Eight Yale School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) Online students marked National PA Week by visiting a high school or college in their local community and engaging with students about how to become a PA and the role of PAs. National PA Week, which occurs annually on October 6-12, is intended to recognize the PA profession and its contributions to the nation's health, and raise awareness and visibility of the profession.
The students visited schools in geographically diverse parts of the United States, including: Austin, Texas; Fairfax, Virginia; Medford, Massachusetts; Oak Park, Illinois; Smackover, Arkansas; Stonecrest, Georgia; Tucson, Arizona; and Wilmington, Delaware.
Mallory Ballard ’21, is completing the Yale PA Online Program from the town she grew up in, Smackover, a rural town in Arkansas. She met with eight eleventh and twelfth grade AP biology students at Smackover High School, her alma mater, which has an enrollment of around 370 students.
Ballard first asked how many of the students knew what PAs are and do, and most did not know. Ballard describes how it was “exciting to know that today I got to make a name for the PA community amongst that group of kids.” She noted she had not learned about the PA profession until her senior year of college, and that when she grew up in Smackover, “there were essentially no PAs in the local health care community, so due to lack of exposure I had no idea they existed.”
Ballard says the visit provided “a wonderful experience getting to serve the school that served me and serve the PA community by being an education advocate for the field. It was so rewarding walking through the halls I walked through as a teenager and talking about the PA profession in the same room I fell in love with biology.”
Tamera Martin ’21 similarly presented at the high school she had attended, Arabia Mountain High School, a suburban school in Stonecrest, Georgia, where all 1,400 students are minorities. After graduating, Martin stayed in touch with several teachers and with the health care science program, where she started her own journey in health care. Martin spoke with three health care science classes, comprised of juniors and seniors.
Similar to Ballard, Martin found most of the kids were not familiar with the PA profession. “That is one of the reasons I love speaking to high school students and other students about the PA profession, because many just aren't aware of what we do. I first learned of the PA profession my senior year of college, about four years too late. I wished someone had enlightened me sooner, which is what my goal was with this presentation,” she said. She noted that “since many of the students were planning on pursuing a career in health care following high school, they were very open to the idea of the PA profession and potentially pursuing it in the future.”
Martin was pleased that one student asked how the connections Martin made in high school helped her career path, because Martin thinks “it's important to emphasize that a lot of your foundation, especially when going into health care, depends on your network that you make in high school and early college. I wanted to emphasize how important it was to use the tools and certifications they are obtaining now in high school to really set the stage for their career down the road.”
Kelly Green Boesen ’20, met with students at Catalina Foothills High School, in Tucson, Arizona, where her kids attend school. She spoke to five classes taught by a teacher with a portfolio that includes anatomy, physiology, and a sports medicine track. Overall, Green Boesen had the chance to meet with about 140 students, mostly juniors and seniors. A pharmacist for 20 years before starting the Yale PA Online Program, Green Boesen shared information about both professions and presented a case study, which she analyzed from the two different perspectives.
Catalina Foothills is a suburban school, where a number of parents are doctors. Green Boesen said several of the students were familiar with the PA profession and while lots of the kids want to be doctors or nurses, and some pharmacists, “a few did say being a PA was something they might be interested in. I believe after my presentation they found out what being a PA really means and that it might be a nice option for some of them. ”
Green Boesen wanted to participate in this initiative because the classroom teacher “works hard to give the kids real world experiences and information. I thought it would be good to tell more up and comers what is out there, since I didn't really understand it until much later. There is a lot of growth for PA positions and a great opportunity in health care. “
Green Boesen had not expected the science teachers’ excitement to hear about the Yale PA Online Program and how it works. “A lot of them have interests in doing something in medicine.”