Life as a Physician Assistant Olympian: Rio 2016

Houry Gebeshian PA

1. What is life like managing your career as a physician assistant and preparing for the Rio Olympics?

The best way for me to answer this question is for me to take you through a typical work day.  It is very challenging to work full-time as a physician assistant, train full-time as an Olympic gymnast, fund yourself, coach yourself, and balance everything else life throws at you.  However, nothing is impossible.  

I am a surgical physician assistant.  I work on the labor and delivery floor at Cleveland Clinic’s Fairview Hospital.  I do History and Physical exams on patients that come to the hospital to have their baby as well as assist in the operating room with any obstetric related surgical cases.  The majority of operations I assist with are cesarean sections (C-sections).  I work a 24 hour shift on Sunday and a 16 hour night shift on Wednesday night, which adds up to a 40 hour full-time work week.  Labor and delivery is very unpredictable so I always have to be alert and on my toes. Fortunately, I work with an excellent team of healthcare providers who help to move patients along safely.  

A typical work day will end at 7 am.  I will take a 3 hour nap from about 7:30 am – 10:30 am then head straight to the gymnastics gym.  I will then put myself through a grueling 4-5 hour practice, usually alone in the gym.  I’ll get home around 5-5:30 pm and start making dinner.  My favorite part of the day is when my fiancé and I sit down for dinner and catch up on each other’s days.  After dinner, I usually work on the computer doing promotional things, homework for my social marketing class, work out plans, meal ideas, writing e-mails, catching up on bills, or other general life tasks.  I try and get to bed by 10:30 pm.  Lucky for me, I have the next couple of days to recover before working again so I allow myself to sleep in a bit before doing it all over again!

2. Do you feel being a gymnast has impacted you as a physician assistant?

The most significant thing that has carried over from my career as an elite gymnast to my career as a physician assistant is my attention to detail.  In gymnastics you have to be precise for two reasons.  For one, you are being judged on how perfectly you can execute your routines.  However, more importantly, you have to be very exact in order to not get hurt.  If you do one wrong move, or lose focus for just one second, you could seriously injure yourself.  I use this mentality toward my patient care. I listen to my patients with careful attention, I determine a plan through meticulous analysis, and I work with my patients to execute my thoughts to achieve our goal.  Specifically in the operating room, we have to work with precision to minimize bleeding and complications. Similar to gymnastics, a mistake can have catastrophic consequences, so I believe that this exactness is absolutely necessary.

3. Life is a balancing act, and you seem to be quite good at it. Any tips for PAs out there that may be having a difficult time trying to find a work life balance?

Life is a balance and nothing is unmanageable. People are capable of accomplishing more than they think.  If there is a will, there is a way. After taking 3 years off of the sport, I had 2 years to get ready for the 2016 Olympic Games. I was 20 lbs overweight, I hadn’t set foot in a gym in 3 years, I didn’t have a job, and I was in an unfamiliar city.  I was essentially on my own to make this dream a reality.  Even though it seemed overwhelming, I sat down and I made a plan. I wrote out all of my training plans, routines, diet ideas, strength and conditioning, job search directions, and eventually my work schedule; everything that would get me from being a nobody to an Olympian.  Through hard work and planning, anything is possible.

My advice is to write out your goals and then make a schedule for how you are going to accomplish those goals.  Then all you have to do is follow your plan.  There will always be set backs, but focus on the bigger picture of what your original goal was.  Think positively and you will be able to balance it all.

4. What is your favorite part of being a physician assistant?

My favorite part about being a physician assistant is the flexibility.  A career as a physician assistant allows enough flexibility to be involved and passionate about medicine but also be involved and passionate in other parts of your life.  For me, this career choice allowed me the opportunity to work full-time as a healthcare provider but also train full-time as an elite gymnast, both things that I am very enthusiastic about.  My favorite part about my job is that it is someone’s birthday every day!  I am part of a healthcare team who helps bring a new life into our world.  It truly is amazing to hold a newborn baby as he/she enters into this world, take its first breath and cry for the first time.


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About Houry Gebeshian:

Houry has been involved in gymnastics for 20 years, starting in the developmental program at her home gym in Waltham, Massachusetts at age 5. From there she earned multiple State Championships and a full scholarship to the University of Iowa.  She competed all four years in the All-Around for Iowa, attained the honor of Big Ten Champion on the balance beam, and was an NCAA National competitor.  Post-graduation, she continued on to International Elite competition, competing for the Republic of Armenia at the 2011 World Championships.  Here she secured a spot as a reserve athlete for the 2012 Olympic Games.  Unable to qualify in 2012, due to injury, and after taking a 3 year hiatus to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant, she has returned to international competition to continue toward her dream of the Olympics.  She has secured an individual all-round spot for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and will be competing on August 7th, 2016 as the first female gymnast to represent the Republic of Armenia at the Olympic Games.

At the University of Iowa, Houry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training and is a Board Certified Athletic Trainer.  She then continued her education at Wake Forest School of Medicine, earning a Master of Medical Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies.  Alongside her gymnastics training, she currently works at Cleveland Clinic’s Fairview Hospital, as a surgical PA, on the Labor and Delivery floor.  She works a 24 hour shift on Sunday’s and a 16 hour over night shift on Wednesday’s.

Gebeshian is also a stepmom and loves spending time with her stepson on the weekends he is with her and her fiancé.  He is 4 and a half years old and loves playing in the gym as well.   She and her fiancé enjoy traveling and finding adventures to go on together.  For simple fun, she enjoys baking and learning new recipes.