Student Q&A
Posted by PAs ConnectComment

DSC_7621PA student Lisa Ding answers questions about her road to PA school and her experience as a summer intern in the  advocacy department of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).


1.)  What PA program do you attend and when did you start? 

University of Southern California. I began in August 2014 and graduate in May 2017.

2.)  What is your preferred specialty?

I’m not sure yet. I think I’ll have a better idea once I begin rotations and get my hands wet, so to speak. I do think primary care provides a great foundation for any PA right out of school, and I also did particularly enjoy the GI unit of my coursework, but overall, I’m open to all options right now.

3.)  Why and when did you become an AAPA member?

I actually became a member through my PA program. Our director pays for membership for all students in the program, which is something we’re all very grateful for. I would have most likely joined AAPA regardless, as I think AAPA is a great resource, and also, a good way to stay informed on current issues in the PA field.

4.)  Where did you grow up?

I was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in Portland, Oregon.

5.)  Were you always interested in medicine?

I was definitely always interested in medicine growing up. I remember getting a “doctor kit” as a birthday present one year. It had a horribly tacky pink and purple plastic stethoscope, reflex hammer, and what I now know was supposed to be an otoscope. I thought it was the coolest things ever and would force my brother to come up with fake illnesses so I could play the doctor.

6.)  What did you do professionally before PA school?

As far as medically-related experiences, I completed my EMT training course at UCLA, volunteered in a hospital in different departments, such as the NICU, ER and the ICU, and completed a public health internship.

7.)  How did you decide to apply to PA school?

Coming across the PA profession was a bit of a lucky find for me, as I had always actually anticipated going to medical school. I was in the midst of completing the premed curriculum at UCLA when I discovered the PA profession. Through a combination of a UCLA informational session about PAs and a mutual friend who was applying to PA school, I heard about the PA program for the first time when I was already in my third year at UCLA. And after researching on my own and shadowing some PAs, I realized that the PA profession seemed like the perfect fit for me. I really liked the horizontal mobility between specialties, as well as the fact that the profession really emphasized teamwork and collaboration between healthcare providers. From then on, it was an easy decision!

8.)  How did you choose your PA program/school?

Aside from the strong test scores and the well-developed curriculum, at the end of the day, what made USC really stand out to me was the staff and the students who I met when I was interviewing. When I spoke to the current students, it seemed like, despite the rigorous program, the students truly loved being there and had developed such strong bonds with their professors and classmates. I got this amazing sense of community and school spirit that I just instantly knew I wanted to be a part of.

9.)  Are you involved in any leadership, volunteer or other activities at school?

Currently, I am the clinical team coordinator for the student-run clinic. It’s a volunteer-run clinic that helps provide care for the underserved in downtown Los Angeles and on Skid Row. It’s an interprofessional collaboration that combines the efforts of OT, pharmacy, PA and medical students to provide the best possible team-based care possible. I also volunteer with the Pipeline program at USC, which works with the East LA Boys and Girls Club to help introduce youth to different health and science professions.

10.)  Why did you intern at AAPA? Would you encourage others to do so?

I decided that I wanted to intern at AAPA after attending my school advocacy trip and learning more about the importance of advocacy, as well as how impactful it could be. I realized that advocacy efforts were crucial in ensuring that PAs can practice at the top of their capability and ultimately provide the best care possible to patients. For me, it was a chance to advance the PA profession as a whole and help others on a grander scale than on a patient to patient basis. I would definitely encourage others to pursue an internship with AAPA as well. It’s an incredible opportunity to contribute to the PA profession and overall an amazing learning experience.

11.)  What were your duties during the AAPA internship and what did you learn about the organization?

My duties at AAPA consisted of working with both the federal and state advocacy teams on topic-specific or state-related projects. I helped compile research, write articles and draft comment letters about a variety of different advocacy topics. Some specific issues that I had the chance to work on were re-entry to clinical practice, barriers to practice for NICU PAs in California and upcoming PA-related federal legislation.

I learned that there are so many different components to AAPA and that they all work together collaboratively in order for the organization to run smoothly. I also learned how much the staff at AAPA cares about the PA profession and all the hard work that they put in to ensure that the needs of PAs across the nation are met.The advocacy staff were wonderful; they really made me a part of the team and made sure I was involved in worthwhile projects.

12.)  What are some of the major issues that PA students are worried about that you wanted to communicate to AAPA?

One major issue that I think PA students are worried about is the increasing cost of tuition and student loans. The high cost of PA school, as well as the low amount of funding and federal loans available, are always a concern and something that students are struggling with.

13.)  What are your plans for your professional future?

I plan on graduating PA school and practicing as the best PA that I can be. Later on, I think I’d like to go back to school for either public health or public policy, and continue pursuing my interests and goals in advocacy as well.

To find out more about resources for PA students, visit the AAPA student membership page.

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