Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati
What made you want to be a PA?*
I wanted to enter the healthcare field in a position that allowed me to be a patient’s primary provider and create long-term relationships with my patients. I love that PAs aren't set to one specialty and therefore are able to adjust to changing healthcare needs. Another perk of going the PA track is that it got me through school and working with patients soonest!
Why UEPA? Or what makes UEPA different from other PA programs?
It’s a close-knit program where we truly do feel like a family! There is no faculty member I wouldn't feel comfortable talking with about whether it be academic or personal matters! Among students it’s clear that we are all working towards the same goal and we all want each other to get there, therefore the environment is supportive not competitive.
What do you find is your biggest challenge in being a PA student?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as a PA student is that no matter how much your friends and family love and support you, they will never quite understand the beast that is PA school. In school you spend countless hours learning, studying, testing, and on clinical rotations. The magnitude of all of this though is just not, respectfully, something your loved ones will understand unless they themselves have gone to PA school. Being a PA student is a full time job, and sometimes it means that in order to prioritize studying, you have to pass on fun things you would normally do such as going home for a sibling's birthday, going on a trip, or attending a concert. In contrast, some of the best advice I can give is to not neglect your relationships with people not at school with you. They want to support you in any way they can, just sometimes they don't know how! I always made the effort to call my family every day to update them on cool things I learned/did, and to help them feel a part of my journey! It can be challenging to find the time to catch up, but as with all things, it's about finding the balance that works for you.
Did you do anything that really helped you prepare for PA school?
Before PA school, I worked as a patient care assistant on a med-surg unit. In this role, I got to practice technical skills such as blood draws, vital signs, and documentation in EMRs. More importantly, this role helped me learn the workings of a medical care team including (but of course not limited to) your provider, nurses, dietary staff, PT, OT, RT, social work and of course… the patient! The better you are able to understand the inner workings of a team and the roles that each care team member can play, the better you can utilize the resources around you to help your patient!
What is your best advice for anyone working on the CASPA application?
Start your application early and familiarize yourself with all the material needed. Then, work on it in pieces and give yourself a mental break in between. Some of the application is time sensitive (requesting transcripts to be sent on time, reaching out to references to submit a letter on your behalf, etc.), so get these things moving early on so that they don’t leave you unable to submit on time. After you knock those out of the way, you can start filling in the blanks, including the well-known personal statement. Again, work on it in pieces! Write a rough draft of first thoughts and then tweak it over the next weeks to months as you find additional ideas to add. You never know, the best line for your personal statement may come while you're in the shower!
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Trust yourself! Self-doubt is one of the first things to lead you down an unsuccessful path. Whether you're writing your personal statement, interviewing for school, taking a test, or getting pimped by a preceptor, you have to trust yourself and the foundation you have! Impostor syndrome is real, trust me, but I always had to remind myself that I made it into PA school for a reason and I would make it out just fine.
What is the one thing about PA school you weren't prepared for?
I knew that PA school was a long and challenging road filled with lots of studying, but I never realized how much studying was involved until I got going. There’s a lot of material coming at you all at once, and I never thought I would be able to juggle it all. It becomes easier as you learn how to organize your time, what material to focus on the most, and how to tie information from classes together so that you are actually understanding and now just memorizing. It’s important to have a variety of studying methods. Whether that's studying with a friend or listening to a podcast while at the gym, try and review your information in different ways to keep it interesting!
How hard is it…really???
Don't get me wrong, PA school is no walk in the park, but it also doesn't have to be 2.5 years of misery! It's all about how you set yourself up. When it comes to studying, quality is far superior to quantity. For example, 2-3 hours of focused, distraction-free studying where you actually retain the information you're reading will prepare you for that upcoming test much better than 5-6 hours “on-and-off, picking up the phone and scrolling through social media, rereading the same page over and over ” studying. When things got challenging or I was getting burnt out, I always told myself “I can do anything for ____ hours/days/weeks/months.” Studying for another test tomorrow: I can do anything for 3 more hours! Clinicals with long hours and drives: I can do anything for 4 weeks! PA school as a whole: I can do anything for 28 months!
What is your favorite class?
For me it’s a tie between H&P and Skills! While they are different classes in their content and teachings, why I love them is the same. These classes are when we get to finally tie things together and start feeling the realness of becoming a PA. Other classes provide us with the very necessary material on diagnoses and medication, and in H&P and Skills you finally get to apply these learnings and see how they directly translate to clinical practice. Not only are these classes fun and hands-on, but they allow you to start imagining how you will personally practice as a PA. You are able to determine how you best assess and work-up a patient, order/obtain labs, and write your notes.
What is a typical day like in didactic year?
My typical didactic day consisted of 3 key parts: class, study, personal time. Class was primarily scheduled starting in the morning (8 a.m.) and went into early afternoon (1-2 p.m.). Following class there was still plenty of time in the day to be productive AND relax. I would typically spend the next 3-4 hours studying, either reviewing material from the past couple of days or preparing for an upcoming test/quiz. Some days this was independent studying, and other days I met with groups of classmates to review topics together! Finally, and very importantly, I always made sure to allow myself personal time in the evenings. This ranged from working out to watching a movie to getting dinner with friends to having a group Facetime call with my family. It was always such a great way to wind down from my busy and stressful day and allow my brain to take a break before starting again in the morning!
What is your favorite part of PA School?
My favorite part of PA school was building relationships with those around me. I have made friends that I will keep for a lifetime. For 2.5 years you are surrounded by people with the same goals and passions as you, and instant connections are made. I couldn't be more grateful for my PA school friends who were there for me in times of stress and in times of celebration. It’s so exciting watching yourself and your peers be successful and gain conference in their practice!
What is your best advice for the interview process?
Don’t overanalyze and be yourself! At the point of interviews, the program knows you are academically strong, that's what got you the interview to start with. Now is the time to show who YOU are. Be real and know what you believe in and why you want to enter healthcare as a PA. Practice interviewing, but you don't want to be rehearsed. Interviewers want to see the most genuine you!
How do you balance school and other aspects of your life?
Recognize that you cannot be in your best mindset without having an outlet. Schedule fun activities into your week just like you would studying - dinner with friends, movie nights, gym time, etc. I always made it a point to prioritize my wellness and sleep, because those were things that were important to me, and I knew that without them I wouldn't be successful in my schooling. Obviously you will have times when school is busier and more emphasis needs to be on studying, but there are also weeks when it's okay to cut an hour of studying out of each day to do something for yourself.
What is your favorite thing about the clinical year?
My favorite thing about the clinical year was finally getting to apply the knowledge and seeing it all come together in a hand-on experience. While the first day of each rotation is a little nerve wracking, it’s amazing how quickly you become comfortable in patient encounters. Preceptors but also patients are so excited to be a part of your PA school journey and are eager to help you learn. I loved getting to learn new skills (even if it's scary and you don't get it right the first time) and see different perspectives on how to approach a patient case. Most importantly, it was great to see a glimpse of what life will be like after finishing PA school and getting to work with your own patients!
What specialty do you want to pursue? Why?
I loved a lot of my outpatient rotations because I felt that the providers had established relationships with their patients. Seeing that was so important to me because in order for your patients to be open and honest about their health and life, they need to feel comfortable with you. I love learning about my patients and talking with them about their current health concerns, but also about their life in general! As with a lot of outpatient specialties, I like the idea of being able to follow patient problems from start to finish and really have that continuity of care.I also enjoyed the specialties where I was able to be a little hands on with in-office procedures such as dermatology, orthopedics, family medicine, and women's health.
What is a typical day like in clinical year?
The typical day in the clinical year varies so much by the specialty of your rotation. In general, you would start your day meeting with your preceptor and looking up your patients for the day. Throughout the day, you would see your patients, discuss patient cases with your preceptor, and work on finishing their visit notes. When your day ends, you complete personal logs of the patients you see and then spend the evenings studying for the specific end of rotation exam you are on. Clinical year is just as busy as didactic, but in a different way. Some rotations would be 12 hour shifts while others were 8. Some days you'd see 15 patients and some days you'd see 50!