Hometown: Middlebury, Connecticut
Undergraduate: Clark University, BA in biology with a concentration in cellular and molecular biology
Can you tell me a little about yourself before coming to Drexel?
Before starting the PathA program at Drexel I was working in a medical research lab at UMass Medical School. My lab studied immunology with a focus on tuberculosis infection and vaccine development. I always had a passion for anatomy and studying disease. Through my work in the research lab and my many hours of shadowing in pathology labs I decided that the role of a pathologists' assistant was perfect for me to further explore those interests.
Why did you decide to apply to Drexel’s PathA program?
One of the biggest deciding factors for me was location and name recognition. Drexel is a very well-known, large university with lots of recognition and resources so I knew that I was going to enter a community with lots to offer. Drexel has so many resources available, not just to current students but alumni as well. It’s also located in Philadelphia, a huge city with a lot of medical sites so I knew that I would get great experience in my clinical rotations here. The city also has a lot of other great things to offer, like food, entertainment, sports, outdoor activities and history. While the quality of the education was my ultimate deciding factor, I also knew I would be able to have a lot of fun here in addition to school.
What was your experience in the program like?
My experience in the program was extremely positive. The curriculum is very challenging, but it prepares you well for working at the clinical sites. In just the first year you learn everything from anatomy to histology to microbiology to pathology. And not only do you read and learn about those topics, but you also get hands-on experience with them in the didactic portion of the program. To me that was the most helpful kind of learning. As a PathA you have to have a very wide range of knowledge, and the Drexel program exposes you to everything you need for success as a working PA.
What did you like most about the program?
My two favorite things about the program were the faculty and the clinical sites. Professors were extremely passionate about their jobs, and they were all extremely knowledgeable in their fields as well. They provided a great number of resources to assist us with our learning, and I could tell that they all really cared about us retaining the information. I greatly enjoyed all the classes, and as a working PA, I see everything we went over in the classes constantly coming up on a daily basis in the path lab. So all the class work is very relevant to our jobs, which I like. I am also very grateful for the clinical experiences I gained through this program. Every place I went to had very smart and professional people to learn from. Not only did I have the opportunity to see a wide variety of cases, but I also had the chance to learn in a wide variety of environments. I got to see what it was like to work in a large group of PAs, and I also got to see what it was like to work with just a single other PA. The clinical experiences at Drexel were invaluable to my current success as a PA.
What was your relationship like with the PathA faculty?
In this program the same professors teach a lot of the classes, which allows you to get to know each other better. The small class size helps with that as well. I think the faculty were all fantastic and extremely helpful. As I stated before I always felt like they had our best interest in mind when creating the classes and the assignments. Our success as students and professionals was a top priority for them.
How was your relationship with your classmates?
Overall I would say it was good. I became very close with some of my classmates and we really helped each other a lot. Having one or two close study buddies is invaluable if you learn best that way. We were constantly talking about the topics we were studying that week and quizzing each other. The program will keep you very busy, but there is some room to socialize, and all of us did hang out when we could. It was nice to be surrounded by people with similar interests.
The PathA program offers a year of practical work in the field. Where did you work during that time, and what was the experience like?
My clinical rotations were at Abington Hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office. I was also supposed to rotate for a few weeks at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 I was not able to go there anymore. The best thing about the clinical year at Drexel is the wide variety you get. It also lasts for an entire year, which is more than most other programs. And in our case I’m so grateful we had a year, because when COVID-19 hit, we still had plenty of experience to graduate on time. It’s a lot of change, but the experiences are invaluable. You get to see how different path labs operate, you get to see and physically gross a lot of cases, and you meet some very influential people in the PathA community. Their help and expertise I will never forget. Over the clinical year you can feel yourself getting better at things and you gain a lot of confidence by the end of it. I was extremely well prepared to move on and begin my work as a PA, and it is definitely due to the places I went and the mentors I had at those places.
What are you doing for work now?
I am a PA at Delaware Clinical Laboratory and Physicians. We are a private group in northern Delaware servicing two major hospitals (Wilmington Hospital and Christiana Care Hospital) as well as other medical facilities in the area. In the group there are four wonderful PAs, and we take care of all the grossing and autopsy services.
Would you recommend the PathA program to others who are interested in this field?
I absolutely would. The combined didactic and clinical work in this program will give you the skills and confidence for success as a PA. It will also give you a really large network of people to reach out to for the continued growth of your PA career.
Do you have any advice for future PathA students?
Shadow. Learn about the job so you know what you’re getting into. Make sure this is right for you, because it is an extremely large commitment, both academically and financially. Getting in touch with program directors or any alumni from programs can set you up with opportunities to learn.
Once in the program, really commit yourself. Learn as much as you can. As I said before, everything circles back around at one time or another. Everything taught in this program will be relevant at some point. Be professional. This is the last bit of school before starting your actual career so make the relationships count and don’t take anything for granted. Be present and ask tons of questions!