Physician Assistant program looks back at first year, welcomes new class
Monday, July 11, 2022
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It’s been a year since the Physician Assistant program at OSU Center for Health Sciences welcomed its first class of students.
Those in the inaugural PA class are now mentors to the new class of students, who started their orientation the last week of June. The mentors met their mentees for the first time over lunch where they got to talk and get to know each other in the Kern-Headington Student Center on the OSU-CHS campus.
Allie Tuttle said she’s feeling good about starting the journey to become a physician assistant.
“The main reason I want to be a PA is to be able to adapt and work where I’m needed. It fits my personality well and I like to work with other people and learn from other people,” said Tuttle, who initially thought about a career in marketing. “I was sitting in all these marketing classes and thinking ‘I like working with people, but this isn’t where I want to be.’”
A physician assistant, or PA, is a health care professional who can diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans and prescribe medications after completing thousands of hours of medical training. They practice in every medical setting and specialty.
“The mission of the PA program mirrors that of OSU-CHS, which is to increase access in rural and underserved communities in Oklahoma. With a collaborating physician, PAs often serve as patients’ primary care provider, especially in rural Oklahoma,” said Amy Harrison, the PA program director and clinical assistant professor.
Aaron Abraham, a second-year PA student and president of the inaugural class, said he wanted to be a PA to help people live healthier, more fulfilling lives.
“It can be scary when our bodies aren’t working as they’re meant to, and I am honored to be in a profession that gives me the opportunity to educate and guide patients through those challenging times,” he said. “While much of medicine will always be reactive, I also want to promote preventative medicine using food, healthy lifestyle habits and good mental health practices to stop problems before they arise.”
“I have learned so much in the last year. Medical knowledge of course, but also about myself. PA school is uniquely challenging, and I have more confidence in myself having made it through to rotations. I have also made some amazing life-long friends that I’m very thankful for.”
The 28-month PA program at OSU-CHS consists of 13 months of education and training in classrooms and labs on campus and then 15 months of clinical rotations across Oklahoma.
Lauren Chambers, a first-year student, said she had a very long journey to PA school.
“I met the right PA who influenced me and showed me the opportunities to help people. It ignited a fire in me,” Chambers said. “I’m really excited and ready to go.”
Rebecca Stephen, a clinical assistant professor and director of admissions for the PA program, said she and her fellow faculty, as well as students, learned a lot during the program’s first year.
“It went great. There were definitely challenges, but we had so much support from OSU-CHS that we were able to meet those challenges,” Stephen said. “I was surprised by the ease of integration of a new program into the campus environment.”
Abraham earned a master’s in Biomedical Sciences from OSU-CHS before he applied to the PA program, so he already had experience with the institution as a student.
“I greatly enjoyed the friendly, open-door policies of the faculty, as well as the collaboration between students of different programs,” he said, including OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students and students in the Athletic Training and Biomedical Sciences programs. “Working with the other students, as well as receiving lectures and labs from their faculty, enriches our experience with different perspectives.”
It was also exciting being part of the inaugural PA class.
“It’s been an interesting experience. There certainly have been growing pains, but the faculty did a great job responding to our feedback. In that way, it’s been nice knowing our opinions and feedback are of unique importance as the first class,” Abraham said. “I have learned so much in the last year. Medical knowledge of course, but also about myself. PA school is uniquely challenging, and I have more confidence in myself having made it through to rotations. I have also made some amazing life-long friends that I’m very thankful for.”
That feeling of belonging and family is something many of the PA students said was a reason they chose OSU-CHS.
“Being an alumna of OSU, I really love the family environment. The faculty go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable and make sure you’re successful and supported,” Chambers said.
Tuttle, a fellow OSU alumna, agreed.
“I was really excited about OSU-CHS offering a PA program. I’m looking forward to going and representing OSU out in the health care field,” she said. “That Loyal and True thing is not a lie.”
For Austin Jones, a second-year PA student, the first year of the program went by quicker than he was expecting.
“I learned a lot. I learned to find a balance between school and my personal life. I grew a lot closer with my family and friends. Same with my classmates, we see each other all the time. I love that everyone here is so friendly. It’s just a big family,” Jones said, and he hopes the new class of PA students can learn from their mentors’ experiences.
“There’s definitely a time and place to take care of yourself. You have to find that balance between school life and personal life,” he said. “It goes by a lot faster than you think so enjoy your time here.”