Las Vegas, New Mexico – Highlands University graduate Johnny Tuineau aims to become a rural primary care provider after he completes his physician assistant studies at Touro University in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“It’s my steadfast ambition to give back to the people of rural, medically underserved communities like the one I live in now that propels me forward,” said Tuineau of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Tuineau graduated from Highlands in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry. He begins his physician assistant studies in July 2019.
Tuineau’s interest in the medical profession dates back to the 2012 family tragedy that claimed his father’s life in a car accident and left his youngest sister fighting for her life.
“During that difficult time, I had two unforgettable experiences: the first was seeing my sister open her eyes for the first time since the accident and the second was witnessing the outpouring of support from the people of Las Vegas. After meeting the medical team that saved my sister’s life, I became committed to the pursuit of a career in medicine,” Tuineau said.
Tuineau, 29, said the two most influential professors he had at Highlands were chemistry professor David Sammeth and natural resources management professor Edward Martínez.
“I’ve had great support from Dr. Sammeth and Dr. Martínez. Dr. Sammeth became my academic adviser and was always there for me when I began to doubt myself. Dr. Martínez was sympathetic to my background coming from socioeconomic adversity and always made sure I had ample opportunities to grow professionally,” Tuineau said.
Martínez, who is now the strategic enrollment vice president at Highlands, said Tuineau is one of those students that professors immediately see have strong potential.
“However, it wasn’t until Johnny was mentored and believed in himself that he became a great student,” Martínez said. “I think he will continue to be an excellent student and an asset to the program that accepted him.”
Outside the classroom, Tunieau worked at the university’s Achieving in Research Math and Science Center (ARMAS) as a supplemental instruction leader for chemistry and also as a peer adviser for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP). He also led the Chemistry Club as president.
“I enjoyed working with the students as a supplemental instruction leader to help make the chemistry material understandable with real-world examples. In the Minority Sciences and Engineering Improvement Program, it was rewarding to work with students who, like myself, had doubts and needed encouragement. After graduating, I took on the position of interim coordinator of this MSEIP grant in September,” Tuineau said.
Tuineau said his experience at Highlands was transformative.
“I didn’t realize what I was capable of until I came to Highlands. I’m grateful to this institution for giving me so many challenges and opportunities to grow,” Tuineau said.
For the past two years, Tuineau has worked as a medical scribe in the Alta Vista Regional Hospital Emergency Department.
“Working in the emergency room showed me the high need for primary care providers here. That solidified my career choice as a physician assistant,” Tuineau said.
Tuineau said he is looking forward to the challenges of physician assistant school and working with patients.
“I’m going to be relying on my passion for medicine and learning to get me through,” Tuineau said.