Personal Experiences Led These Three Students to Pursue the Profession
Sometimes, you don’t choose the career—the career chooses you.
“In high school when I was injured during a game, I went to see an orthopedic group,” recalls Victoria Allman BS ’18, who majored in exercise
science at Regis College. “In that group I was seeing a physician assistant (PA) who made such an impact not only on my physical injury, but the mental part of not being able to play the sport that I love for an extended period of time. I started to research what PAs could do and from that day forward I knew what I wanted to be.” Victoria just completed her final semester at a local physician assistant (PA) program.
Another exercise science major, Joe Greco BS ’16, who is currently working as a physician assistant-certified (PA-C) in Connecticut, had a similar experience.
“When initially applying at Regis, I was set on a field centered around sports medicine based on an experience I had after a knee injury requiring surgery,” he writes. “After my experience, I realized how unique the field could be.”
Then, there’s Arpan Kakadia BS ’22, a biology major and exercise science minor at Regis now in his first year of another local PA program. As he remembers, “At the age of 12 my mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and that was a scary experience. Luckily, her care was in the hands of an exceptional healthcare team that was able to treat her. During this experience, the PAs stood out to me through their meticulous and compassionate care towards her and I knew I wanted to help those the same way they helped my mom.”
As medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider, PAs practice in every state, medical setting, and specialty. Entry requirements include a bachelor’s degree and prerequisite courses in basic and behavioral sciences. Most programs are approximately 27 months (three academic years), including classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.
Students interested in healthcare often investigate options like PA and nurse practitioner (NP). How do these fields compare? “PAs don't need to have a specialized field they get licensed in, whereas NPs do,” Allman explains. “PAs have a more generalized medical education and can go into any specialty. NPs can work independently in most states without having physician supervision, PAs currently work within a team with physician supervision in most states. NPs follow a nursing model, meaning they treat the patient with the disease. PAs are trained on a medical model where they treat the disease the patient has, looking at the pathology of the disease and how to cure it.”
For Allman, who sought the flexibility to move between specialties from surgery to pediatrics to geriatrics without additional degrees and certifications, physician assistant was the ideal fit. Entering a PA program, she said, “I felt as though I was well prepared. I had a good foundation from Regis from both the exercise science and biology departments, I was able to hit the ground running when I started and build upon what I had already learned in undergrad.”
“It is important for students to not only understand medical science and medical skills, but they also need to have well developed interpersonal
skills,” explains Devin Cashman, MS, LAT, ATC, NREMT, assistant professor, health and fitness studies. “I often tell students that one certification that is required is the CNP (certified nice person). I think that students that do well on the PA path are usually adaptable, detail oriented, resilient, confident, compassionate, and problem solvers.”
Students can enter PA programs from any major. Cashman describes those who are interested in pursuing PA programs as “high achieving” and programs as “super competitive,” so he frequently advises students how to complete the prerequisites for admission.
“I work with students throughout the application process, such as how to write a personal statement, interviewing, and including relevant experiences,” Prof. Cashman adds. “I also work with students to help them find ways in which they can engage in patient care experiences. I have PAs in the area that are willing to let our students shadow them so they can learn more about the profession and see if it is a good fit for them. We have the ability to give 1:1 support and have access to PAs working at some of the best hospitals in the country that students can learn about the profession from.”
When he was a high school senior looking into colleges, Greco found that “Regis checked off a lot of the boxes that I found most important,” including program and athletic options. But “another major factor was the proximity to Boston and the surrounding area. Boston has some of the best
hospitals in the world which provide great opportunities for students.”
“The Boston area was the perfect location to pursue an education in healthcare,” Arpan agreed. “Not many students have the privilege to be around some of the top hospitals in the country, especially ones so close to their campus.”
Reflecting on the preparation he received for his program, Arpan adds, “As a current PA student, my experience at Regis has been my foundation for all the medicine that I have and will learn. Each class at Regis has given me the proper exposure for topics that I will go in depth into to enhance my understanding of the overall goal of patient care.”
While his family experience introduced Arpan to the profession, it was his interest in science and patient interactions as a nursing assistant that, he says, “continued to fuel my passion to become a PA. I couldn't see myself doing anything else.”