Pooja Parmar Pooja Parmar, CCRP, PA-S

Without hesitation, I happily call the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, often referred to as “The Triangle,” my home. I was born and raised in Raleigh and spent my last two years of high school attending the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham where I grew my thirst for knowledge, which only continued as I completed my undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill. I moved away for a few years, and yet, somehow, I found myself back in Durham working, and shortly after, accepted into the Duke Physician Assistant Program.

After almost seven clinical rotations into my second year of PA school, it feels like an impossible task to take stock of everything that has happened in the last year and half. I have learned more information than I ever imagined possible. The Duke faculty, distinguished guest lecturers, my fellow classmates, and my rotation preceptors have all contributed to my education, and it is now my turn to utilize my education and pass on the benefits to patients I encounter.

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Britta Weed, PA-S Britta Weed, PA-S

“You’re shy?” I remember my new freshman college roommate asking me. We were discussing what course of study each of us was pursuing, and the conversation had focused on why I had chosen to study medical laboratory science. In all honesty, I had chosen the major because I liked the idea of working by myself, away from people.

Now, almost 10 years later, I ask myself, “How is it that a shy lab tech is so excited about patient care?” I have worn many different hats in my life, but the one that I am currently wearing, that of a physician assistant student, has been one of the most rewarding ones so far. That is because I am doing the one thing that I was so hesitant to do when I was a freshman in college: work with people.

So, how did the tides change enough for me to decide to pursue a career where you interact with patients nearly all day, every day? The answer lies within the power of human connection. The relationship that occurs when people openly express their vulnerability, in the context of health care, pulled me out of my shell.

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Patrick Whitman Patrick Whitman, PA-S

It’s a question we remember being asked from our earliest memories: What do you want to be when you grow up? (For me, I wanted to be a fighter pilot.) It’s a ridiculous question to ask a child, but gets more serious as you work your way into adulthood. Deciding what career you want will help determine where you study, where you live and the people you will call your peers.

You’re asked a similar question in PA school: What do you want to specialize/practice in? As a first-year student, you have ideas of the type of medicine you might want to practice. Some of us are adamant about working in a specific field from Day 1, while others don’t know. The truth of the matter is that a new PA student is as prepared to answer that question as a child is to know what they want to be when they grow up.

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Grace Johnson, PA-S Grace Johnson, PA-S

Art was my earliest and greatest love. It defined and carried me through childhood, adolescence, and into early adulthood. As a young person I imagined a future where my fingers were trained to use paintbrushes, not scalpels. In high school I enrolled in all the art classes my disapproving guidance counselor would allow. I had solo art exhibitions, and I received commissions. Art seemed like the only future to me; I identified as an artist, and not much else.

[Grace Johnson] It came as no surprise to me, then, when I struggled in math and science in high school and had to be transferred into more remedial courses. It eventually came time to take the SAT and I spent the entire 180 minutes hunched over that piece of paper filling in bubbles with answers I did not know, fighting the urge to instead draw a picture over my Scantron. I believed my score was proof that I was not capable of pursuing a college degree. I accepted that score. After all, I was an artist, not an academic.

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Hannah Hayes, PA-S Hannah Hayes, PA-S

The clinical year of PA school is fun and exciting, but also challenging and exhausting. As we finish our fifth rotation and are in the middle of the holiday season it seemed like a good time to reflect on the past few months and say thank you to all those who support my classmates and me.

The day before my first clinical year rotation began, I drove to Fayetteville — an hour and a half from Durham — to settle into my out-of-town housing where I would stay for the next month. I was lucky enough that being out of town was not too far away and I was able to go home on weekends, but it was still the most time I’d spent away from my toddler daughter. I video chatted with her twice a day but it was still so difficult to be far away from her. I wanted to hug and kiss her and felt like I was missing out.

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