Accepted! McMaster PA Student Olivia (@thesurferpa)

Olivia is an incoming McMaster PA Student. You can follow her journey at @thesurferpa.

Olivia’s Pre-PA Stats


Olivia was accepted into two PA programs:

  • McMaster PA Education Program* (will be attending)
  • Manitoba Masters of PA Studies


  • Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Science, with specialization in Kinesiology from Queen’s University


  • 3.93 out of 4.0 on OMSAS
  • (At Queen’s GPA was – 4.23/4.3)

Health Care Experience Hours:

  • Undergraduate Summer Research Assistant in Applied Physiology at Queen’s University (600 hours)
  • Clinical Intern at a Naturopathy Clinic (100 hours)
  • Donor Volunteer at Canadian Blood Services (300 hours).

Please note: McMaster does not require or review health care experience hours. 

My Interests and Hobbies:

  • Olympic-level windsurfing (2016 & 2020 Olympic campaigns, 6th place at 2019 Pan American Games, 4th place at 2016 Weymouth World Cup)
  • Recreational kiteboarding
  • Baking

Fun Facts:

  • My image is the inspiration for the artwork on a $10 coin from the Royal Canadian Mint
  • I grew up on a houseboat.

Why I decided to pursue the PA profession

I decided to pursue the PA profession based on several factors.

First, as someone who has overcome several health issues, including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, I have learned to appreciate how patient-centred care can truly make a difference for patients and change the trajectory of their illness. From this experience, I have been motivated to become a PA where I will spend the time to actively listen to my patients, to get to know them, and provide individualized treatment plans for their unique concerns.

Next, I value that PAs are trained as general healthcare professionals with the opportunity to switch specialities in the future. I have current interests in psychiatry, orthopaedics, emergency medicine, and radiology, and can definitely see myself working in multiple specialities throughout my career.

Additionally, I am excited to advocate for this new and innovative profession in Canada as well as to advocate for my patient’s needs, especially those underserved in the healthcare system. As I witnessed healthcare disparities due to socio-economic status within my own family, I am passionate about equity and inclusion amongst underrepresented groups in healthcare. As a future PA, I feel privileged to help advocate for the needs and services of others.

Furthermore, as a retired athlete, I thrived under team-based environments where my teammates, coaches, healthcare professionals, and sponsors all worked together towards a common goal. I found working on a team to be motivating and supportive, ultimately allowing us to achieve success. Thus, I was immediately drawn to the PA profession for its collaborative role within the healthcare team.

Last, I feel honoured to be part of a profession that will actively reduce several Canadian healthcare crises such as physician burnout and healthcare.  As I value sustainability, I am motivated to join this profession in order to benefit patients, physicians, and the Canadian healthcare system.

What I think helped me stand out on PA Admissions

I believe my prior career as Olympic-level windsurfer made me stand out during the admission process. Specifically, I highlighted the similarities between windsurfing and the PA profession including teamwork, advocacy, problem solving, and life-long learning that will allow me to become an exceptional PA.

Furthermore, my unique experience having overcome a life-threatening accident as a patient made me stand out. This experience inspired me to provide exceptional patient-centred care to my patients as I truly know it can make a meaningful difference in one’s recovery.

Last, I believe my passion for the PA profession allowed me to gain an offer of admission. I only applied to PA professions with no back up plan. For me, I knew that PA was the only profession for me and this confidence was reflected in my applications.

My tips for Canadian Pre-PA Applicants

Find what makes you you and own it. Don’t be afraid to be authentically you on your applications. Instead of telling the admissions committee what you think they want to hear, tell them how you truly feel! I was very honest about my own illness experience, and I believe it was this honesty that resonated most with my interviewers.

Make a plan and stick to it. I used a paper agenda to keep track of important deadlines and made my own interview/ CASPer practice schedule. You are about to embark on a marathon, so pace yourself accordingly.

Reflect upon which part of your application is the weakest. Research this aspect and try to improve it as much as possible before the application deadline. For me, I knew I lacked healthcare experience. I found a volunteer position with Canadian Blood Services and obtained an extra 300 hours from July to January during my application cycle. Similarly, I knew I would be VERY nervous during the interviews. I read every book I could get my hands on and practiced with other applicants virtually to receive feedback on my interviewing skills.

Remember that no matter how successful your application is, the application process is a learning opportunity for you to grow and learn more about yourself. No matter what you do after this application cycle, you will carry forward valuable lessons learned and skills from this endeavour.

Connect with Olivia! (@thesurferpa)

Follow Olivia on Instagram!

Now its your turn!

Thank you  Olivia for sharing your incredible journey to gaining acceptance into PA School!

Have questions? Leave it in the comments below.

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