I began my career in healthcare while serving in the United States Navy. During my time in the Navy, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to assist naval physicians as a surgical technologist. I served five years in the specialty of Otorhinolaryngology and completed a certification as an Emergency Medical Technician before being honorably discharged in 2004. During those five years, I learned how genuinely rewarding it is to help others through medicine. Upon leaving the Navy, I got an invaluable opportunity to work as a surgical technologist at a Level 1 trauma center in San Diego, California. During my tenure at Scripps Mercy Catholic Hospital, I worked countless hours assisting in the orthopedic trauma department and began to develop a passion for helping people recover from traumatic injuries. While my work at Scripps Mercy was rewarding, I was consistently looking toward the future to graduate school. I decided upon an undergraduate degree in athletic training in order to strengthen my clinical skills. In the spring of 2008, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from California State University, Fullerton’s (CSUF) Athletic Training Education Program (ATEP). Shortly thereafter, I passed the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification exam to become a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), and I passed the National Strength and Conditioning Association exam to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). I was also awarded a prestigious fellowship appointment at The Steadman Clinic upon graduation and moved to Vail, Colorado to complete a one-year athletic training fellowship in knee, shoulder, and hip sports medicine. My time at The Steadman Clinic provided me the experience of working with a variety of athletes, including elite professionals, while also giving me the opportunity to practice with cutting edge surgical and non-surgical treatments and rehabilitation. My knowledge and practical experience with rehabilitation techniques and evaluation of orthopedic injuries grew exponentially during my time at The Steadman Clinic. Upon completion of the fellowship program, I began working at California Baptist University as an Assistant Athletic Trainer. After my first year with the university, I was promoted to Head Athletic Trainer. My time as an administrator refined my skills as a leader. While I will always have a passion for the athletic training profession, my long-term goal has always been to obtain higher education. Therefore, I decided to pursue a career as a physician assistant and hope to someday work at an orthopedic clinic in that capacity. I will begin my studies this summer at Duke University as part of the School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program.
My experience at CSUF:
My undergraduate major was Kinesiology with a focus in Athletic Training. I cannot begin to emphasize how instrumental the CSUF ATEP and the Kinesiology department were to my growth as a clinician/student. My time in the ATEP afforded me with many opportunities to learn the value of professionalism and networking. Such opportunities included being involved in research projects, attending professional conferences, and presenting research at professional conferences. I remember being challenged and motivated by my professors from the Kinesiology Department and the ATEP alike. I can definitively say that I was well prepared for job interviews and graduate school interviews upon graduation from CSUF. Organizations that I was involved with during my time at CSUF included, Kappa Omicron Nu (Human Sciences Honor Society), Golden Key International Honour Society, the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and the CSUF ATEP.
Why I chose PA school:
I chose PA school first and foremost because I love caring for and interacting with people. I also believe the field of Physician Assisting (PA) is constantly evolving, and I think we will continue to see expansion in light of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Due to the increased number of newly insured individuals, there will be a significant need for qualified healthcare professionals to care for these people. It is my belief that PAs can and will fill some of these positions as they are part of the allied healthcare team and can provide quality care for patients in need. I feel that my graduate education will prepare me for some of the expanding roles that PAs might need to be ready for as our healthcare system changes.
Applications can be a very arduous process. With that being said, my best advice is to start as early as possible. In this way, you will not feel rushed when application deadlines are looming. Planning ahead can be instrumental in your success. There are six main areas of evaluation that programs will use in order to find an ideal candidate.
- Standardized testing (GRE, MCAT, etc.)
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statements/Essays
Try to think of ways that you can plan ahead in regards to each of these areas. The following information is my advice for a few of the areas listed. Strengthen your resume early and often. The key to a strong resume is not necessarily quantity but quality. Seek out internship and volunteer opportunities that can demonstrate that you have grown as an individual upon completion of the opportunity. A quality internship or volunteer opportunity will provide you with experience to draw from when answering questions during interviews and or when writing essays. Find out if the schools or programs you are interested in require standardized testing and the date that scores are required to be submitted. Programs vary greatly in their requirements and submission deadlines, so do your research early and plan ahead. In addition, letters of recommendation are a major component of your application package. Getting involved with organizations and being an active participant in classes during your undergraduate work will allow you to network and establish relationships with professionals in the field, which can be of great importance when it comes time to ask for a letter of recommendation. Lastly, try to gain experience and practice with interviews prior to your program’s official interview. Many professors and advisors are more than willing to participate in mock interviews. The key to a successful interview is all about being yourself and being comfortable and confident while communicating with the interviewers. Practicing will give you the confidence you need to succeed!
Advice to current students:
My biggest advice to students is to take life slowly. It is common for students to become fixated on the idea that they must finish their undergraduate education within four years, complete all of the necessary volunteer hours, and somehow maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout the process. However, there is nothing wrong with being a non-conformist and taking your time. Imagine a scenario where you took an extra semester or two to graduate, what benefits could that provide? You could have more time to complete courses, which could translate into a stronger GPA. There might be more time to complete volunteer hours or an internship, which allows you to strengthen your resume and strengthen relationships with mentors/professors who will conceivably write you a letter of recommendation. It may also allow extra time to finish applications, write essays, study for your standardized testing, and prepare for interviews. I would recommend this if you are a student who may need more time to prepare in order to make yourself more marketable for your next step.