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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