Denisonians in Health Professions: Physician Assistant

Denisonians in health professions: physician assistant - emily-lipsitz-248x300.png image #0Name: Emily Lipsitz
Denison Graduation Year: 2015
Denison Majors: BS Biology, BA Athletic Training
Graduate/Professional School: pursuing a Masters of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) at the University of Charleston Physician Assistant Program, class of 2019
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What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
I wanted a role in the healthcare field where I could combine my interests of working in diagnostics and directly with patients. PAs are at the interface of curing and caring, forming the bridge that connects other members of the medical team. PAs practice in collaboration with a physician but exercise substantial autonomy in diagnosing and treating patients. They have the intellectual capacity to assess symptoms and determine a diagnosis, but the time to interact and form personal connections with patients. I believe that becoming a PA will allow me to work in a career that best takes into account these different perspectives.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
I always knew I wanted some kind of career in medicine and while at Denison I was fortunate to have multiple opportunities to shadow different professionals including physicians, nurse practitioners, physical therapists and the like. Once I shadowed a physician assistant I knew it was the right fit for me. I would definitely recommend shadowing people if you have the opportunity to see what the day to day life is like in said profession before committing to multiple years of higher education. Once, I decided on pursuing a degree to become a Physician Assistant I looked through all the programs that I fulfilled the requirements for and made lists of pros and cons for each program. I then applied to ten programs. I received interviews from multiple programs and was accepted to a couple programs. Of the programs I was accepted to, I again made a list of all factors; cost, program length, PANCE pass rate etc. and decided on the University of Charleston. Ultimately what helped me make my decision was the fact that at UC I would have more opportunities to gain hands on experience during my clinical rotations because the need for medical care is much higher than other cities where the other programs I was accepted to. My thought process was the demand for PAs is so high and “you can’t teach experience” so I will be able to take my experiences anywhere I choose to pursue a career.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
Applying to PA school, med school, whatever, it may be is extremely competitive and can be quite overwhelming. In regard to the PA school application process I didn’t really know many people who had done it before but was fortunate to meet a friend of a friend who offered some guidance. My advice would be to use your resources. Contact alumni (I’m happy to help!), friends, read blogs and advice columns. Knowledge is power, so the more prepared you can be the better. Another challenging area were interviews. I worked as a Senior Interviewer at Denison and have also been involved with the interview process at my program and again and again the people who succeed are the ones who find ways to differentiate themselves. So, my advice would be to get involved in a program or organization that is different than the “typical” applicant. For me this was a cross-country bike trip with an organization called 4K for Cancer. Now, I’m not saying hop on your bicycle right now, but deliberately choose extra curricular experiences whether it be research, volunteering or work experience that sets you apart from other applicants.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
I am currently between applying to a residency program in a specialty role or applying directly to a job as an individually practicing PA. Currently, I am in the middle of rotations so it will depend how they go and what areas I am interested in when I finish. I currently see myself working in a pediatric speciality or the emergency department for my first role out of PA school. The PA profession is great because it allows you the flexibility to switch specialties multiple times throughout your career. While I plan to pursue a traditional career at first, my ultimate career goal is to purchase a bus and transform it into a mobile clinic and provide medical care to underserved populations.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
I would definitely recommend getting all your “ducks in a row” before applying. First off, it can be a very expensive application process and being prepared increases your chance of only having to apply once. Secondly, there is no “right” timeline, it’s when it is “right” for you. Personally, I took a year and a half off after graduating from Denison and worked as a Research Coordinator at Boston University and I am SO glad that I did. I was not ready to go right back to school and the time between gave me valuable perspective and opportunities that made me a more prepared student and a better practitioner in the long run. My main point is don’t feel pressured to go right back to school if you need a break and don’t feel pressured by the timeline of your friends and peers. I have classmates in my program who are 42 years old and classmates who are 21. In my opinion, whether you graduate professional school at 25, 30 or 35 it really does not make a major difference. You have your entire life to be whatever profession you choose to pursue but you never get these precious years after graduation back. So take whatever time you need to see the world, “find yourself”, gain experiences and when it’s time to pursue your next professional step you’ll know and you’ll be grateful for the time you took for yourself.