Image Credit: Vancouver Island University
Any words of wisdom for those considering the PA pathway?
First and foremost, make sure you are passionate about medicine, working with patients and a Physician Assistants role in healthcare. Get out there and shadow and see if this is the right profession for you. I think it’s important to not let your path to PA keep you from building your other interests and talents. If you are already pre-PA be patient, stay focused on your prerequisites and immerse yourself in volunteer experiences or your healthcare job. Take chances, I personally was involved with research, community service, hospital internships, a student-run clinic and numerous clubs and they all shaped who I am.
What drew you to the field?
I love science and AP biology was my favorite class in high school. I went to college with an open mind and was unsure about what I wanted to pursue professionally. My Junior year, I started volunteering with children with neurodevelopmental disorders and at a student-run clinic and discovered that I wanted to be in medicine and work with patients. My grandma's multiple strokes and my grandpa's aortic stenosis also served as a motivation to learn more. It wasn’t until my junior year of undergrad that I discovered the role of Physician Assistants and I knew this scope of practice fits my personality. I want to be a part of a profession that would incorporate my desire to help others and also be a part of the growing field of medicine. Being a PA has so much to offer both intellectually and on the humanistic level. I also did my research, I talked to physicians, PAs and PA students. I attended a national pre-health conference that PAs, and PA students along with other health professions held workshops and became even more excited about what this profession entails.
How have your experiences confirmed that the PA pathway is right for you?
Meaningful patient encounters and the sheer brilliance of how the human body works confirmed that I was on the right path. At a student-run clinic, I had the privilege of medically serving under-served and uninsured communities with PA students and medical students. Some patients that I got to work with never received any sort of health care in their life and it was a humbling experience to help others during a vulnerable time. The manifestations of chronic illnesses are much deeper in under-served areas and I was so lucky to play a role in relieving these troublesome illnesses in some of my patients. The rest of my serendipitous patient encounters only solidified my desire to become a PA. In addition, there was so much I wanted to learn about the human body and our different organ systems. My favorite class in undergrad was Physiology of the Endocrine Glands. My professor would draw pictures or diagrams on the board during lecture and it was up to us to write all the important notes down and podcast. The material was thorough and dense but, I was fascinated by the capacity of hormones and its effects throughout our body.
Was fulfilling the pre-PA prerequisites difficult?
I majored in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and minored in Psychology so a lot of my pre-PA prerequisites were incorporated in my degree curriculum. My major was also rather rigorous, I had grad students in some of my upper-level classes. Classes like Anatomy and Physiology personally served as a confirmation that I was headed towards the right field. I remember holding a human brain for the first time and being overwhelmed by the fact that I was holding someone's thoughts, basic functions, personality and memories in my hands. A little advice, have fun with anatomy and physiology, you will understand what’s going on when you shadow and even understand all those surgeries they talk about on Grey’s Anatomy. Not to mention it will set your foundation for PA School and give you something to build on.
I think chemistry is always the tough one for most to get a grasp on because it is a new form of thinking. From my experience, the best way to tackle a class is to always be ready to evolve your study style because different topics need different strategies to really comprehend. If you’re lucky enough to know you want to be a PA during your undergrad integrate your coursework with your prerequisites early on. I had to take some classes after getting my bachelors and working long hours, going to school at night and studying is doable but, a tough balance.
How long did it take before you collected all of your credentials for PA School?
I graduated in December 2015, I’m in the process of applying and I’m hoping to start PA school in summer/fall 2017.
My school was on the quarter system and I spent 4 years and a quarter to complete my major and minor. At my clinic, I began to sign up for as many clinic days as I could because I knew this experience would allow me to develop some important healthcare skills. I also become a health educator at my clinic so I could spend more time with patients and play a more active role in their health. In addition, I volunteered at the local hospital in the cardiac rehabilitation department. I’m quite passionate about volunteerism, I would volunteer somewhere about three times a week and it kept me really busy. After graduating, I worked as a Medical Assistant at a psychiatric and pain medicine practice. Now, I work as a neurofeedback therapist and help treat depression, PTSD, ADHD and Autism.
The process of applying and CASPA can feel overwhelming but if you stay organized and break it down into manageable pieces it will all come together. Also, try not to compare your journey to PA schools to others because everyone has a unique story and it will make you stand out.
Thank you for sharing your journey Annie Singh!