News | December 12, 2019

College of Health & Human ServicesFeaturedNews

Navy veteran among first physician assistant master’s graduates

From the high seas to health care, SW Florida native finds his niche

Kile Skrobacki is a Southwest Florida native. A graduate of Estero High School, he received his bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and is graduating Dec. 15 as a member of FGCU’s first Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) class. It’s a major accomplishment for any 30-year-old, but Skrobacki’s road to success started long before he walked onto FGCU’s campus.

In 2009, a year after his high school graduation, Skrobacki stepped up to serve his country. He joined the U.S. Navy and started his military career in San Diego, California.

Photo shows students in FGCU's physician assistant program
Kyle Skrobacki served in the Navy for four years, earning several awards including The Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. Photo: James Greco/FGCU

“I was on three deployments. Two deployments were seven months long, and one deployment was three months long. I got to travel the world,” said Skrobacki.

As an operation specialist, Skrobacki was stationed on an aircraft carrier and would fly on planes every day operating surveillance and altitude radars. He would communicate with and navigate ships from the air.

“After you get proficient at that, you do air radars. In combat situations you help control or talk to the pilots and give direction on where other airplanes are coming from, or where they need to go,” explained Skrobacki.

He served in the Navy for four years, earning several awards including The Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He had a successful start to a career in the military, but Skrobacki knew he was being called in a different direction.

“You have a lot of time to think when you are in the military,” he said, “When you are on deployment you are busy and work a lot, but you’re not where you want to be. You have a lot of time to think about your goals and what you want to do.”

With his love for helping people, Skrobacki knew health care was a natural next step. In 2013, he returned to Southwest Florida and enrolled at FGCU. He completed a bachelor’s degree in athletic training four years later, but then he found out the new MPAS program was coming to FGCU.

Photo shows students in FGCU's physician assistant program
Students in FGCU’s physician assistant master’s program.

“I wanted to jump on that as soon as I could,” said Skrobacki. “It gives you a good feeling when you find out what is wrong with a person and realize that you can help them. Then seeing them get better is also a good feeling.”

FGCU’s new MPAS program began accepting applications for fall 2017, and Skrobacki was one of more than 800 to apply. He was one of only 20 students to be accepted in the first class in a highly selective process.

“The professors all care about us individually, and they all know us very well,” explained Skrobacki, “They want to see us succeed, and they want the program to succeed.”

Skrobacki’s first 15 months in the program were all about the books. Clinical rotations started in year two. Students were then spread out across Southwest Florida clinics and hospitals to find their niche as physician assistants and gain necessary hands-on experience. Skrobacki rotated every three to four weeks, spending time at Lee Health, Golisano Children’s Hospital and several private medical practices.

“I would say that my time in the Navy has definitely helped keep me motivated and kept me striving for my end goal,” explained Skrobacki.

Now, the end of his FGCU academic career is near. Skrobacki will graduate with 18 of his classmates who have turned into family.

“We all have a big group chat; we are always bouncing ideas off each other and talking about things with each other. We are a good group of friends,” said Skrobacki.

After graduation, he will take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam and plans to stay in Southwest Florida. And with his wife by his side, Skrobacki will set his sights on getting a job in orthopedics.

“I enjoy helping people and just everything that comes with health care. I definitely think FGCU has helped me establish an incredible foundation,” he said.