Kelly Henehan

Attended Saint Louis University for undergraduate degree.


Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

What made you want to be a PA?

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to work in the medical field. It was not until high school where I learned about PA’s. I love that they get to create meaningful relationships with their patients and have the lateral mobility to switch specialties whenever they want. This career allows for a great work-life balance all while getting to make a difference in someone's life.

Why UEPA? Or what makes UEPA different from other PA programs?

When I went through the process of applying to PA programs, I looked for accredited programs that shared my values and could also shape me into a well-rounded provider. As soon as I stepped foot into the Stone Center on interview day, I knew I found a program and institution that I could call home. The entire faculty treats the students like a part of their family and supports them both inside and outside the classroom. My cohort is a tight knit group who push each other to be their best and help one another while struggling. UEPA's support system is unparalleled and cannot be found elsewhere.

What do you find is your biggest challenge in being a PA student?

The biggest challenge for me was learning how to not compare myself to others. It is so easy to fall into that trap, especially after exams. I had to remind myself that I would not be here if I was not smart enough! My advice is to find what works best for you and remember it is okay to take breaks and do what you love outside of school.

Did you do anything that really helped you prepare for PA school?

My gap years were a vital part of my preparation for PA school. I worked as a medical assistant and learned how to take patients' full history, which taught me the importance of documentation. I also assisted with in-office procedures. In PA school, I am able to use my experience and relate it to material we learn. In many instances, I was already familiar with certain procedures, equipment, and medications. My experience also really helped prepare me for H&P and OSCE patient interactions.

What is your best advice for anyone working on the CASPA application?

Make sure you ask for your recommendation letters early! Healthcare providers are busy and are ultimately doing you a favor, so make sure to give them enough notice to write you a strong letter. With such busy schedules, you might have to remind them so you can submit your application on time.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself to relax, there is no correct timeline. I remember feeling so ‘behind in life’ for not going directly into PA school after my undergraduate program, but my gap years ended up being pivotal to my success today. I was able to travel, spend time with family, friends, and build great relationships in the medical field. Everyone's life timeline is different and there is no correct one.

What is the one thing about PA school you weren't prepared for?

The amount of quizzes and exams you will have in one week. I am someone who focuses on one exam before I can move onto the next, and that just does not work in PA school. We quickly got use to this and three exams in one week do not seem so daunting. Setting up a study routine has proven to be my key to success. This program facilitates multitasking and flexibility, which is such an important skill both professionally and personally.

How hard is it…really???

Have you ever heard people tell you, ‘PA school is like drinking out of a firehose?’ Well, unfortunately, that is true. There is a lot of material to learn in a short period of time and it is easy to feel behind, but it is definitely doable. It is important to remember that grades do not define you, and there is more to this profession than straight A's. Use the professors as a resource if you feel behind or do not understand material, they are there to help you. The entire UEPA faculty wants to see you succeed.

What is your favorite class?

Clinical skills! It is fun to start learning about procedures and getting to practice.

What is a typical day like in didactic year?

Classes start around 8:00 a.m./9:00 p.m. and go until about 2:00 p.m., pending the day. I have grown to think of school as a 9-5, full time job; I stay at school until approximately 5:00 p.m. to study and then go home to eat dinner. Working out has been a great stress reliever for me and an essential part of my school day. I usually work out early in the mornings or in the evening.

What is your favorite part of PA School?

My favorite part of PA school has to be my classmates! Even though we are with each other every day in class, I cannot get enough of them. I am blessed to be a part of a program with classmates who challenge me every day, but are also extremely supportive and uplifting.

What is your best advice for the interview process?

Practice interview questions with someone who can provide feedback. Having an idea of what you want to say is a good start, but being able to articulate your answers and have your bright personality be seen is another. By practicing out loud and in front of others, you will not be as nervous or apprehensive on the actual interview day.

How do you balance school and other aspects of your life?

It definitely takes time to figure out a good balance. PA school is important and should be your priority but it should not consume your life. Schedule time for yourself every day to do something outside of studying and make sure you dedicate a day on the weekends to family and friends. Your mental health is important, so make sure you take care of yourself!