Student Spotlight: Justin Madriaga, School of Physician Assistant Studies

On the evening of Oct. 1, 2017, Justin Madriaga was getting ready for bed when his girlfriend texted him and told him to turn on the news.

After watching what was unfolding across the street from Mandalay Bay, Madriaga jumped out of bed, put on his EMT uniform, and drove to work. He wasn’t supposed to work until 7 a.m. the following morning, but he knew his assistance was needed immediately.

“I just jumped in my car and drove to the warehouse where we kept all of the ambulances,” he recalled. “Normally, the warehouse is filled with ambulances, but that night, it was empty. They were all out.”

Madriaga worked as an EMT while completing his Biology degree at UNLV. On Oct. 1, he spent nearly five hours transporting patients from hospital to hospital. During such a chaotic night, Madriaga’s services helped alleviate overcrowding in some of the hospitals. He called it “the longest night of his life.”

Madriaga didn’t always have a knack for healthcare. Born in the Philippines, he came to the United States as a teenager after his father’s company relocated.

During his sophomore year of high school, he completed the biomedical program at Northwest Career and Technical Academy where he learned to complete physical examinations, take blood pressure, and more.

It wasn’t until his sophomore year at UNLV, however, that Madriga discovered what a physician assistant (PA) was. After learning more about it, he immediately knew it was the healthcare profession he wanted to pursue.

“PAs have a very broad scope of practice. They can diagnose, prescribe medication and assess patients,” he said. “They also have this versatility where they are trained to be generalists rather than specialists.”

Since being accepted into Touro’s PA program, Madriaga has developed close relationships with his classmates and faculty. As Class President, he works closely with his faculty to keep an open line of communication between them and the students.

“They really want us to get the best education we can,” he said of his faculty members. “We’re only here for two years, but they want to give us the necessary tools to be competent PAs.”

After he graduates in 2020, Madriaga wants to practice in Southern Nevada so he can give back to the place he’s called home since he was a teenager.

“I consider the Las Vegas Valley my home,” he said. “Once I learned about Touro’s mission and the outreach opportunities available to students, I knew I wanted to come here. I want to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”

Working the Oct. 1 tragedy not only gave Madriaga the opportunity to help his community, it allowed him to share a bond with so many others affected by it.

“What I love about Southern Nevada is seeing how everyone came together after 1 October,” he said. “If I can use my medical skills as a professional to give back to these people, that’s all I want.”

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