Personal resilience was the key to success for this physician assistant

By Bill Ibelle, Editorial Director

Sometimes it takes more than talent and academic prowess to achieve your professional dreams. For Klaus Grim, MS’18, it also took persistence, adaptability, and a Northeastern educator who was willing to go the extra mile for a promising applicant.

Klaus Grim, MS’18, physician assistant

As Grim neared the end of his undergraduate career at the University of Tampa, he applied to six top physician assistant programs—and was rejected by all of them. Devastated but unwilling to give up, he wrote to each program, asking for some insight into why he was rejected so that he could make a stronger application the second time around.

“Northeastern was the only school that replied,” he said. “Carol Goldberg, the admissions director, took the time to write back and there were two things that stood out: my grade in Anatomy and Physiology, and the lack of variety in my clinical experience.”

So Grim set out to address both those deficits. He retook Anatomy and Physiology and aced the course. Then he set out to develop the broader clinical experience that Goldberg suggested.

In doing so, he created enough character-building experiences to fill a lifetime.

A global perspective

Growing up as a mixed-race student in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Grim has always been fascinated by cultural differences. When he graduated a semester early from high school, he flew to Spain, his mother’s homeland, and worked alongside his aunt for five months, conducting home healthcare visits to terminally ill patients.

When he graduated from the University of Tampa four years later, he decided it was time for a similar adventure in father’s homeland. He boarded a plane for Thailand and found a job in a rural clinic that put his cultural adaptability to a supreme test.

“I was all alone in this village and didn’t speak any Thai—and no one there spoke English,” he recalls.

He took vital signs, drew blood and learned how to communicate with patients through improvised sign language. Then, just one month into this adventure, Grim experience a second major setback. A family emergency required him to return home immediately.

“Coming home early from Thailand felt like a big defeat for me,” he said.

Klaus Grim working in a rural clinic in Kamphaeng Phet, Thailand

But Grim soldiered on. Once his family crisis was under control, he returned to Tampa to gain the full-time clinical experience Northeastern had recommended. He also made another foray into international healthcare by working as an advisor on his alma mater’s Peace Volunteer program in Ecuador.

“We were working with the Shuars, an indigenous population deep in the Amazon rain forest,” he said. “The translator didn’t speak a word of English, so I used my Spanish to serve as a translator for the translator.”

Soon after he returned, he reapplied to PA school.

The personal touch

“The second time, Northeastern was the only program I applied to,” he said. “I was attracted to the global focus. That was very important to me.”

The first year of the program was the most challenging academics he had ever encountered. He said the clinical year, was a joy. He completed nine clinical rotations, including a family medicine rotation working with the Mayan population in southern Belize.

“We operated mobile clinics that traveled two hours down dirt roads and forded rivers to reach rural villages,” he said. “I was working as part of an international team of pharmacy, physical therapy, and medical students led by a doctor from England.”

Later that year, Grim won a donor-funded scholarship that made it possible to spend a clinical rotation working with an underserved population along the Mexican border. With money from the Suzanne B. and Mortimer S. Greenberg Scholarship Fund, he provided emergency services to Native Americans and other marginalized populations in Columbus, New Mexico.

Since graduating in 2018, Grim has worked with underserved populations, as a physician assistant in the Emergency Room at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. He said that if it weren’t for the personalized response by Carol Goldberg at Northeastern, he may never have been able to achieve his dream.

“This university cared enough to go over my application during a busy application cycle and provide me with feedback,” he said. “That means more to me than words can express. I wanted to go to Northeastern because it clearly cares about its students.”

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