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Drexel Physician Assistant Student Arkann Al-khalilee Finds Her Way to Providing Care

March 3, 2022

Headshot of Drexel University physician assistant student Arkann Al-khalileeArkann Al-khalilee wants to improve health outcomes for all people. Her passion for caring for those in need began when she was a child growing up in Palestine. “Looking at the world as a whole, there are so many people who need medical care,” says Al-khalilee, “and I can’t think of a better way to help than to be a provider and make people feel better.”

After moving to the United States, Al-khalilee chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in biochemistry because she loved science and was interested in the medical field. During undergrad, she was considering medical or nursing school when a friend mentioned physician assistant programs. Her research heightened her interest in the profession, especially when she learned about the flexibility in practice options after graduation and the two-year program. As her inclination deepened to pursue a career as a physician assistant, she had two opportunities that inspired her; first, she shadowed a physician assistant, and second, through her work as a clinical technician in an emergency room at the Inova Health System in Virginia, she met and worked alongside several inspiring professionals, including a Drexel alum. “I loved all the PAs that I worked with and was very impressed with their knowledge and dedication to patients,” said Al-khalilee. Through this direct connection, she asked her colleagues where they had attended school, and she deeply considered all their educational institutions in her own program search.

Drexel University physician assistant student Arkann Al-khalilee standing on a sidewalk holding her toddler son.Al-khalilee decided to apply to Drexel’s Physician Assistant program after completing her comprehensive research. After her application was submitted, her interview was scheduled for the middle of February, a date when Al-khalilee already had a very important life event. “I was pregnant with my son, and my due date was in the middle of February,” she shared. She wanted to participate in the interview but was concerned about the proximity to her due date. She reached out to the program leaders, and they gladly moved her interview up to the middle of January. “It was a good thing,” Al-khalilee remarked, “because I went into labor the day I was originally scheduled to interview with the program.”

Now, a student in the Physician Assistant program at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, Al-khalilee is part of the Class of 2023. With rigorous courses like Clinical Medicine and Clinical Skills, she has the opportunity to think critically about a broad range of diseases and how they may present in patients. All physician assistant students at Drexel start their academic program with an advisor, and Al-khalilee was paired with Adrian Banning, DHSc as a faculty advisor. Al-khalilee shares, “Dr. Banning has been with me since the start of the program, consistently checks in to make sure everything is ok. …she is part of my support system.” After a particularly challenging grade in one of her classes, Al-khalilee was able to process and move forward with the help of Dr. Banning. She credits the faculty with helping all students dive deeper into the presentation of symptoms and the most comprehensive way to evaluate and practice. “The program does a good job making sure students have individual attention, and we also can rely on each other. Help can come from peers and faculty. Our class has shared messaging apps to connect as a full class or in small groups.” Al-khalilee is excited about clinical rotations in the second year of the program, especially the opportunities to see different forms of practice.

Drexel University physician assistant student Arkann Al-khalilee standing in a hall way with three female classmatesBeing a student during a pandemic has not come without challenges. Al-khalilee says, “it’s really hard, but you won’t do it alone. I came from a science-focused undergrad, where everyone was very competitive, but the PA program, the camaraderie and collaboration, is much better. It’s tough, but you will make it. You will have the ability to care, treat and diagnose patients; you will be an integral part of the health system. I chose this [profession] not just because I love medicine and science; we all need to give to people in need. This is how I can give.”