Saving Starfish: Physician Assistant Students Learn Through Service

West Liberty University students enrolled in the physician assistant studies master degree program are changing lives.

One of the ways they do so is by volunteering to serve those in need of medical care in Haiti as part of the Saving Starfish Corporation

“We recently opened up Hope Clinic located in Cite Soleil, Port Au Prince, and I can attest to the fact that practicing in Haiti is a unique experience for both students and our patients. I gained humility and a true appreciation for medicine in its rawest form when I first attended as a PA student in November and May of 2018,” explained Jon-Michael Brunner, a certified physician assistant who graduated from WLU’s College of Science in 2018 and is now the secretary of Saving Starfish.

Saving Starfish is a local non-profit headquartered in Wheeling led by Dr. David Mosman, a Wheeling physician. The PA program partners with Saving Starfish and takes part in medical mission trips to the Caribbean country.

“This Haiti clinic is outfitted with three examination rooms, two dental suites, an optometry slit lamp for eye examinations, a fully stocked pharmacy, full functioning lab and a multipurpose room with four exam gurneys ready to be used for whatever may present itself,” Dr. Mossman said. “The multipurpose room is equipped with an EKG machine, defibrillator, surgical instruments for suturing and an ultrasound machine that will be used to track pregnancy in our patients.

“The clinic is a fully functioning five-days-a-week clinic that is staffed by Haitian doctors, nurses, pharmacy technicians, lab technicians, and office staff. The first day that the clinic was open, the team saw a total of 50 patients, the second day, 70 patients. The [number] of patients that our Haitian staff will see is only going to continue to grow as they become more familiar with the clinic and the flow of patients in and around the clinic,” he added.

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When the PA students work in Haiti, they are able to see patients under the supervision of certified Physician Assistant Amanda Wade or Dr. Mosman. This is just one of the many partnerships with local hospitals and clinics that offer WLU PA students to strong clinical experiences.

Hope Clinic is expected to cost approximately $12,000 to $15,000 per month to run.

“We are only charging roughly 65 cents per patient to see the doctor, fill any prescriptions and to also have labs done if needed. Obviously, this will never cover the cost of the clinic. We charge the people so that they take ownership and invest in their own health care, but we need to raise funds to continue,” he said.

Bruner and the entire Saving Starfish team are planning a 1920s Speakeasy Casino Night fundraiser to raise money for these medical needs. It takes place from 6-10 p.m., Saturday, April 13, at Stratford Springs Gary West Event Center in Wheeling.

This fundraiser is open to the public and tickets can be purchased online. The event will feature casino-style gaming, entertainment, music, dancing, and raffle baskets. Saving Starfish also can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.

“Our service trips provide much needed medical care to pediatric patients, help train staff and supply medical facilities with lifesaving medicines and equipment, and finally to provide a service educational experience for future professionals entering the medical world,” according to its website.

To contact Bruner, send an email to

For information about the WLU physician assistant studies program, click here.