Physician Assistant Alumna Interview

Amy Chen is a 2018 graduate of Virginia Tech.  She took a gap year after graduation and is now attending Wake Forest’s PA program.

  1. What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?

 I was a Biology major in undergrad, and I chose this major because I really enjoyed all science classes and in particular, found the upper-level classes to be very interesting. As a Biology major, the pre-requisites required for those upper-level courses (e.g. Cancer Biology, Pathogenic Bacteriology) were satisfied during my first two years, and it worked out that I was able to knock all the pre-requisites for PA school. That is NOT to say you can’t major in anything else; pre-requisites for PA school can always be completed with any other major.

  1. What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for PA school?

In undergrad, I was an active member of the Pre-PA Club and was also the President of the Pre-PA Club for 2017-18. I found this club to be very informative with its monthly meetings, which would either involve current PA students sharing their thoughts and inputs to the club members as well as having admission committees from various PA programs talk to us. We also organized trips to PA programs during their Open Houses to see them in person. It was definitely an organization that had provided me with plenty of resources.

  1. How did you prepare for your PA application process?

First and foremost, it is so important to find out the pre-requisite courses that are required by your PA program(s). Because they vary from program to program, I had to make sure that I took the courses that are required by some but not by others; that way, I was covering all of my ground. Secondly, racking up clinical hours. I worked both as a CNA and a medical scribe to achieve all of my hours as required by the programs, which was a huge component of the application process. Lastly, start CASPA early! It always opens in late April, and I started filling it out right away. Most programs are rolling admissions, so early is better!

  1. Were you successful on your first application attempt and if not, would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?

I was successful on my first attempt, and my biggest advice is to know exactly which programs you’re applying for, have a strong personal statement (get as many people that you TRUST to edit it as possible), and truly be yourself during those interviews!

  1. What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the PA prerequisite classes?

I’d probably give it to Pathogenic Bacteriology. It was a 4000-level class that I thought most closely mimicked what PA school classes might looked like. Dr. Melville was the professor for the course (he was phenomenal), and I enjoyed the challenges the class brought and the relevancy it was to real life!

  1. How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?

I applied to 8 different PA programs, and some of the factors that went into coming down to these 8 programs were the curriculum, distance away from home, cost of attendance, and of least importance, prestige. At Wake Forest, it is one of the most renowned programs for incorporating the IBL curriculum, and this was the ultimate factor over choosing to attend other programs.

  1. Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered PA school?

I have yet to change my study habits during this past first month of PA school. However, I expect some changes to take place as everyone has said that you continue to learn of other people’s habits/strategies that you may find beneficial and more efficient, and thus, incorporating those into your own study habits.

  1. What is your top tip for applicants preparing to take the admissions exam required for PA school?

Make sure you have a plan! I devoted a solid two months into studying and prepping for the GRE. A similar day would look like this: 2 hours of verbal, 2 hours of quant, an hour of reviewing the missed practice questions. I used Kaplan and ETS prep books.

  1. What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?

I am a big outdoorsy person, and to de-stress, I usually take a little walk on the trails near campus or go on hikes. It is definitely important to engage in your interests and hobbies while in PA school so that you learn to balance school with personal and physical wellbeing. To stay motivated, I constantly remind myself that I am in PA school and am surrounded by all the classmates who are passionate about medicine and hope to one day become PAs. I am lucky!

  1. If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential PA student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?

Be passionate and compassionate. Medicine isn’t for everyone, and you truly have to have the heart for medicine, for healthcare, for patients, and for the community to be a passionate provider. Have a meaningful purpose for everything you do and be intentional in the things you do. Going to PA school and becoming a PA is most definitely achievable; be sure to use all the resources that are out there – talk to PA students and shadow PAs!

Posted in Alumni Interviews | Leave a comment

Physician Assistant Virtual Fair July 22, 2020

Please see below for information on the PAEA Physician Assistant Virtual Fair.

What: Physician Assistant Virtual Fair – chat with program representatives and attend live presentations

Who: students who are interested in considering a career as a PA

When: Wednesday, July 22, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST

Where: Virtual (register here: https://www.careereco.com/Fair/EventDetails?fairId=397ea722-c960-47fb-a8d9-ab1a015dcd8c)

Posted in Open House, Pre Physician Assistant Information | Leave a comment

Pharmacy School Virtual Fair Series

If you are interested in pharmacy school, check out this virtual series!

Pharmacy School Virtual Fairs

From their website

About the Virtual Fairs

The monthly Pharmacy School Virtual Fairs will be hosted by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

At each event, students will have the opportunity to learn about the PharmD programs, as well as Master’s and PhD in Pharmacy Science programs, available at pharmacy schools across the United States.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet admissions representatives and faculty members from pharmacy schools nationwide.

All events will be held in a fully virtual format.

Event Dates

AACP will be hosting the virtual fairs on a monthly basis from May until September. The following are the scheduled event dates:

Event Cost

All events are FREE for prospective students!

Event Registration

To register, select your desired date below and then complete your registration on the event page.

Posted in General HPA Information | Leave a comment

Choose DO Medical School Virtual Expo, June 10th

When: June 10th, 12-6 p.m. EST

Where: virtual (register at https://www.careereco.com/events/aacom (Links to an external site.))

Who: This event is geared toward students interested in osteopathic medical school. Many osteopathic med schools will be present including some in our region including the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Register: https://www.careereco.com/events/aacom

Posted in Open House, Osteopathic School Information | Leave a comment

Nursing Alumna Interview

Sareena Patel is a 2018 graduate of Virginia Tech.  After graduation from VT, she attended Duke University for an Accelerated Bachelor’s degree in nursing and currently works as a registered nurse in the pediatric transplant unit at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

Who or what inspired you to pursue nursing?

Many years ago, I spent the summer in Zimbabwe Africa at the Dzikwa Trust orphanage. Day after day I witnessed untreated broken bones, colds turning into life threatening infections as well as lives lost due to lack of access to life saving vaccinations. I felt powerless. At the time all I could offer was a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold. My materialistic gifts meant little in comparison to the gift of hope and compassion. This experience not only taught me the value of selfless empathy, but served as the motivation behind my desire to pursue a career in the healing arts. This frontline exposure confirmed the role in healthcare I want to pursue, being nursing. Nursing because it will not only provide me with the skills to heal ailments but also allow me a front row seat to shepherd my patients throughout the process. In the future I plan to continue my studies to become a nurse practitioner as I don’t want my growth in education and multidisciplinary skill to ever plateau.

What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?

During my time at Virginia Tech, I double majored in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology. The distinctive intricacy of the brain guiding the body and the roles we play in society every day is truly fascinating. I soon realized while we know much of the inner workings of the brain, there is much more we don’t. I wanted to carry over this new research and understanding of both simple and complex human interactions from a perspective of a health care professional.

Do you feel that you were prepared for your nursing school interview? What preparation advice would you give?

To be completely honest, it’s hard to stand out when being compared to your peers. On paper, I was not the best candidate for nursing school. There were many who had better grades, better essays and better experience. But you cannot let that fear and anxiety guide your application process. I focused my preparation on the aspects I could control at that moment such as telling my story, branding myself and creating a network of people who had diverse interests that could help guide me in the right direction. I encourage you to face those fears and be vulnerable, it’s how you show you’re human.  Show vulnerability during the interview/application by articulating what mistakes you have made in the past, how you have grown from them, what concerns you may have and what you stand for as an individual.

What obstacles did you overcome in your nursing journey?

I am currently in the nurse residency program at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, so ideally I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the obstacles I will overcome. What I have learned thus far, is that all of my past experiences is what guides me through these various obstacles. The way I spent my time such as volunteering time at the hospital, and my undergrad research involving experiments on human subjects, joining a sorority, balancing school and social life with familial obligations… etc has supported me in and built confidence to take charge. We believe in memorizing random facts to pass an exam as a way of comparatively measuring intelligence. However, that knowledge means absolutely nothing if you are unable to know how to cope with your own self-induced stress during a code situation. So in short, expect the obstacles, take a second and think, talk to a mentor and do not be afraid because in the end you always learn something new.

What do you enjoy most about nursing?

Having a degree in Nursing provides much more flexibility than any job out there. While we all think of floor nursing first, you can actually use a nursing degree to go into management/health administration, serve as an advisor in all other fields, serve in specialties extending from anesthesia to cosmetic/aesthetic nursing to child life specialists to delivering babies or maybe even administering chemotherapy. You will never be bored with nursing, you will always have a change to be better, to do better and have a career that can fit the life you want to live. I find peace in knowing I am never going to be stuck in a rut.

Posted in General HPA Information | Leave a comment

Allopathic Medical (with post-bac) Alumnus Interview

Sunny Murthy is a 2018 graduate of Virginia Tech.  He attended a post-bac program at Eastern VA Medical School called the Medical Master’s Program after graduation from Virginia Tech and has been accepted to attend UVA’s School of Medicine in August.

  1. What led to your interest in medicine?

When I was in high school, my mom was diagnosed with Melanoma- a form of skin cancer. What followed this diagnosis were countless doctor’s visits, surgeries, and prolonged therapy. It was this experience that really showed me the value of medicine and sparked my interest to learn more about different roles in the medical field.

  1. Who or what inspired you to pursue medicine?

After my mother’s diagnosis and treatment, I wanted to learn more about the medical field. What solidified my decision to pursue med school was attending the Summer Medical & Dental Education Program (now SHPEP) at Yale School of Medicine. The program immersed me into the life of a medical student: taking classes, shadowing, & working on a public health project. I saw myself both enjoying and thriving in the environment, which confirmed my path to pursue medical school.

  1. Any general tips for what to do during a gap year?

The most common gap year activities are typically: research, scribe, EMT, or Teach for America. A gap year can really help your application, but it is also a “free” year so take advantage of that. I accepted a research position in Boston, a city I had previously never stepped foot in, for the opportunity to grow in a new environment. I knew I enjoyed research, but this year has really opened my eyes to just how much I love clinical research. Whatever you end up doing, network as much as possible and stay active in your volunteering. When times get hectic, it’ll be a reminder of why you are pursuing your given path.

  1. How did you prepare for your med school application process?

The application I did for HPA actually helped a lot because it forced me be organized and start early. I had countless friends, family members, and professors read through different aspects of my application prior to submitting. Giving people enough time to thoughtfully edit your material is the key. Another way I prepared is I also tried to pre-write my secondary applications so I could turn them around fast.

  1. Were you successful on your first application attempt and if not, would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?

I wasn’t successful my first go around or my second actually. Third time was a charm though! I was involved in a lot during undergrad, and also worked as a scribe during the school year to help out with costs. My GPA wasn’t where I needed it to be, and I chose to attend a post-bac program at Eastern VA Medical School called the Medical Master’s Program. It’s comprised of all the first-year medical school courses, the idea is if you can be successful in classes alongside M1’s, you can clearly handle the rigor of medical school. I also retook my MCAT and significantly improved my score making me competitive for schools like UVA.

  1. How did you know if a post-bac was right for you?

To be honest, I didn’t know. Looking at my application, I had an okay MCAT, low end of an honors GPA, and great extracurriculars. When I graduated college, I thought the smarter route would be to enroll in a master’s/post-bac program to show I can handle the rigor of medical school. I know many of my classmates that are grateful to the program because they are now M1’s at EVMS. Although I didn’t gain acceptance to EVMS following the program, I did gain study skills that helped when I retook my MCAT. I would really advise reaching out to admissions offices directly and asking for feedback. Ask a few and if multiple say you should look at improving your GPA, then it might be the right move for you.

  1. What are some words of wisdom about the application process? What would you have liked to know ahead of time? What do you wish someone would have told you before you began applying?

Going to break this down into three major tips I wish I knew.

1. The process is super expensive and time consuming- try to apply once, which means apply when you are the most competitive. This is obviously something I didn’t follow that I really wish I had.

2. Be straight up with yourself and your application, focus on where you can improve. Taking a year off to improve GPA, study for MCAT, or even gain more medically related experience is OKAY!

3. Your school list is important, and you should focus on more than just stats, MSAR shows you a range of data including # accepted in state/out of state. When applying across the country, be sure to be aware of data like that when compiling your list.

  1. How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?

Used MSAR and each school’s admissions page to understand what kind of students they accepted and if it matched my profile and application.

1st time: 15

2nd time: 3 (Was in a master’s program and knew many schools would wait till first semester grades to offer me interview/review application. Plus EVMS isn’t super well known, so I kept it to in state schools.)

3rd time: 18

Posted in Allopathic School Information, Alumni Interviews | Leave a comment