I recently had the most wonderful opportunity to speak at the New York State Society of PAs fall conference in Tarrytown, N.Y. It was a whirlwind trip – I spoke at the Washington Academy Conference in Seattle on Thursday, flew to New York overnight, and arrived at JFK airport at 6:00 AM Friday. After an hour cab ride to Tarrytown, I hit the sack for 3 hours of the deepest, weirdest sleep I’ve ever had (after not getting much sleep on the red eye from Seattle). My talk was at 3:00 PM, and I crawled out of bed at noon, freshened up (and there was a lot freshening to be done, I tell you), reviewed my slides for an hour, threw on my tie, and headed over the conference hall.

Before my talk, my old friend Harry Pomeranz, a PA from New York and a health disparities co-conspirator, gave a great talk about race and medication. His co-presenter was Reynold Jaglal, PA, and the talk was fascinating. The overarching focus was about the myth of race and how race is a non-scientific (but culturally, very real) construct.

They both talked about the case of BiDil, the hypertension drug approved for use targeted at African-Americans. The drug is just a combo of 2 inexpensive, readily-available anti-hypertensives: hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate. It was a fascinating presentation, reminiscent of a wonderful talk I saw in San Francisco several years ago by Howard Straker, PA, about the non-scientific basis of race.

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Jaglal offered a very insightful quote from the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates: “Race is the child of racism, not the father.” That really stuck with me, and I loved the talk.

My talk followed, and I spoke about health disparities, implicit bias, and working to develop a concept of the “Citizen PA,” where PAs and other clinicians take responsibility for their impact on all of the factors that cause health inequities. The audience was engaged, asked some great questions, and made some wonderful observations. Hats off to Tracy Jackson, PA, who put together the diversity track at the conference, and to NYSSPA for putting such important topics on the agenda.

Later I decided to go for a walk, which almost lead to my death. Not really, but I did make some poor decisions that led to quite an adventure. I just wanted to get out, move around, get some fresh air, and see if I could see the Hudson River, which appeared to be close to the hotel on my map. Out I went, only to walk into a big rainstorm. I quickly found a CVS and bought an umbrella, then stopped to pick up a nice little slice of pizza at the neighboring Capri Pizza and Pasta.

My phone said that I was close to the Tappan Zee Bridge. I found that, and then headed down a couple of neighboring streets next to the bridge. There appeared to be a RiverWalk Park, and it looked like I could get there down the either Paulding or Van Wart Avenues. It was getting dark, but I was determined to see the river, and onward I went. I figured that I’d find the RiverWalk, walk a little on it, and then come back up to the hotel.

Well, I did find the RiverWalk, and it was black as night with no lighting and heavy foliage. At first, it was pretty to see the Hudson through the trees, but as it got darker and darker, I hoped I could find my way out. Easy exits from the trail did not exist, and it wound on and up and down a hillside, with occasional wildlife noises and intermittent squalls.

It seemed to go on forever until finally it opened up at its terminus onto the Lyndhurst, a huge gothic estate. There were a few cars filled with kids making out, smoking pot, or doing some such things, and my smartphone flashlight scared them away quickly. I trod up a long, steep driveway through the estate, heading to where I thought the exit was. I was worried that it would be closed and locked. That would have forced me to go all the way back.

There was some sort of Halloween display being set up, and the estate was full of scary Halloween figures. I finally made it out, and it turned out I was not far from the hotel. I made it back and measured my route on my phone: it turned out I’d walked 4 miles instead the half-mile traipse I’d bargained for.

Photo courtesy of Jim Anderson.

I was soaked and exhausted from the tension and the terrain, but I got back just in time for the conference reception. I threw my tie back on, went back in, and busted a few old-school dance moves for the youngsters, including my patented vogue steps. One of the PA students there came up to me in a friendly and incredulous posture and asked “Who are you?” Undoubtedly, they were marveling at my fly-fishing dance moves. That or wondering if I had wandered in from the neighboring insane asylum.

I bedded down and got up at 4:00 AM to head back to the airport. I made it home to Seattle in one piece, no worse for the wear, and appreciative to the NYSSPA for both their invite and great conference. Next time, though, I do need to plan a little better for my sightseeing.

Jim Anderson, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, DFAAPA, is a physician assistant in Seattle.