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Having Support Makes All the Difference

March 30, 2022

PA student Jen Ensor with Philadelphia City Hall in the backgroundJen Ensor has always enjoyed helping others in all areas of life. Throughout high school, she was focused on making a difference and planned to work in a hands-on field after graduation. With clear objectives in mind, she enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve. After completing basic training, Jen began training to become an Army medic, then worked alongside a physician assistant and Drexel alum, who was practicing at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Inspired by his competence and professionalism, Jen decided this was a career she wanted to learn more about and consider for her future.

PA student Jen Ensor with fellow students with Philadelphia City Hall in the backgroundOver the subsequent years, Jen would complete her undergraduate education at the University of Central Florida and work in an emergency room in Maryland, all while concurrently serving as a reservist. By the time Jen was ready to pursue an advanced degree as a physician assistant, she knew the type of practitioner she wanted to become – a practitioner with a high value on medicine and science, focus on patient communication, emphasis on understanding different cultures and treating all people as individuals. She was also committed to finding an institution that shared these values. She had researched Drexel’s Physician Assistant program and found that alumni and current students had positive feedback, and the program was well established and trusted in the medical community, so she decided to move forward in the application process. “You know when it clicks for you. I wanted to focus on the patient as an individual, and that existed here at Drexel,” said Jen.

Now a student in her second year in the Drexel Physician Assistant program, Jen participates in six clinical rotations, which last five weeks each, and two practicums, which last 10 weeks each. This hands-on and diversified experience allows all students to work in different areas of practice, including but not limited to pediatrics, women’s health, surgery, family practice and emergency care. For Jen, she is considering surgery or emergency care practice settings for her future. The rotations that she has completed and her previous work history at an emergency room and as a volunteer at a free clinic have demonstrated the importance of understanding social and structural determinants of health and how they impact communities.

PA Student Jen Ensor with fellow students displaying suture practiceAs Jen completed her third clinical rotation at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas, she realized that this was the most impactful rotation she had completed so far in her academic career. “Veterans have different medical and psychological challenges based on their experiences, but I found that they were very open to working with a student,” says Jen. This was an important population for many reasons, one that Jen understood well, because she served as an Army medic for six years.

PA Student Jen Ensor posing with two fellow studentsJen has experienced support throughout the program from faculty, preceptors, peers and mentors. One particular program stands out to her, a mentorship program in the physician assistant department. During her first year, she was assigned a second-year mentor in the program, sharing, “it was great to have a peer who has been though everything you are going through – you get really great advice.” Now, in her second year, Jen has volunteered to be a mentor to two first-year students. In addition to the mentorship program, support from preceptors and alumni has been instrumental in the robust academic program: “It is inspiring to me when alumni serve as preceptors. They’ve been in my shoes and went on to become such knowledgeable PAs. In the future, I would like to serve as a preceptor. Having good faculty and strong preceptors makes all the difference.”

For students considering a path as a physician assistant, Jen shares great advice: “study a lot, you'll probably spend most of your free time studying, but don't be so worried about failing exams. Be confident in yourself and the program, you will succeed just like all the other PA students that came before you. Prioritize sleep and self-care to have the most efficient study sessions, and you'll do great.”