Sample PA School Application Essays


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In 1975, my grandpa died from bone cancer. My father nursed him with passion. He was a talented student, but couldn’t pursue engineering anymore due to financial crisis and worked as a helper at an engineering factory to meet ends. Fulfilling his duties, he nurtured his sick mother and an autistic brother. Self-sacrifice for our dutiful services to others was my lesson.

His zealous interest in engineering drew him to ask questions and start learning from the workmen. Eventually, he owned an engineering company from hands on learning. I’ve seen his inordinate dedication to his family and work to give us a better future. He said, “its about us and the family of all my workers.” Today, he is a well-known craftsman in the industrial estate of Gujarat, India. He didn’t let his diploma define his limits. Consistent hard work in the best interest of others wellbeing defines him.

We get so caught up with life that we forget its brevity. It was 07/17/04. Doctor said, “Your mother is in shock due to liver damage and needs instant surgery. Sign this consent”. Clueless, I gave my first official sign. But it was too late. My parents had met with a car accident. They were deprived of urgent medical care due to lack of staff. Surgeon wouldn’t operate my mother until the consent was signed. I was 16, alone and confused. My father was in ICU for 13 months. Injuries caused him lifetime agony. He wished death out of pain and guilt for the loss.  Helpless, I could only counsel him with faith. With proper care and time, his crippled body was walking. When he came home, his teary eyes gazed at me and smiled. It made perfect sense with no words. My joy in serving my sick father and weak family is indescribable. But our lives changed. I believe instant medical care, her last best chance, would have given us a closure. My father’s life set examples but her death changed my perspective.

He is aging wisely but not his wounds. He recently went through CABG. When I was afraid, he said, “You make more of a difference than you know. Decide on problems, find solutions, pick best practice, partner and then deliver to the needs.” He knows how to take your fears away. He always reminds me to give back to the society the support they gave us. There is no bigger pleasure than serving humanity.

Life put him to great trials, but he overcomes for his next endeavor. Today, he funds education to potential but underprivileged kids of our society. He runs an English medium campus in his village to promote English speaking. He provides free books and stationary to all the enrolled students.

As an EMT and a MA, I have been involved in patient care for 5 years. It is a beautiful gift to be a part of someone’s day. Patients amaze me with their stance. There is so much to learn from cultural diversity. There is no greater blessing than the healing touch of another. Imagine life with a helping hand in every step. I want to be that hand. It is exciting to watch them recover and resume life. This contentment is my prime asset.

His endless sickness has driven me to advance in my career. As a PA I will be able to balance my life along with the profession. I can upsurge my wisdom by continual learning. I cannot make this planet disease-free, but I can try making it less painful. Understanding body and mind can solve mysteries of life. My inquisitive nature can contribute to mystery solving. Faith lies in comforting reasons. I shall strive to find reasons to comfort patients. Comfort brings peace and it’s all about making peace in the end.

My fatuity caused me to drive under the influence. I was honorably discharged with a good moral character, but left with remorse. I was guilty of risking my fellow beings. Moreover, my father was fighting CHF. I failed to keep up to NYU-Poly criteria and dropped out. This impacted me deeply to the point of action. I couldn’t resist regret and retraced my steps. I have the integrity to confess my errors. It clears my consciences and fortifies my purpose. In the years since, I have matured and to enforce it with reason, I hope to pursue PA profession, although my chances could get very minimal due to this. But it is rightly said, “What we fear the most is usually what we most need to do”.

Life has spun me into the individual I am. Discipline and patience defines me. I know how not to give up but also how to let go. The human brain has a lot of potential, which in the right direction can make wonders. My potential leads in this direction. I learnt that life lived for others without attachment is most worthwhile. This is a life business and death is just a part of it, but what happens to people in their last moments really matters. In memory of that ominous night, I wish to aid shaky families with a chance. Lessons learnt from experiences and education has prepared me to make my life meaningful to others as a PA. My satisfaction lies in my effort and not attainment. This is who I am, and respectfully, nothing else can define me.

Scribe and EMT to PA

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I reclaimed my path at an orphanage in the Ngong Hills of Kenya. The police had admitted two sisters in the dark of the night. They were victims of abuse, discarded because they were born HIV positive. I craved the ability to treat their injuries, but there was nothing I could do. A volunteer Physician Assistant (PA) sprang into action, comforting and providing medical aid, ultimately stabilizing both children. I did not have the licensing or skillset to accomplish what I desperately wanted. Until that point, my life had run on autopilot. I was pursuing an undergraduate medical tract without a defined practice in mind. It took traveling 4,500 miles from home to rediscover my purpose.

Over the next five years, I served as an Orchard Africa volunteer, living in various villages throughout Africa. We initiated feeding programs, developed and introduced a school curriculum applied throughout South Africa, and implemented medical and HIV education programs. It became evident that there was an immense need to build communities with access to healthcare and education. Lacking formal schooling, older village members perceived health education as a threat to their beliefs and their standing in the community. To increase community acceptance, my team and I designed and implemented a participatory model for elder engagement in curriculum facilitation focused on spreading HIV awareness to youth. I remain inspired by the practitioners and village members who worked in unison, relying on their own resilience and capability to find creative solutions despite limited resources and sometimes lacking medical training. I aspire to maintain this tenacious spirit throughout my current and future medical career.

I have a passion for bringing equity to healthcare, which impelled the medical opportunities I pursued serving marginalized communities in the United States. Access to quality care remains a widespread issue for patients from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. I interned at a local family practice that served predominantly first-generation immigrants to further my learning in culturally appropriate medical care. Each day, foreign-speaking patients sought medical care with lacking English language skills. My supervisor, a Ukrainian immigrant PA named Julia, coached me on the importance of patient and compassionate communication. I studied the symbiotic relationship between the physician and the PA, listened to and applied cultural sensitivity, and interpreted the most important universal language of compassion. Julia and her team provide culturally targeted healthcare to a population struggling to find their place in this country. My goal is to mitigate ethnic and racial disparities in the healthcare system. Becoming a PA will enable me to focus on a broad range of medicine, which is pertinent when dealing with a diverse populace.

These experiences and many others fortified my desire to provide quality care as a PA. I completed additional coursework, advanced my experience as a Scribe in the Emergency Department, and earned my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license to strengthen my medical skills. Working in Level One Trauma Centers as an EMT on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic allows me to be part of a team in a time of uncertainty. With the shortage of personal protective equipment and the fear of the perpetual unknown, we choose to flow as a seamless unit. We are fighting against a novel virus with the tools we have learned in our studies and the empathy we have found among one another.

This empathy has been the foundation for how I interact with my patients. Recently, an attempted suicide patient was flown in just after midnight. I have lost a loved one to suicide, and after assessing the gunshot wound, it was clear the patient was not going to survive. It would have been acceptable for me to leave after a time of death was called. However, I knew from experience the patient on the bed was not the only injury in that room. I approached the patient’s parents and sat in their pain. I wanted to validate their grief and reassure them that they were not alone. I knew they were going to need continued care and that my responsibility did not end with their child’s life.

For as long as I can remember, practicing medicine has always been my dream. Over the years, I have started my own tourism company, served as a Public Relations Director, operated as a Regional Sales Manager, and volunteered across the world. Throughout my experiences, healthcare has remained a constant in my life. Everything is clear to me when working in tandem on a medical team; even in the whirl of a trauma bay, time slows, and the noise dissipates. Treating and caring for people is a part of who I am. I believe each moment has been necessary to prepare me for my destined profession. I would be honored to be given the opportunity to take the next step and become a PA.

Please explain how your patient care experience (direct and/or partial) has shaped your perspective on the delivery of health care in the United States.

My home state of Arizona is a dichotomy of new developments and rural land inhabited by indigenous peoples, lower-income communities pushed to the edges of urbanization, and Latinx populations working to thrive in this border state. For these underserved communities, the geographic sprawl of Arizona produces extra barriers to healthcare access, including lack of transportation and limited primary care clinics outside cities. Limited English, knowledge of the healthcare system, being uninsured, and fear of deportation for Latinx communities further prevent patients from seeking care. These social determinants increase the risk of chronic health diseases in adults and developmental issues in children.

The power of a culturally competent PA is not just treating a patient’s symptoms but also listening and addressing unexpressed needs. Through my work with homeless youth, I learned how external factors inform health outcomes. Youth dealt with food insecurity, and most had never experienced stable housing. Complex trauma and street living caused them to develop poor affect regulation, lack of vaccinations, and increased risk of communicable diseases. Youth faced judgment when seeking help for mental illness or sexual health based on their lifestyle, lack of health literacy, or even appearance. Fearful of systems that had failed them prior, they chose to self-medicate or simply refuse services. As a future PA, I see ample opportunity to provide a broad range of care to these patients through means that make sense to them, such as mobile health clinics.

Uninsured individuals, who are disproportionately people of color from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, often rely on emergency service as a primary form of care. I have recognized how these patients can feel stigmatized by providers with good intentions. In emergency triage, overwhelmed physicians may fall victim to implicit bias. In response, a physician may excuse the severity of a patient’s complaint based on stereotypes, potentially missing a diagnosis. This is an opportunity for a PA to provide high-quality care to patients of all acuity levels. As a future PA, I seek to address health concerns before they exacerbate into dire and costly conditions. Working at the community level is a prime way for me to provide patients with an alternative to emergency room care.

My direct experience working with underserved populations in various medical settings and on the front lines of a global pandemic has strengthened my understanding of inequity in the healthcare system. I have witnessed how a person’s socioeconomic status, gender identity, age, and race can influence not only pre-determined health outcomes but also the quality of care they receive. My mission is to continue to grow as a compassionate clinician to provide culturally relevant care grounded in an understanding of inequity with the hope of making quality healthcare available to all.

Please describe the factors (such as personal attributes, external challenges, peer support, etc.) that you believe contributed to your academic success.

When I was growing up, family members struggled with severe alcohol and drug addiction, abuse, and proper medical care. In response, I desired to be the medical provider to change that. As I matured, I innately understood the complexities of the aforementioned conditions that my peers and society harshly judged. That quality of empathy would stay with me throughout my work in African orphanages, with the homeless teens of Arizona, and the addictive behaviors facing reservation youth. However, empathy and the desire to alleviate human suffering would not be enough to get me through the suicide of my partner, the manslaughter of a dear friend, the cancer-caused death of my father-in-law, and the sexual assault I would experience. To persevere through this, I needed resilience. I learned to change my narrative and the story I was telling myself, and I turned to my community for support. My friends and family rebuilt my strength after each loss, and my community provided an outlet where I could heal through service. When I think about my goal of completing your program, I feel academically prepared, emotionally supported, and passionately driven to be the healthcare provider that makes a difference for anyone experiencing health afflictions.

For any prerequisite course in which you believe the grade recorded does not reflect your mastery of course material, please describe the factors (such as personal attributes, external challenges, peer support, etc.) that you believe contributed to the recorded grade. 

As an undergraduate, I balanced a full-time work schedule to support myself with a full-time academic program. I was young and confident, often challenging myself to take on higher-level classes in addition to my extracurriculars, which led to some of my grades falling to a C among my otherwise respectable undergraduate marks. I understood that I needed to manage my time more appropriately and have since practiced this skill through proper scheduling and remaining conscious of what I can handle.

After I graduated, I enrolled in community college to finish my medical prerequisites. During my first week of classes, my long-term partner died by suicide. Devastated, I withdrew from classes. The following semester, I repeated the courses and received high marks in both.

Nevertheless, I knew I needed adequate time to grieve to ensure my future success. I decided to take a break from my studies and pursue volunteer opportunities at that time. In the small villages of Africa, I was healing alongside people who were attempting to recover from life’s tragedies themselves. I learned more from them about facing adversity than I could have ever learned from facing grief alone.

A few years later, I stopped traveling to Africa as often and enrolled in higher-level courses, receiving a post-graduate cumulative GPA of 3.84. I can now confidently balance working full-time between four hospitals, managing a company, and applying to school.

Please provide your definition of “success” as it relates to academic achievement and professional development.

Throughout my life, I have experienced personal adversity and witnessed it in the livelihoods of the communities I serve. Success has meant persistence and the ability to pivot to meet changing circumstances. Academically, I knew the next step was achieving my PA Degree, and I also knew I needed to strengthen my medical experience. I wanted direct patient care in a fast-paced setting within a year. Without a significant amount of formal medical training, I returned to school and then applied and graduated from the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program with honors. I began working as a medical scribe, rotating between three emergency departments, and within a year, I applied to a level-one trauma center as an EMT. My work and schedule are challenging, but my persistence allowed me to successfully build the medical experience and knowledge I now possess.

Thinking about my mentors acknowledges a common attribute they possess, the willingness and desire to always learn and grow. As a professional early in my career, I take the opportunity to shadow the PAs and ask them to walk me through each step of advanced medical procedures, such as chest tube placement and intubation. While it is currently outside my scope of practice, it will better prepare me for my career in the future. In my downtime, I explore and learn about issues at the intersection of patient care, such as therapeutic modalities, trauma-informed care, and the interplay of cultural and community dynamics on health and wellbeing. As healthcare providers, our duty to our patients and ourselves is never to get comfortable and always be challenged to find better solutions and preventative measures for optimal whole-person health.

Please explain how your experiences shadowing a PA have shaped your perspective on the roles and responsibilities of a PA in the delivery of health care in the United States.

The primary care PA, Julia, whom I shadowed, exemplified the impact that PAs can make in healthcare in the United States. Julia ensured all of her patient’s needs were met by scheduling longer appointment gaps and assessing patients’ socio-environmental factors. One of the more impactful moments I witnessed was when a patient with new-onset insomnia came in for treatment. Julia performed a physical exam, took time to establish rapport, and talked through possible triggers. The patient explained a recent divorce and feelings of worthlessness. Instead of providing insomnia medication to treat a symptom, Julia was able to uncover the root of the problem and refer the patient to a psychiatrist who prescribed proper medication. This was a powerful lesson in putting the patient first and providing compassionate high-quality care. Julia taught me about the responsibility PAs hold in centering the patient’s health needs while considering the psychosocial and environmental factors that influence their well-being. As a future PA, I think of the patient-clinician partnership I want to create, where patients feel understood, validated, and empowered to make the medical decision that is right for them in collaboration with their provider.

Please provide any additional information you wish the Admissions Committee to consider when reviewing your academic performance and healthcare experiences.

Certain moments have the potential to derail a person’s plans, and some may never recover without proper aftercare. In 2016, I was assaulted on a business trip, and my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I had just applied to a PA program, but my application was not considered due to rolling admissions. I paused on future applications to spend the next few years serving as my father-in-law’s caretaker while pressing criminal charges against my attacker.

To be successful in graduate school, I needed to be strong mentally and academically. I defined my resilience by fighting my attacker in a four-year-long legal battle. These events resulted in a longer gap between my undergrad and graduate school. However, this experience gave me the platform to advocate for others when they feel hopeless and to stand in solidarity with the assault survivors I encounter in the hospital where I work. I have overcome many hardships throughout my life, yet I remain steadfast in my pursuit of practicing medicine and becoming a physician assistant.

Paramedic to PA

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There was rain in my boots.  Thick mud had sloshed up as far as my knees and was slowly hardening, every movement accompanied by the uncomfortable squish of wet socks.  It was my first respiratory arrest and my movements were formed from months of practice; make a seal, squeeze the bag, count, squeeze the bag, check for chest rise, squeeze the bag.  We didn’t know her name or how long she had been sitting in the wrecked vehicle in the dark.  She appeared young and frail, the metallic scent of blood was in the air, several injuries were visible and my supervisor was doing everything he could to keep her with us.  The siren was screaming as we sped down the dirt road, and I was ashamed to be distracted by such a mundane thought; there was rain in my boots, and a girl was dying.  Training can teach you to squeeze a bag, but nothing can prepare you for the emotional aspect of an emergency.  Later in my career adrenaline wouldn’t have a hold on me; my thoughts would be the next move, the next intervention, the next step in the algorithm, but there would be moments when I would remember that girl in the dark.

More calls came and went, some more critical than others. My favourites were the quiet moments where a patient needed empathy and kindness rather than a major intervention.  I became a field training officer and then a working supervisor. Life was going well and I started to think about the future.  I had been working alongside doctors, nurses and physician assistants for years, and I had taken prerequisites in college because I knew I would not want to be a paramedic forever.  I had been considering becoming a PA for a long time, and I decided that soon it would be time to move on from EMS; I wanted to foster a deeper understanding of medicine, and I was drawn to the lateral mobility and the ability to balance life and work that I had observed in my PA colleagues. The largest draw was the ability to focus on my favorite aspect of medicine, which is patient care. I resolved to apply and my supervisors gave me their unwavering support.  Yes, life was going well.  It was a beautiful sunny day when I performed a routine lift and felt the twinge in my back that would change the course of my life and put me in physical therapy for over a year.

Physical therapy was a long and difficult journey.  I had gone from being a strong and competent supervisor that routinely lifted people two to three times my weight to a person that struggled getting out of bed in the morning.  Instead of going to work where I could help people I had to go to PT for six hours a day and learn to help myself.  I reassured myself that it was only temporary and remained optimistic.  I joked with the staff, became friends with the other patients and waited to get back to work.   As the months went on I started to worry.  My back pain was improving but lifting hundreds of pounds seemed to be out of reach.  My physical therapist remained upbeat, but I could tell she was becoming less optimistic.  She was kind when she told me, using a tone I had used so many times in my life; a tone designed to deliver a painful message softly.  Learning that I couldn’t return to being a paramedic due to my injury was one of the hardest blows of my life.  I felt derailed and set adrift.  Who was I without my job and my strength?

I decided to travel and visited five different countries and various national parks.  I did my PT exercises every day; I did PT at the top of mountains and next to rivers.  I hiked, I biked, I swam, and I reclaimed my physical capabilities.  I taught jiu-jitsu to kids and adults for over a year.  I loved it all, but something was missing; I still missed taking care of patients.  I started to look at PA schools again, and I investigated opportunities to shadow and volunteer.  One day I walked into a local supermarket and stopped dead in my tracks.  There she was, working the register.  It had been years but I recognized her face and the pattern of her scars instantly.  She looked confident and happy.  I glanced at her name tag, smiled, and walked away.  I knew the name of the girl in the dark, and I was going to apply to PA school.

My path toward PA school has been longer and more complicated than I originally planned, but I always try to keep in mind the lessons I have learned along the way.  More than anything else, I want to be a PA to help people like the girl I found on that lonely road, or the thousands of less critical patients that needed only basic interventions and a kind word to get them through.  Over seven years of EMS I have seen patients in so many places and conditions that I couldn’t describe them all if I tried. I’ve been complimented, thanked, cursed and yelled at, but I carry the lessons of my experience with me.  I always try to have empathy for how people might react strangely in stressful situations, because after all, they might have rain in their boots.


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“Oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD! AHHHHHHHHHH!” screamed a patient as a Physician Assistant guided a cortisone steroid injection into her right hip joint. As the cortisone entered her hip joint, the screams progressively got louder, and she clenched her fists. My ears were ringing from the high-pitched yelps. The syringe is gently pulled out of the hip socket, and as the wound is covered by a Band-Aid, the patient unclenched her fists. I was shadowing an Orthopedic Physician Assistant, Scot Rheinecker, at a clinic near my college. He just performed a hip injection on a patient with severe arthritis and happens to have a fear of needles. He maintained a calm demeanor through the older woman’s yells, and then stayed in the room with her for nearly ten minutes as the injection took effect. We talked about her grandchildren, which brought a smile to her face, as she explained that they were in college too. When she was ready, we helped her sit up. As she sat up, she said “You know, this was one of the worst treatments I’ve ever received in my life, but one of the best visits I’ve ever had.”

That experience stays with me to this day because of the level of compassion and individual attention that the patient received. I have shadowed other healthcare providers who are more focused on seeing as many patients as possible, which I believe is a common issue many face in the healthcare profession. There is sometimes a conflict between providing individualized care and seeing as many patients as one can. After we left the patient’s room, Scot explained to me that different people have different tolerances for pain and preconceived fears about certain treatments. He said that we must do our best to treat each patient to the best of our ability. This experience made me realize that I wanted to be as compassionate as I could be when taking care of patients, in other words, it is just as important to treat the patient as it is to treat the disease.

I tried to implement what I learned from this shadowing experience into my work as a volunteer EMT with the town of Davidson. One of my most memorable EMT calls required me to convey compassion, understanding and individual care. We were dispatched to the college for an intoxicated individual. Most people groan and complain when dealing with “drunk calls,” especially when they involve underage college students who have gotten carried away with partying. Oftentimes, the patients are not compliant and can be difficult to handle. When we arrived at the patient’s room, we found her lying under her bed having a panic attack. She had drunk some alcohol for the first time, did not expect to feel the way she did, and was convinced that she had been drugged. My first move was to calm the patient down. To compound her physical discomfort, the individual seemed scared, continually repeating that she was sorry and did not want to get in trouble. In that moment, I understood how she felt. This student was underage and into their first semester at Davidson College. She had to work extremely hard to get into Davidson and the thought of ruining her entire future on account of a quick poor decision is overwhelming. The line between physical and emotional was blurred in that moment. We began to treat her for intoxication and a panic attack. However, the only way to properly treat her was to care for both her physical and mental states. While I reassured the patient that she would be okay and was in good hands, I was able to coax her out from under her bed and begin to take her vital signs. As I put the pulse oximeter on her pointer finger and was explaining that she was not the first person to ever be in this situation, I saw her heart rate slow. After sitting with her for a while, she was able to sober up and then talk with campus police officers. A few days later, I inevitably walked past her on campus, and while at first her face looked a little surprised to see me, it then transition to embarrassment, but finally, a quick warm smile – almost like an unwritten thank you for taking care of her.

Providing this level of patient care is what motivates me to become a Physician Assistant. I pride myself as someone who takes the time to listen and comfort people in day to day life. From listening to my friends’ rant about difficult courses, to providing advice to my teammates when they were not playing well at the club tennis tournaments we attend, I try to implement compassion into every aspect of my life. This is a skill that I will always be improving throughout my lifetime, but I am already able to reap the benefits of this practice. I have been able to form deeper, trusting relationships with those I interact with and I believe that this is vital for patient provider relationships. Trust and compassion lay the foundation for all relationships. My shadowing and EMT experiences have taught me that I will be treating a person – not a disease, disorder, or ailment.

Dietician to PA

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My story starts in Palestine. Born and raised in the Middle East, my life became a list of things I had to do to stay alive. Growing up surrounded by fear and chaos, I pictured the endless possibilities that awaited me. One day as I was sitting with my friend having coffee, we heard a bomb detonate; people frantically started running and terrified noises echoed throughout the shop. I will never forget the panic and grief in my mother’s voice when she had to decide which of her two daughters to rescue first. Years later this story remains close to my heart. I never grasped how certain situations can define you. But this one did.

At sixteen, my parents decided to escape the violence and immigrate to the U.S. This pivotal decision changed my life and paved the way for many blessings. Their courage and sacrifice enabled me to receive the best education and pursue goals that were previously dreams on a piece of paper. Living in the U.S. allowed me to appreciate the infinite opportunities ahead, while also providing time to reflect on my childhood and the experience of those who continue to live in areas of the world with less privilege. It was here that I began to realize the health disparities that I was subject to in my homeland. The lack of adequate healthcare and the fear it created. The concern is that at some point someone I love will be put in harm’s way and unable to receive the healthcare they deserve.

Adversity and disparity in healthcare have propelled my interest and passion in serving people in need and in pursuing a career as a Physician Assistant (PA). Currently, I am working as a registered dietitian in a Neuroscience step-down unit at Duke University Hospital. This career has allowed me to grow clinically, explore my interests, and continue to provide compassionate care to my patients. I have always had a passion for helping others, in a field that is constantly evolving. As a dietitian, I can interact with patients on a more personal level and be a part of their journey to recovery. I feel humbled to share that I have positively impacted the clinical outcomes of countless patients. One rewarding experience was my interaction with a young teenager who was being treated for central nervous system vasculitis. His course was complicated by ischemic bowel and intolerance to various tube feed regimens. During his admission, I was able to follow him closely, help implement the best nutritional plan, and build a close and trusting relationship with his family.

While I have appreciated the opportunity to watch patients rebound from traumatic brain insults to full recovery, I have also found that helping patients who do not fully recover cope with their new disabilities is equally, if not more, rewarding. Instances like these allow me to appreciate the work I do, while also affirming my conviction to be more clinically involved, play a larger role in my patient’s journeys, and help in determining the best course of treatment for them. As a PA I know I will be able to achieve that.

I work alongside multiple neurology PAs on my unit. Working in a team with a patient-centered approach has allowed me to witness firsthand the positive impact this career can have. They embody all the characteristics I wish to emulate – confidence, skill, respect, and empathy. After working with several PAs, I quickly realized my passion to pursue and position myself to collaborate alongside multiple members of the healthcare team. I appreciate the flexibility of serving independently while also working with others. The majority of my clinical experience and interactions as a dietitian regarding patient care have been alongside PAs. Shadowing a PA perform different neurosurgery procedures allowed me to witness the importance of the relationships they build. It has also equipped me to be of greater service to support my mentees in the future as my mentors supported me and used those opportunities to help others who share similar dreams of pursuing this career.

I recognize how fortunate I have been to have had the opportunity and mentors to facilitate my unwavering dedication to caring for patients. I feel incredibly honored and privileged to study the human body, in a structured healthcare system that will prepare me to provide informed decisions along the way. The health disparities I witnessed in Palestine allow me to better serve others and motivate me to expand the reach of healthcare to all in need. These diverse experiences allow me to appreciate the available healthcare resources here, as well as provide perspective, and opportunity to bring diversity, empathy, and compassion to my role as a provider serving the less fortunate. I cherish my diverse experiences in the manner that it has shaped the young woman I am today. I look forward to continuing to grow in my knowledge, skills, and love for healthcare and my patients.


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80 years ago my great-grandmother Zarin was pulled from her missionary nursing school in Tehran, Iran to become a housewife. With her dreams of nursing set aside, she raised four babies and instead tended to their dreams.  Her son Faramarz wanted to go to America to be an engineer. So, poor as they were, Zarin bought him a ticket to New York, and at age 16, Faramarz traveled alone to pursue his dream. He became the first in his family to get a college education.

I, Olivia Zarin, great-granddaughter of Zarin and granddaughter of Faramarz, am excited to continue the ancestry of dreamers as I chase my dream to become a Physician Assistant. In doing so, I become the first in my family to pursue graduate education. Like my ancestors, I have overcome adversities of my own in pursuit of this dream. I thank God for them; they sharpened my focus and strengthened my desire to be a PA.

My quick recovery from months of illness led me to the physician assistant profession. After I was experiencing constant flu-like symptoms, a PA took the time to sit with me and determine possible causes. I revealed to her my family recently experienced a horrific trauma, and she concluded the unresolved trauma was likely causing my illness. Because the PA approached me holistically rather than as a body with symptoms, I was able to get therapy and recover from my illness within weeks.

This seemingly miraculous change in my mental and consequently physical health had me bursting with fascination with holistic medical care. I too wanted to help patients connect physical health with mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I wanted to build relationships with patients to bring healing and a better quality of life. I quickly switched my career path to becoming a PA and continued to major in social work as I knew this education would provide a foundation for the holistic mindset I wanted to have as a PA.

While other students around me complained about difficult classes, lectures, and coursework, I found myself not only able but secretly eager to study and learn more about human anatomy, microbiology, organic chemistry, and more!  Don’t get me wrong –  learning is not quick work for me – I had to work hard to achieve Magna Cum Laude (especially while working several jobs).

That being said, you can imagine the great honor I felt upon being selected as an Organic Chemistry Teaching Assistant.  Though I did not have a mastery of every aspect of ‘Orgo’ when I started, to successfully help my students, I spent many hours delving into each segment of the study.  I was determined to gain such mastery that I could explain each unit to a 5-year-old!   What a thrill for me to see the ‘light’ turn on in my students’ eyes as they began to understand the complex concepts I explained to them.

In building my variety of patient-care experiences, I realized I did not just have a passion for building relationships with people from all walks of life. I have a gift for it. Mark was the first to show me that. He was a patient-turned-friend whom I cared for at the hospice house for over 8 months. We laughed, pondered, and cried together. Death is a strong and final business and though Mark and I had a close bond, I did not think he could remember it in his final moments. Thus, when he called out to me hours before his death, held my hand, and smiled, I was overwhelmed with joy. I knew then next time I met a Mark in my career, I would not watch helplessly as he unraveled. I would have the authority to make decisions in his treatment and know I did everything I could to help.

As an NA at Duke University Hospital, I discovered joy in working as a team. In my role, I observe the team of doctors, NPs, pharmacists, and PAs around patients; they pool together education and expertise to assess patient needs and provide the best response possible. When I take vitals or assist in lumbar punctures, it feels amazing to play a role, however small, in such a team. To know that we are working toward the goal of patient recovery is beautiful and thrilling. In collaborating with a team as a PA, this joy will grow as I move from band-aid care to becoming a key contributor/voice of inpatient treatment.

Considering all this, I ask that you allow me to bring my gifts to your PA program. Doing so will provide you with far more than an immaculate student. You will have someone who goes the distance despite challenges. Someone with relational prowess and a holistic care lens. A team member, excited to care for both patients and colleagues of all creeds, cultures, orientations, and backgrounds. You will have someone convinced no other profession intertwines her gifts and passions so perfectly.

I believe there is a lifetime of patients who need my care as a PA. Let me meet them by bringing me into your 2021 cohort of PAs. Let me bring success to your program and healing to patients. Let me be among the dreamers of my ancestors. Let me be a Physician Assistant.


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A friend once told me that you’ll never know where you want to go unless you can begin to understand where you come from.  Growing up as the middle child of an interracial family, I was never 100% sure of myself.  Through sports, however, I found that I was able to express myself and shine.  While I found enjoyment in being a top contender on the court, I knew that there was more depth to me than just sports.  It took a 23-hour flight across the globe to confirm which path I was meant to take in life.

I was fortunate enough to be born into a family full of values, hard work, and determination.  We were told never to quit just because things got difficult, and through the history of my parents’ and grandparents’ lives we were taught perseverance.  From as early as when my little sister and I use to play “doctor” and try to cut our dolls open to mimic being in the emergency room, I’ve dreamt of being in the medical field.  Later, going to a private high school, I continued with my dream but realized that I wanted to combine my love for sports with medicine and I wanted to start practicing as soon as possible.  I decided not to go to college to be a pre-med major, but rather to study Athletic Training.  Athletic Training, I thought, would allow me to practice right after graduation, would help me to stay connected with sports and athletes, and would still give me the satisfaction of helping people.  What I was not aware of, however, was just how intense the major was.  For four years I tackled a full course load, completed anywhere between 30-60 clinical hours a week, travelled with the designated teams, got a paying job on the side, played for Northeastern University’s women’s club rugby team, and still maintained an active social life.  I absolutely loved it!  While the road to graduation left me with many sleepless nights, I would not trade that experience in for anything.

Upon graduating I applied to different types of athletic training jobs, including working in a hospital setting as a physician extender, participating in a fellowship program, being a graduate assistant, and even working as an athletic trainer in the military.  I felt, however, that there was something missing in my life.  Because I had to complete a certain number of clinical hours while taking classes, and because the athletic training profession is not well known overseas, I was confined to the United States during my college career.  I’ve always felt that you can never truly be a well-rounded person unless you can put yourself in another person’s shoes and experience something different from your norm.  Luckily, I had friends who had the same desire as I did to escape for a year and experience life outside of our comfort zone.  We received a promising connection in New Zealand to work on a vineyard and make wine, something completely unimaginable for me!  A week before I was set to step foot onto the plane that would take me away from the hustle and bustle of New York for 8 months, I received a phone call from a potential employer.  He told me that a head athletic training position had opened at a college in New York City, and he had heard great things about me and wanted me to interview for the position.  I was ecstatic to discover that this man was asking me, a recent college graduate with only undergraduate experience, to head an entire program!  After much internal debate, I decided that in order for me to grow as an individual I needed to become that well-rounded person that I desired; I had to leave the country.

My time in New Zealand was and forever will be indescribable.  While doing a monotonous job every day in the blazing sun, I was able to think about my life; the past, the present, and what I want for myself in the future.  I was able to free my mind away from computers, cell phones, and people rushing to get to where they are going.  Somehow, the laid-back attitude of the Kiwis allowed me to come to realize what I am meant to do for myself and consequentially, for those around me.  I believe that the health care system of today needs a change.  It needs to revert back to when physicians actually cared about the health of people and when they would treat the whole patient, not just the disease.  I want to be that physician assistant who makes a difference in someone’s life.  Even now as an Athletic Trainer helping to return an athlete back to playing the sport that they love, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.  I want to be overwhelmed with that same feeling of worth by restoring the faith of the public in our health care providers.

Even at a young age playing with my dolls, I knew that becoming a health care provider was the right path for me.  I want to change peoples’ lives for the better, to bring hope to bad situations, and to restore faith that there are still health professionals in the medical field for the right reasons.  After I landed on the soil of the United States I made a promise to myself that I would follow through with everything that I discovered while abroad.  I can now be 100% confident in saying that I know exactly where I have come from and exactly where I need to be.

PT to PA

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Though psychologists have debated the roles played by heredity and environment in the development of an individual’s personality, I believe that both have been vital in propelling my interest in the medical field. Being brought up in a family where every generation has a physician or a surgeon at its helm, I grew up hearing medical terms for lullabies. My father had a clinic at home. The thermometer and stethoscope were my toys, although I wanted my hands on the syringe! Hence it was not a surprise for my family when I said that I too wanted to enter the profession of medicine. Ironically, it was one gentleman’s innocent remark that paved the path for my academic interest and career.

After graduating from high school in April 1987, my father threw a graduation party for me and invited some of his friends. Since he was an E.N.T. surgeon, all his friends were in the medical field. One gentleman stopped me and asked, “What are your plans for the future?” I said I want to become a doctor, of course!” He then asked, “Why? Is it because your father and grandfather are doctors?” To that question, I became very defensive. I said, “I want to become a doctor so that I can help people.” My father and grandfather did a lot of charity work to help poor people. It was naturally in my soul and I wanted to make sure he understood that.

The gentleman then said, “If you want to help people you should become a physical therapist rather than a doctor.” I was shocked because I thought that there was no other profession nobler than that of a doctor. I asked him why and I will never forget his answer. He said, “Because doctors just give anatomical continuity, it is the physical therapists who give physiological function. There is no use of anatomical continuity if there is no physiological function.” Little did he know that what he had just said would change the rest of my life. His statements made me think. Moreover, I was confused because I had no clue what physical therapists were and what they did.

I found myself staring at the crossroads of my life. Much to the dismay of my family and myself, I could neither choose a career nor decide my academic path. My father realized that I was confused and since it was a big decision said he would help me. He made it clear that it would be my decision. He then took me to his hospital and introduced me to the Neurologist and the Orthopedic surgeon. I spent four weeks with them. I followed them through the wards, the outpatient clinic, and the post-operative units. I was impressed by the way they cared for their patients. I observed that both the neurologist and the orthopedic surgeon sent their patients to rehab.

Following this, I spent the next eight weeks in the rehab department. I met the patients of the neurologist and the orthopedic surgeon. I fervently observed physical therapists helping patients improve and regain their mobility with or without assistive devices, providing splints and braces and even fitting amputees with artificial limbs. Then, I realized what the gentleman at the party meant.

I have enjoyed being a physical therapist for the past ten years but I never stopped dreaming about the role of a physician. Ever since I heard of the physician assistant program, I have been unable to stop thinking about the possibilities and ways I could better serve people. After all, it would give me the chance to help people on both the spectrum of medical care: anatomical continuity and physiological function. I researched the schools offering physician assistant studies and was impressed with Wayne State University. I attended one of their information seminars and got the opportunity to meet the faculty and a few students. I got the impression that the faculty genuinely cared not only about the academics but also about the professional development of their students. I believe that Wayne State University is committed to producing high-caliber physician assistants to serve the inner-city population and medically underserved communities. This impression was confirmed when I got the golden opportunity of shadowing a physician assistant at Grace Hospital who graduated from Wayne State University.

The motive of the faculty at Wayne State University mirrors my professional goals. I am an energetic, hardworking, and conscientious professional with high ethical standards. My strongest asset is that I am an excellent team player. I am a good student and a goal-oriented professional. I am highly confident that if given the opportunity, I will be a great asset to any physician. My professional goals include a strong commitment to serving the medically underserved community and the elderly population. I think it is the best homage I could ever pay to a generation that has helped pave a bright future for my generation.