This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Lorae…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? When did you graduate?
Lorae: Sure! I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon (Pacific Northwest all the way!). I wanted to escape the rain when I started looking at colleges, so I ended up at the beautiful University of San Diego in southern California. I got my Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry and graduated in 2015.
Accepted: Where are you currently attending PA school? What year are you?
Lorae: I am currently a first year at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Go Demon Deacons! My program is 24 months long and divided equally into didactic and clinical years.
Accepted: Why PA school? Did you always want to have a career in the medical field?
Lorae: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work in medicine. I’m a very logical, black-and-white person, so science and math always appealed to me. (Anyone who works in medicine is probably laughing at the screen because medicine is so not black and white!)
I had always planned on going to medical school to become a physician. Through college, I took pre-med courses and even studied for the MCAT. It wasn’t until around graduation that I realized the PA profession was meant for me. The lateral mobility and scope of practice aligned best with my strengths and professional interests. Working as a medical scribe, I realized that I loved the idea of working with a collaborating physician as an integral member of a healthcare team. The profession is growing quickly as well, with high national job satisfaction rates. And we can work in any specialty! Being a PA also offers a wonderful work-life balance. I could go on and on… what’s not to love?!
Accepted: How was the application process for you? Did you experience any roadblocks along the way? How did you overcome them?
Lorae: The application process was tough to say the least. I was working overtime as a medical scribe, and after work, I was taking evening prerequisites four days a week. Between work and school, I was usually gone for 15-16 hours a day! I also somehow squeezed in taking the GRE. Phew. As you can imagine, sorting through the application process with all of this going on was a bit crazy. I applied to around 12 programs and struggled to navigate CASPA and fill out all the intense supplemental applications. With a lot of sacrifice and time management, I was able to put my all into every single application. And I was so excited to be one step closer to my dream career! Until the discouraging emails rolled in…rejection, after rejection, after rejection. I started questioning whether or not all the hard work was worth it.
I still hadn’t received any good news months after submitting my applications. I started mapping out how I would improve next year: what I would do different, how I could better my weaknesses. And then, out of the blue, I received an interview invite from my top choice. I went and got my acceptance call the following week. I try to tell all pre-PA students my motto when it comes to the application process: it only takes one, and I am a testament to that!
The reason I stayed sane, I think, is because of my family and friends. I cannot emphasize how important it is to have a strong support system while you navigate the application process. They will lift you up on your bad days and celebrate with you on the good ones. When you forget what makes this worth it, you’ll have them to remind you. This lesson – that you can’t do everything alone – is an important one. You will continue to learn it in PA school! So for those of you reading this… know that I am part of your support system. I’ve been through it, and I understand. Reach out to me on those days when you just can’t seem to keep going. You have someone who wants to help!
Accepted: What has been your favorite aspect of PA school thus far? What has been your biggest challenge?
Lorae: My favorite part of PA school is finally learning about things I’m interested in! I worked as a medical scribe for nearly two years before I started my program. I remember seeing patients with my doctor and wishing so badly that I could be doing what she does. Even the simplest things, like pulling out the leg rest of the exam table as she guided the patient to supine position! As ridiculous as it sounds, I cherished every moment, just dreaming for the day it would be my turn.
I think one of my favorite parts of PA school, especially being at Wake Forest, is our inquiry-based learning curriculum. Each week, we discuss a new case in small groups. It makes for a very active, hands-on learning environment that guides the rest of our lectures. Not only are we learning the science of working in medicine – but we are also learning how to be respectful peers and efficient team members. In this way, the curriculum is highly representative of clinical practice. That’s why I love it!
I think my biggest challenge hasn’t had anything to do with the “learning” component of PA school. Sure, there’s a lot of material. What I struggle with most, though, is taking care of my emotional and physical health. It’s easy to make excuses and avoid exercise when you could fill every minute of the day with studying. On top of that, it’s tough to be away from my friends, my family, my home. Everyone struggles when moving to a brand-new city. I’m still transitioning, and it will just take time. Didactic year is tough all around!
Accepted: Readers can find out more about you on your Instagram account, lorae.the.pa! What made you want to start sharing your PA journey with others? How do you find the balance between social media and school?
Lorae: Yes, they absolutely can! To be honest, I didn’t start the account with the intention of it growing so quickly, or even at all. I originally started it in addition to my personal account to separate my personal life from my medical interests. I started following all kinds of people who were (and still are) role models to me in healthcare. I’d watch them give all this amazing insight and helpful tips, and I was so appreciative. Eventually, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I do this too?”
So I did! That’s half of accomplishing anything – just doing it and seeing what happens. I started posting about things that I found helpful and that I wanted to share with others. I had never really had a true personal “mentor” and found myself stepping into that role for others. It makes me so happy! I get to provide guidance, resources, and insight that I would have loved to have when applying. I feel lucky to be a part of a greater community – the first real wave of PA students on social media who are here to help others on the same path. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for all of us to establish an online presence and ultimately advocate for our profession, too.
How I balance school and social media is a great question. It takes a lot of sacrifice. Let me give you a prime example: as we speak, I am in the backseat of a car on a weekend road trip with my friends! I’m sure most people don’t think twice about how much work it is to keep up with a social media presence. How much can it take, right? Just take a picture and upload it! In reality, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes in working with certain brands and other medical students/providers. In addition to posting, I write blog posts, participate in interviews like this one, set up giveaways, and more. I answer a lot of questions in my inbox daily. I have had to decline lots of evening outings to balance the two, but ultimately, it’s worth it. Starting this account has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done! The opportunities that have arisen because of it have already surpassed my expectations. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.
Accepted: Lastly, can you share a few tips for those who are considering going to PA school?
Lorae: Absolutely! My biggest tip is to be honest with yourself. Truly engage in some self-reflection to determine your strengths and interests and decide if being a PA really is right for you. This can take some time. It can be helpful to work in medical environments that expose you to as many healthcare positions as possible. You will better understand what it means to be a PA; even more importantly, you will understand how a PA works in collaboration with their medical team.
Once you decide on PA school – congratulations! You’ve chosen to pursue a challenging, flexible, and rewarding profession that continues to grow with each passing year. Start preparing as early as possible for the application process. Volunteer regularly, keep up your GPA, and fill leadership roles. Seek out unique opportunities to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Start researching programs that you’d be interested in applying to make sure you cover all your bases. Try not to rush the process – good things take time. As you will continue to learn in PA school, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!
You can continue following Lorae’s story on Instagram (@lorae.the.pa). Thank you Lorae for sharing your story with us, we wish you much success!
For one-on-one guidance on your med school applications, check out our catalog of med school admissions services.
Do you want to be featured in Accepted’s blog? If you want to share your med school journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Fitting In & Standing Out: The Paradox at the Heart of Admissions, a free guide
• How to Get Accepted to Physician Assistant (PA) Programs
• Andrea Benedict: Life as a Physician Assistant, a podcast episode