How Giftson got into PA school

      How did you get into PA school at 20 years old?

God. Honestly it’s all Him. So I’m a Christian and my story starts as a guy that doesn’t know what he wants in life (as most guys are anyway). I know that doesn’t sound like a person that’s in PA school at 20 years old. You’d expect a person in a professional program that young to have “everything figured out”, but the funny thing is I didn’t. My entire family works in the medical field, and I knew ever since I was a child that I wanted to be involved with healthcare and saving people’s lives, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. My high school offered a dual enrollment program, so during my senior year of high school I went to a local college full time. I took a complete load of classes and finished my first full year of college before I graduated high school. As soon as I graduated high school, I started up my second year of college classes. In fact, I actually had to skip my first day of college to attend my high school graduation! I kept taking as much classes as I could for 2 more years and by God’s grace I was able to finish my undergraduate education at 20 years old. Before I graduated though, during my last year of college I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was shadowing, volunteering, applying to a lot of different programs. I got certifications, licenses, I was honestly just trying everything out! I went to my interview for PA school at 19 years old, and just learning more about the profession and honestly seeing God work in my life, I knew PA school was what I should be pursuing. I accepted an offer for PA school and started the month after I graduated with my Bachelors. God blessed me with the ability to get through a lot of schooling at a young age. I wanted to get a medical education as quickly as possible so I could get out there and start helping people! So honestly, I don’t know how I did it! I just know that God’s been guiding me through and giving me the strength to keep pushing as hard as I can, so I can start sharing the love of Christ through medicine at whatever age possible!

 How was it applying to out of state schools? How did you decide where to apply and accept your acceptance?

I’m from Atlanta. As much as I like the city, I wanted to leave and have a change. I felt like I was at a point in my life when I needed to get away and just let God guide me. I applied to schools all over the states, but I tried to pick locations where I would still have family in the area. Also, my pool of schools were a little limited because I’m coming straight out of undergrad. I didn’t have the extensive patient care experience that most schools required. For reasons I can’t explain, I was miraculously accepted into the program and I knew immediately it was for me. I canceled my other interviews and turned down other offers. I feel like location was a big factor in my decision. I knew I wanted to be in an area where I could still be around family, and having a support group nearby definitely influenced that decision but I also was excited to be out of my comfort zone. I knew God was brewing something, and I was ready to start a new chapter of my life!

Did you ever find yourself comparing your experience with other peers who were older and more experienced?

Yes, I definitely did! Self-doubt was a huge problem for me. I would always see other people that knew so much, and wonder if I would ever get there (still haven’t got there by the way). But yes, it’s been a crazy learning experience. I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t matter what background you come from, if God brought you into PA school, he’s going to get you through it no matter what. 

So some people are better at hands on things, OSCEs, talking to patients, etc. You know, the stuff that real providers have to be good at? Yeah, I’m not good at that kind of stuff. I get super nervous just trying to make a phone call talking to a patient, but honestly that changes! Now being on rotations, I’m interacting with patients everyday. Honestly it’s something you get used to. We all are starting at different parts of our life, and just because you don’t have experience doesn’t mean you can’t do well. You have to understand your limitations, and strive to push those limits every day! You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them, and keep pushing forward so you can be the best PA you can be!

  What has been the hardest about being the youngest in class and living in a different state away from  your friends and family?

I would say the hardest thing about being the youngest in class is having to deal with everyone staring at me when we learn about pediatric guidelines and different stages of growth development! But seriously though, I haven’t really had a problem with my age. Everyone accepts me for who I am. I’ve always been a strong proponent of “age ain’t nothin but a number”. To be honest, I believe it’s more about your maturity level. Being professional and acting in a way that shows respect to others is honestly far more important than the number of years you have under your belt. I was always worried that patients or even other classmates wouldn’t take me seriously because I was so young, but over time I’ve learned not to worry about things I can’t change. I strive to be the best provider I can be, regardless of how old/young I am. 

So I knew from the start that living a different state away from my friends and family was going to be hard. I definitely do miss my family, but I accepted that was going to be something I would have to sacrifice temporarily until I finished school. PA school ends up taking all of your time, so you don’t really get a chance to think about how much time you’re not spending with family and friends. I do however have family within driving distance from my school right now. So It’s kind of like having home away from home. I’m still living on my own, but I have the ability to drive to see some family on those rare days when I have some down time and I’m feeling nostalgic.

I’ve tried to make the best out of every situation. I know right now school is kind of rough, and you have to give up a lot of things that you used to have, but in the end it’ll all be worth it. If anything, I’m happy that I did because I’ve been able to grow so much stronger in my faith. Even though I may be that turtle living under a rock right now (not real sure were turtles actually live) I know that God is with me, and with Him I have everything I need.

Any tips for pre-applicants?

The number one tip I can give you is to just be yourself! And I know that probably sounds super cliché, but it’s so true. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to put on an act, or memorize all the right answers to ace an interview or personal statement. If your heart is not in it and this is not something you truly want to do, then stop yourself before it gets too late. PA school is hard, and honestly the pressures of the program is going to take a huge toll on you…physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you’re not doing it for yourself, then you’re going to crack under pressure. And I know that sounds rough. But on the other hand, if you truly know in your heart that this what you want to do, this is what you’re called to do, then no matter what life may throw your way, you’re going to achieve it! Work hard, never give up, and most importantly, trust God. If He’s with you, then no one can be against you!

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