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Health sciences alumna shares her path to PA school


 

SUMMARY: Kelly Petrohovich says, "Being a health sciences major at JMU is no easy task. The classes were both engaging and challenged me to think more deeply about topics. The pre-PA track, specifically, prepares you for success while applying to PA schools. Faculty always had their doors open and were more than happy to assist in preparing my application, and the advising team helped me prepare for a successful interview. With all of the resources available at JMU, I was more than prepared for the transition to PA school."


Kelly PetrohovichWhy did you choose JMU and the health sciences major?

I knew in high school that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field and would like to stay close to home in Virginia. My brother was currently a student at JMU and asked me to come up and tour with him. He was also a health sciences major and loved the program. I had toured many other campuses, but once I visited JMU, I knew that was where I was going to attend. There was always a friendly face everywhere you looked, the facilities were amazing, and I couldn’t get enough of the dining halls. I originally came into JMU as a nursing major, but after the first semester I realized that I wanted to pursue a different medical career. It wasn’t until my junior year that I chose the pre-PA track, as I knew this major at JMU would prepare me the best for pursuing a career as a PA.

What interested you in becoming a PA?

What first interested me in the PA profession was what I experienced first-hand through my head injury. I was treated by several PAs and it was amazing to see their extensive scope of practice and how they were able to practice in a variety of settings. The flexibility and variability of practice for PAs was what enticed me to pursue the career, and after speaking with JMU faculty, it was even more apparent that this was the field for me.

What were some of your favorite and most challenging classes in the health sciences major?

My favorite classes at JMU would have to be Health Aspects of Gerontology and Anatomy. Ms. Laura Blosser taught Gerontology during my senior year in 2017 and I fell in love with the class. Her passion for the subject was inspiring and always kept me wanting to learn more. Once I graduated, I immediately pursued a career in geriatrics and worked in oncology for three years before beginning PA school. My other favorite class at JMU was Anatomy. My professor, Dr. Erika Kancler, was not only a brilliant professor and doctor, but the most genuine person. There was never a dull moment while in lab and she kept us engaged, even, through the most difficult coursework. Both of these women inspired me to pursue a career in medicine and have been my encouragement and their passion continues to be my motivation to be the best clinician.

My most challenging class at JMU was Research Methods, taught by Dr. Stephanie Baller. I personally found the class to be very challenging, but I saw the value and importance in strong research skills, which made me work that much harder. I am so thankful now to have taken this class, as it gave me the skills necessary to be a successful researcher, and that is something that everyone pursuing the medical field should have.

What do PAs do and how does it differ from a doctor?

Physician assistants, or physician associate now, is a provider that is able to examine, diagnose, and treat patients. They are clinicians that are a part of the medical team and can work in any field of their choosing. Both PAs and doctors can perform a wide array of medical care, however, PAs differ from doctors as they do not have full autonomy and must work under the direct supervision of a doctor.

How did your health sciences major and pre-professional advising at JMU prepare you to apply to PA school?

Being a health sciences major at JMU is no easy task. The classes were both engaging and challenged me to think more deeply about topics. The pre-PA track, specifically, prepares you for success while applying to PA schools. Faculty always had their doors open and were more than happy to assist in preparing my application, and the advising team helped me prepare for a successful interview. With all of the resources available at JMU, I was more than prepared for the transition to PA school.

Do you have a particular medical specialty you’re interested in pursuing?

Since I am still very early in my PA school career, I want to keep an open mind and pursue what I find most interesting and rewarding through both didactic and clinical learning. There is still so much that I have yet to experience and that I am excited to pursue. For now, my interests include orthopedics and oncology.

What has your first year in the PA program at South University like?

PA school is so much fun. Learning medicine is what I have always wanted to do and while PA school is no easy task, both the faculty at South and my classmates all have the same goal and that is to build you into a successful clinician. No matter the school you decide to attend, first congratulate yourself on making it this far, and second enjoy it. This year has flown by, and while it has been a very busy and challenging year, I cannot believe that I am already more than halfway through it.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering health sciences at JMU?

My advice for a prospective health sciences student at JMU is to never be afraid to ask for help and form a good work ethic. Health sciences and any medical career involves the element of teamwork and there will always be times when you need to turn to someone for help. The courses at JMU will challenge you, so always put your best effort into your coursework, because it will pay off in the end.

 

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Published: Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 14, 2021

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