and Spain were discussing their limitations to treatment and equipment, as well as the surge of patients during the exponential growth of the virus.

Citation for this content: Yale School of Medicine Physician Assistant Online Program