Rylan Smelcer

Physician Assistant


Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Undergrad/Master's degree/ College attended: Cell and Molecular Biology / Jefferson College / Missouri State University

What made you want to be a PA?

I wanted to be a PA because of the rewarding relationships that I will be able to build with patients, the ability to have a great work/life balance, and to be able to study every area of medicine. I love the fact that PA’s can change specialties throughout their career, a stark contrast to MD or DO. Lifelong learning was also an important aspect in choosing a career path; being a PA requires constant learning to keep up with research breakthroughs and requires knowledge of multiple areas of medicine. Lastly, I love the challenges and responsibilities of a PA that include diagnosing, treating, and performing various procedures.

Why UEPA? Or what makes UEPA different than other PA Programs?

I was drawn towards UEPA because of the location and their focus on the “soft side of medicine”. The program explained that although the knowledge and information is important, empathy and bed side manner is what really makes for an outstanding provider. The UEPA program has a truly family atmosphere and environment where the faculty is there to help you in any way they can. This program stood out because I felt like the program wanted me as much as I wanted to be a part of their program.

What was your major in undergrad and did it prepare you for PA School?

I studied cell and molecular biology in undergrad and it has paid dividends for me. This major was very difficult and helped me understand how to manage my time. I truly believe this degree put me ahead of the game in terms of knowledge and time commitment that is required for PA school. I had to make sacrifices during undergrad but it has come back to help me immensely in the long run. Don’t be afraid to choose a major that pushes you to your limits because it will prepare you for the future and make you realize how much you can accomplish.

What is your favorite part of PA School?

My favorite part of PA school is being able to expand my knowledge base every day and then apply that knowledge. I am constantly studying everyday and wonder if I will be able to remember all that I have learned. I was sitting in on my first grand round at the hospital and the physicians were collaborating, looking over CT scans, etc. It was a great feeling to be able to follow along and know exactly what they were talking about on a real patient case!

What is the best study skill you can recommend for a PA student?

I think repetition of information and time management are the most important aspects to quality studying. PA school is a job and you have to treat it like one. I arrive early to campus in order to study before class and always make my lunch so I don’t have to leave during the day. There is always enough time to get things done, it all comes down to time management. Have to put the phone down and get after it!

What specialty do you want to pursue? Why?

As of now I would like to pursue a cardiology specialty. I have worked as a cardiovascular tech in the past and took specialty courses in undergrad that included cardiopulmonary physiology which have both peaked my interest in the specialty. I went to a technical high school and there are striking similarities between plumbing, electrical, etc and the human body, specifically the cardiovascular system. My understanding of the cardiovascular system comes more natural to me and is why I am leaning towards this specialty.