My PA Acceptance Letter
I did not know I wanted to become a PA until I stumbled on the profession.
I had always been passionate about health and finding opportunities to volunteer and work towards helping others achieve wellness in their community.
I worked hard to maintain my competitive GPA while rounding out my experiences and soft skills with extra-curricular activities and work within a health care/research setting. I volunteered in the Emergency department and inpatient wards in the summers, I took on leadership position in several campus clubs, and worked as a clinical research assistant at my university’s hospital.
I was able to achieve this through persistence, goal setting, time management, overcoming procrastination, resourcefulness and relentless intentional action. My approach to finding the right career was no different.
I had explored a multitude of career options and my first choice, initially, was going to medical school – like many of my peers in undergrad.
My resume read like a competitive pre-med student. Straight A’s, stellar extracurriculars, experience in health care, and coursework that gave me the background to prepare for a career in medicine.
I created a picture of “Success” with my resume, but it became increasingly difficult to abandon the feelings of hesitation about pursuing the traditional MD route.
I didn’t feel like I fit in with the track of pre-med students. I didn’t feel passionate about becoming a doctor the way my peers did.
After much research and self-reflection, I determined that the main health care profession that aligned with my values and goals involved practicing medicine. However, I wasn’t sure if the traditional route to practicing medicine was for me.
I reached out to my guidance counselor at my university. We sat down and explored ALL the different career options: Pharmacy, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Naturopath and more…
I attended careers fairs, information sessions, spoke with different health care professionals that I’d meet. I joined Pre-Med and Pre-Health clubs and used their resources to find out as much as I could about these careers.
It was in one of our later sessions with my guidance counselor where she sat me down and said, “McMaster has started a new Physician Assistant program, and its a brand new profession in Canada.”
Going home, I sat down and googled “What is a Physician Assistant?“. I wasn’t sure what to expect given the name. However, in the words of my now PA-Colleague Sahand, this is what I discovered after doing research:
“I actually thought of the name, and said, well “Physician Assistant”? they’re probably doing clerical work.. how is this the best job in the United States? When I actually researched it, I saw in fact that the name is almost a misnomer in that you’re not doing a lot of clerical work or typical tasks that an “assistant” is doing, but you are a PHYSICIAN EXTENDER where you practice medicine, you see, diagnose, treat illness, you prescribe medications, you assist in surgeries and perform procedures yourself, and so I fell in love with it.” – Sahand Ensafi, CCPA, Emergency Medicine PA
I read articles online about how PA was a way to practice medicine, but with better work-life balance, and quality of life. There was the flexibility to switch specialties, and you were in school for only 2 years.
A sign that this was a good fit, was the excitement I felt around being part of a new profession in Canada:
… The purpose of the profession and why it was introduced, how PAs operated in the health care system really aligned with my values, passions and long-term goals.
Further research led me to PhysicianAssistantForum.com – one of the oldest and largest open forums for Physician Assistants and Pre-PAs in the United States. Back then there were little no resources available about PAs in Canada apart from the national association website and PA program websites. I ended up spending a lot of time perusing the Pre-PA General Discussion section of the forum to find students like myself looking to apply to PA program.
Back in 2009, Canada had not graduated their own PAs yet (except for in the military), and there was only a handful of PAs recruited from the US and IMGs to work in pilot projects. I did not have the network or contacts to speak with a PA or PA student.
However, through my guidance counselor I learned that one of my former undergraduate classmates had applied and gotten into the McMaster PA Education program and was already making her way through her 1st year of PA school.
I sat down for coffee on campus with the PA student, started asking her questions about PA and the PA program. I learned about her Pre-PA Experience, her journey and her decision-making process. This conversation was very eye-opening, sharing her insights, and this solidified my decision to pursue PA.
The possibility of helping to pioneer a new career in Canada was very exciting too and inspired me to pursue becoming a Physician Assistant.