James Madison University

Alumni Highlight - Ashley Bolton


  • B.S. Kinesiology: Exercise Science at JMU Class of 2010
  • M.P.A. at Eastern Virginia Medical School Class of 2013

I began my JMU experience in 2006 and knew I wanted to study kinesiology- exercise science. I grew up in a very active household where my father was a Physical Education teacher and my sister eventually became one also. The human body fascinated me, especially how exercise affected the human body and the benefits it provided. I had started out in kinesiology to pursue a physical therapy degree post college, but had a change of heart and interest when I was introduced to a physician assistant at a job I held during college. That change of heart was solidified during a trip to Uganda I took my sophomore year of college. Most people who plan to go into the medical field have biology or nursing majors, but I loved what kinesiology taught me to take into the medical field- knowledge of how exercise can drastically reduce the incidence of diabetes and obesity, which are a pandemic in our society. To further my dream of becoming a physician assistant, the JMU faulty helped me set up my amazing internship in Jinja, Uganda, where I had visited just a few years earlier.

The Internship

PHOTO: Ashley Bolton with dentist

JMU Kinesiology always promised their internship could be done anywhere, and they proved that to be true with my 3-month adventure in Uganda. For my senior internship I spent 3 months in Jinja, Uganda working with a non-profit organization, AOET, in their medical clinic. As an intern I was able to see a wide variety of medical ailments, perform a wide variety of services and experience a completely different culture for 3 whole months! I was able to spend time learning from the nurses at the clinic, where they taught me how to place intravenous lines, change wound dressings, and give intramuscular injections. I was able to spend days in the laboratory looking at blood slides, evaluating for malaria in patient’s blood. The physician at the clinic allowed me to watch her evaluate a patient, she discussed with me the questions she asks and explained how she comes to a diagnosis and then a treatment plan. While I was there, a dentist from New York came for 2 weeks to pull teeth; he let me assist him and even eventually taught me to pull a tooth myself! I could continue all day with stories of things I did and learned, but in the end, this was not just a fun trip, this was a trip full of experiences that helped me into my next phase- physician assistant school.

Graduate School

PHOTO: Ashley Bolton with dentist

Six months after graduating from JMU, I started the Physician Assistant program at Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk, VA. Throughout the interview process, I know my experiences from my internship are what stood me apart from many of the other applicants, and I am forever grateful to the JMU faculty for helping make my dream a reality. I also think one of the things that set me apart from others was the background in exercise science that I brought to the table. I was going to be a physician assistant who did not just know the medicine to fix chronic problems, but also how to educate my patients on exercise and the roll it plays to treat and prevent diabetes and obesity, all things I learned from my education at JMU.

Life after School

I graduated with my Masters of Physician Assistant in May of 2013 and now work as an Emergency Medicine PA. I work for Emergency Physicians of Tidewater which staffs 7 of the Sentara emergency rooms throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. I love my job, it is constantly something new and different, I am continually pushed to learn new things and how to better take care of my patients. I see a wide variety of small complaints like cold symptoms to very serious complaints like altered mental status. While at JMU I was involved with the strength and conditioning program with Coach Greg Werner and Callye Williams, and I hope in the future to have more time to get back into designing strength programs for athletes and helping to coach a few teams also. There are so many things I have to be thankful for because of my experience at JMU. Daily one of those thank yous goes to the JMU kinesiology faculty for helping me achieve my dreams! I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for everything the faculty taught me!