The Physician Assistant Life

The Physician Assistant Life Medical Holiday Gift Guide

The PA Life Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for the perfect gift for that special PA, PA student or soon to be PA in your life? Look no further below are some of my favorite products of 2016!


A stethoscope is the perfect gift for all seasons. There are a lot of budget options (this is my personal favorite) but considering this is the one tool you use daily it is worth purchasing a quality product with good acoustics. I have used a variety of Littmann stethoscopes over the years and these are without a doubt my personal favorites which balance comfort and quality.

Littmann Classic III Stethoscope $94

The Littmann Classic III Stethoscope is a timeless classic which balances price, form and function.  Quality acoustics and a two-sided chestpiece with tunable diaphragms on both the adult and pediatric sides. The single-piece tunable diaphragm is easy to attach, and easier to clean because its surface is smooth without crevices. The pediatric side converts to a traditional open bell by replacing the single-piece diaphragm with a non-chill rim.

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Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope $164

The Littmann Cardiology III is my personal favorite and considered by many to be the "gold standard" among stethoscopes. Most PA schools will say the same. Having used almost every stethoscope on the market I find the Littmann Cardiology III to be the only stethoscope that allows for easy auscultation of even the most difficult to hear heart sounds, this is especially important in a loud clinic environment. It is a bit heavy when compared to the Littmann Classic III but worth it for the increased acoustic performance. If you can afford the extra cost this is the stethoscope I recommend, it will last a lifetime.

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The Big Splurge!

Littmann Bluetooth 3200Bk27 Stethoscope

Looking for something really cool that is bound to impress your friends, colleagues, preceptors and felllow students. The Littmann 32000 BK 27 stethoscope is bluetooth enabled allowing you to record a sound and add 24X sound amplification with extra listening power for those times when lung or body sound is especially faint, when a patient is obese or when a patient's clothing restricts your listening experience. Dedicated controls for power on/off, bell/ diaphragm/extended range frequency modes, and (+) and (-) buttons to adjust sound level up or down and with Ambient Noise Reduction facility. Is it worth the added cost? I am not sure but I am drooling!!

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Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor $69

Gone are the days of the old "pump and pray" sphygmometer.  This Withings wireless automatic blood pressure monitor is extremely accurate, syncs wirelessly with the Withings health mate app, provides detailed results and recommended values displayed in the app, provides dual connectivity (Bluetooth + wired) is compatible with iOS and android and did I mention it also takes your blood pressure! At $69 this a no-brainer.

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Withings Digital Thermometer $74

When I was a kid my mom used to pull out the old glass lead based thermometers. Boy have times changed. This Withings digital thermometer has 16 infrared sensors that take more than 4,000 measurements to find the hottest point and deliver the most accurate result in just 2 seconds! There's no need to touch the skin and avoids any contact with saliva, earwax, or other body fluids-making it the most sanitary way to take a temperature. And to top it off this thermometer syncs automatically with your smartphone & app giving an interpretation based on age, fever history & symptoms. Plus the ability to take notes, add photos, and set reminders!

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Withings Body Cardio - Heart Health and Body Composition Wi-Fi Scale $107

I bought an earlier version of this scale 2 years ago and absolutely love it. This updated cardio heart health version is even more spectacular. It provides full body composition analysis with high-accuracy weight, BMI, body fat, muscle, bone mass and water measurements. The new heart health management system accesses heart rate and pulse wave velocity, a medically-accepted metric of arterial stiffness, for a complete picture of cardiovascular health. This syncs wirelessly with your Android or iOS device providing real time graphical data!

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ENTO Digital Otoscope - Connected Health Ear Camera $44

You will likely need to (or already have) purchased a standard otoscope as part of your PA arsenal. But this digital ENT camera is worth adding to your list. PC and MAC compatible, you have the ability to view, capture and stream pictures and video of your ears, nose and throat.  You can share and save photos and video and the included software allows for video streaming in real-time. Much like a thermometer, ENTO is ideal for assessing health and illness at home. Save pictures of your family's insides while they are healthy so you have a baseline picture to compare against when earaches and sore throats occur. This is great for monitoring ear tubes, ruptured TM's, healing after AOM or in the classroom. 

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Give the Gift of Spanish

There is no greater gift you can give to yourself or that special PA in your life than the gift of Spanish and nothing beats the Michel Thomas Spanish Language Learning Method. I have tried every single Spanish learning program imaginable from high school and college Spanish to Rosetta Stone and in my opinion this audio series is the best. I listened to this on my way to work for several months along with the free podcast "Coffee break Spanish" and after 12 months of practice I was as close to fluent as I needed to be. This has opened up more doors and job opportunities for me than I can put into words. This is not just the perfect gift but an extremely worthwhile investment in your future!

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TrackR bravo - Key Tracker, Phone Finder, Wallet Locator

As a busy PA or a PA student on the go it is easy to misplace items. This is a simple fix. Attach this quarter size device to your keys, your stethoscope, your purse, wallet, phone, bike, iPad, child or partner and you will save yourself hours of hunting and cursing your way to your keys. With an easily replaceable battery that lasts for up to a year on a single charge, you can play a loud sound to identify your keys or search using the iOS or android app via GPS. Two way separation alerts help if you leave your TrackR device behind, your phone will ring to notify you! This works in reverse as well! I love the TrackR bravo more than I can put into words and this is one of the presents I am buying this year for my entire family .

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Lets face it, whether you are in school or a practicing professional having the right device on your laptop or in your pocket can make your (and your patient's) life much easier. These devices are perfect for medicine.

Microsoft and Android Machines

These two machines are "medicine grade" and more than capable of handling anything you throw their way. When it comes to Mac vs. PC for medicine I always go back and forth. Because of this, I own and operate on both platforms. The advantage of a Surface Pro + Android phone combo is that you can get a lot accomplished on just two machines. They also offer a more affordable long term option, more storage, better compatibility with many devices and ample room for upgrades.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

If you are not into Apple (or even if you are) the Surface Pro 4 is a wonderful machine.  It already has flash storage, but it's expandable with an SD card.  It runs full Windows and you're not just limited to "apps", if it runs on Windows, it runs on your surface. The pen, hands down, head and shoulders is above any type of tactile writing input you can achieve on an iPad.  The charger has an extra USB port on the power brick so you can leave your iPhone wart in the package. OneNote on Windows is much better than its Mac counterpart, and will change the way you take notes. Also, these notes sync with the cloud and are available anywhere you can access the internet. It's basically on par with the power provided by the MacBook. Microsoft Support treats this thing like their baby. Your pen doesn't work? They'll ship one out. Your surface broke? They'll swap it at the store (if it's a manufacturer defect). You ground down your pen nibs? They'll ship a package of new ones out free.

Also, you can frequently get one discounted for a substantial amount. Best buy runs $100 off coupons for students basically every month, and you can use a movers coupon to get 10% off on top of that. It's a little more expensive than an iPad but you get so much more.

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Google Pixel Phone 32GB - 5 inch display

Comes with Google Assistant, one of the best smartphone cameras ever, is running full Android with a crazy fast porcesser and unlimited free photo storage from Google... I have said enough!

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Apple Ecosystem

Apple offers a lot of bang (for a lot of buck) but what you get is an ecosystem intimately integrated with the widest array of medical apps available on any platform. The "trifecta" of the iPhone + iPad + MacBook Pro is ideal in the fact that it brings all your technology together on a single platform and you can run all your favorite apps (such as my beloved Essential Anatomy 5) across all devices.

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The new MacBook Pro is not easy on the wallet but was just updated for 2016, has excellent specs and a new "touch bar" which although elusive, promises to bring ease of function to many common tasks. It is as thin and lightweight as the soon to be phased out MacBook air and has a lot more firepower. If you want so save some money and don't need all the bells and whistles offered in the pro version the standard MacBook is also a very good machine and like the pro model offers great battery life and a beautiful, lightweight form factor.


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iPhone 6s Plus 64 GB (Certified Refurbished)

If you are in need of an iPhone upgrade, want to save some money and have plenty of processing power to handle all of your day to day tasks I recommend skipping the new iPhone 7 and purchasing last year's iPhone 6s instead. Because medical apps, podcasts, books, photos and video tend to take a lot of internal storage you can upgrade to higher capacity model with a bigger screen for a lot less money. While it is nice to have all the new bells and whistles of the new model storage is a limiting factor so make this a priority. Purchase certified refurbished and save even more money!

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Apple iPad Air 2, 9.7-Inch Retina Display 64GB

For students and professional alike an iPad is must have device. The iPad Air 2 is fast with a beautiful retina display which makes online reading a joy. With a slew of iPad ready medical Apps the iPad is great for learning and teaching in the digital age. The iPad has incredible battery life, works flawlessly with other i-devices and with the new update allows for split screen functionality so that you can now read and take notes at the same time.

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Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case

Simply put, this is the best iPad keyboard case on the market, and I have tried all of them! It has same number of keys as a laptop. Rubber feet prevent the keyboard from touching the screen,  Backlit keys with 3 brightness levels along with a detachable case works with the keyboard or by itselfThe case is Smart Cover compatible (auto on/off technology) works in landscape and portrait modes with magnets that hold the tablet in two comfortable viewing angles. 

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Plantronics Voyager Legend Wireless Bluetooth Headset $64

As a PA student or practicing PA you are probably going to be spending some time in the car. If you are not in the car hopefully you can jump on your bike or find time for a jog or workout at the gym. There are many bluetooth headsets and devices on the market. I love my Voyager headset, it has excellent noise canceling which allows me to carry on conversations even in my old loud car or while on a bike ride. It also doubles as a bluetooth audio headset which means you can put an end to downtime by listening to podcasts or audiobooks safely in one ear. If you want to keep in contact with your loved ones, make better use of your downtime and not spend a fortune you can't beat the Voyager Legend Headset.

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Sony Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones $78

Studying requires focus and nothing beats a good pair of bluetooth headphones. For a combination of great quality at a reasonable price I recommend skipping the "Beats" and picking up a pair of these Sony Bluetooth headphones. Powerful, clear sound with lots of extra base, long battery life and a very comfortable fit. These earphones also have a built in mic so you can enjoy hands-free calls at the touch of a button. Couple this with a subscription to focus@will or and be prepared to get a lot of work done!

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Premium Android and iPhone Apps

Essential Anatomy Five

This is a must have app! Not only is it wonderful during the didactic phase of your studies, this app is an extremely useful tool in the clinic that my patients (and my kids) absolutely love. It has a beautiful and intuitive interface that my 5-year-old can use, it allows you to isolate individual systems, muscles, organs etc. etc. I have learned more about anatomy from this app than the thousands of dollars spent on higher education. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful, well-designed and “essential” anatomy app on the market.

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Tarascon Pharmacopoeia

There are only two paid apps that I recommend and the Tarascon Pharmacopoeia is one of them. There are lots of free pharmacopeia apps out there (epocrates being one of them), but Tarascon continues to be my favorite. Loaded with some amazing time-saving tools (especially the pediatric dosing charts), blazing fast load times and zero advertisements the Tarascon Pharmacopoeia is well worth the one-time annual investment. I can't immagine practicing without it.

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If like me, you are not lucky enough to have access to UpToDate through your medical institution then an annual subscription to UpToDate is like leftover Apple Pie the day after Christmas. It just gets better and better every time you open it. Although this may not provide exactly the same wow as some of the choices above, it is a practical choice for the intelligent medical practitioner.

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Lab Coats and Scrubs

Medelita Men's and Women's Lab Coat

With a classic, comfortable and tailored fit, sporting stain releasing, moisture-wicking, bacteriostatic fabric that repels fluids along with 2 patch pockets large enough to hold a tablet, and 2 interior pockets the Medelita lab coat is a pleasure to put on. Founded by a PA- and considered by many to be the best lab coat on the market this will be serious upgrade that will make you smile as you set off to work in the morning.

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Medelita Men's and Women's Scrubs

These are the best-selling modern fit scrubs (men and women) on the market. The men's scrubs pants have a zippered fly! All scrubs pants have dual elastic-drawstring waistband for better fit with fabric that resists pilling, wrinkling, fading and shrinking. They provide a tailored fit in gender-specific styles for comfort & full range of motion.
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 Books Worth Giving

Mountains Beyond Mountains Tracy Kidder

This compelling and inspiring book,  shows how one person can work wonders. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pulitzer Prize—winning author Tracy Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who loves the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it. In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

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Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School

The name says it all. This classic text by Andre Rodican gives the ins and outs of the PA school application process along with sound advice on every step of the journey. This is the same book I used (although it was version one at the time) when I applied to PA school years ago. This is a wonderful resource for any aspiring PA.

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How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement

What good would a review post be without at least one shameless plug for my own book! In 2015 we set out to interview PA school administrators from across the country to get their take on what makes a winning personal statement. We have condensed that information along with our experience editing 1000's of essays through our PA school essay collaborative into this quick and easy to read book. It is available on Amazon and is a free download through Kindle Unlimited.

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