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 Steph…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Steph: I am from Michigan originally. I studied at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN and got a BA in Chemistry with a minor in Biology.
Accepted: Can you share 3 fun facts about yourself?
1. I run a style blog called White Coat Wardrobe. I started it in PA school as a creative outlet and have seen it really grow and blossom since that time!
2. My fiancé and I are planning to get married in May of this year.
3. I am a Pure Barre ADDICT! Working out has never been something I enjoy, but Pure Barre is my soulmate workout!
Accepted: How did you decide to become a PA? Why not a doctor or nurse?
Steph: There was never really a question about whether I should become a physician or PA. I had the opportunity to shadow numerous PAs while I was in undergrad and I was magnetized to not only the profession, but the passion and excitement that each mentor seemed to have for what they were doing. I guess you could say that I had professional tunnel vision once I was exposed to what PAs do. I loved that they had autonomy within a practice but still collaborated with physicians on a daily basis. My father is a physician, and he started medical school when I was about 5, so I joke that I already “went” to medical school once (haha!).
Accepted: What are some of the advantages of being a PA?
Steph: There are SO many advantages to being a Physician Assistant! The best thing about the profession is that I am trained to be an extension of a physician, providing more access to care. This means that I evaluate the patients, formulate a treatment plan and manage their care. PA programs are structured so that we are trained in the medical model; we take the same series of classes that medical students take, with the exception of a select few. We then go on to have 12-15 months of clinical rotations in every medical specialty. When PAs take their boards, they are then licensed to practice in any medical specialty. Most programs are 24-30 months long, which allows more providers to quickly begin practice, which in turn offsets physician shortages.
Since we are trained in every medical specialty, PAs also have the flexibility of changing specialties whenever they choose. For example, I worked in cardiology for my first year of practice and then took a job with an ER group. Our physicians and colleagues help to provide us with on-the-job training that we need to excel in our fields. We also graduate with much lower debt-to-income lifetime ratio than physicians, allowing us to pay off those pesky loans much faster.
While I do not have children yet, I love that my job will allow me the flexibility to earn a comfortable income while still having days off to be with my family.
Accepted: Where did you study to become a PA? Why did you choose that particular program?
Steph: I studied at the University of Kentucky, and chose that program because I wanted to relocate to a different part of the country and have a new adventure! The staff seemed to be very passionate and invested in training the next generation of PAs, which I was very attracted to.
Accepted: Looking back at the PA school admissions process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How did you overcome that challenge and how would you advise others who may be facing similar hurdles?
Steph: I faced two challenges during my acceptance process. To start, I applied for PA school during my senior year of college and was waitlisted or denied at every school I applied to. Every school had the same piece of feedback: I needed more “hands on” experience, and shadowing did not count. I took a year off and worked full-time as a CNA at a nursing home and part-time as a pharmacy technician. I reapplied the following year and got interviewed at nearly every school I applied to.
My other challenge was more of an administrative one. During my application process, I learned that one of my classes did not meet the prerequisite requirements. I had to send additional paperwork, including a letter from my college professor and an original copy of the course syllabus. I did not get any email or phone conversation from the program when they received the information. Fortunately, I had visited campus twice and had contact information for professors in the program. I sent an email to both of them and they helped me to resolve the issue. Had I not taken the time to visit and make these connections, the issue may have never been resolved and might have cost me an interview date. Always be sure to stay on top of your applications and communications – you are your best advocate!
Overall, my advice to PA school applicants would be to apply to a small pool of schools that you are TRULY passionate about attending. Research their prerequisites and make sure that you are a candidate for their program. Make contacts at the school and take time to visit if you can. It can really benefit you during the application process if there is a face attached to a name on a piece of paper.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What have you gained from the blogging experience?
Steph: My blog is called White Coat Wardrobe. I started it at the end of my didactic year of PA school, right before I started my clinicals. I have always loved clothing and remixing my wardrobe pieces to create new looks. While I followed many bloggers, I felt that there was a huge lack of representation of medical professionals. I set out to show the world that you could have a sense of personal style and still be modest and professional.
I was AMAZED at how quickly it grew. Followers really responded to what I was doing, and it provided me with a fun and creative outlet when I needed it the most. The biggest blessing has been the friendships and connections that I have made. I love getting emails from followers asking me advice on the PA school preparation and application process. If nothing else, I hope to be a resource for the next generation of medical professionals!
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