Keoki Leong, M.H.S., P.A.-C., works each day in a capacity and place he never imagined three years ago. But as a physician assistant (P.A.) in plastic surgery at UC Davis Health, Leong’s professional passion and personal priorities unite in the career he envisioned.
“I love medicine, but I love my family too,” Leong said. “I definitely felt that being a P.A. offered a work life balance to do what you love, then being able to come home to your family.”
Leong is among the 65 graduates from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis who were in the home stretch of their degree program when the coronavirus pandemic hit. In that crisis, he learned the real value of being at UC Davis.
“When the pandemic hit, it was devastating with our clinical rotations. But UC Davis Health had our backs,” Leong explained. “They opened up spaces for us. We graduated on time. And that was something that only could have happened by choosing UC Davis.”
One of those rotations in the spring and summer of 2020 ultimately led to Leong’s job today. He works both inpatient and outpatient and delivers the care he always dreamed he could.
“Inpatient we consult with the Emergency Department on a lot of hand or craniofacial injuries. I also work with our oncology surgeon on mastectomies or breast reconstructions. I assist our residents and attending physicians hands on with suturing and suctioning, whatever help they need,” Leong said.
“Outpatient we work with patients who are post-op checking on wounds, sometimes casting,” Leong continued. “Some of the greatest moments I’ve had in my short time here at UC Davis is just the gratitude that patients have in knowing we gave them an extra shot at life — to see another birthday — to see their kids’ graduation.”
Leong credits his education with developing the skills and knowledge to practice safe medicine. He credits UC Davis with making the connections with other providers that set the course for his professional practice.
“I knew that going to UC Davis meant I was part of a UC system school. I knew the opportunities would be there. I really didn’t know how many doors would be open to me,” Leong said. “It’s just a testament of the school and their mission in helping us as students and making sure that we complete our program and have opportunities when we graduate.”
Now, just a few months shy of marking his first year as a P.A. professional, Leong is grateful to fulfill his personal mission.
“I went into medicine to make a difference. And UC Davis provided me that opportunity,” he said. “I’m so blessed that UC Davis took a chance on me. I’m grateful to be a UC Davis physician assistant alumni.”