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Master of Physician Assistant Studies at RVU

PA STUDENT SPOTLIGHTS

Ciera Black, PAS I
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)

Campus Location
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
San Diego, CA

Undergraduate studies:
Psychobiology.

Graduate studies:
Masters of Biomedical Sciences

What clubs and activities are you currently involved with?
SGA, and Cadaver Lab instructor.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am from San Diego and I moved to Colorado about 3 years ago on a whim. I fell in love with the mountains and the people here, and decided to make it home for a while. I love being outdoors and hiking with my husband and our pups. We are constantly on the road to find new rural places to camp, ride dirt bikes, and take photos. I love to teach undergraduate and high school students, so I work as a cadaver lab instructor at a local community college, alongside my PA studies.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
I chose RVU because of its location and the PA program's emphasis on clinical education. I really wanted to be part of a developing program and RVU was the perfect fit for me. I chose to become a PA because I love the perfect balance it offers as a career. Not only does it balance team-based decision making with autonomy, it also offers a healthy work and home life balance.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
I enjoy using my telescope and learning about space. I enjoy home improvement projects, especially ones in the yard. Overall, I am happiest when outdoors, whether I'm camping, hiking, or off-roading.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
I used to race dirt-bikes competitively.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
You are studying for your patients, not for a grade.

What are your medical interests?
Pediatric emergency medicine or rural medicine.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
My favorite memories always revolve around our in-person skills days because we get to see each other face to face and actually practice what we've been learning. My first time doing an ultrasound to see the heart and vessels was my favorite memory because you could look around the room and see how proud all of my classmates were when they successfully found the structures.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
PA school is truly the hardest thing you will have ever done in your life thus far. Actively scheduling time to focus on your mental health every single day is vital to making it through this.



Delaney Bacon, PAS I
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)

Campus Location
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Fort Collins, CO

Undergraduate studies:
Integrative Physiology, minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, certificate in Public Health from University of Colorado Boulder.

What clubs and activities are you currently involved with?
Student Diversity Task Force- PA Representative, PA 2022 Class Council- Diversity Representative, OB/GYN club, and STIGMA  club.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
I spent a handful of years during and after undergrad exploring a variety of different healthcare roles, from a pharmacy assistant to a pathology lab intern, then onto global health extension officer and clinical research coordinator. My favorite aspects of each experience seemed to fit perfectly into the responsibilities of a PA: autonomy to diagnose and treat patients with ample time to connect with them about their healthcare and health education needs. I was drawn to the RVU PA program specifically because of their focus on holistic competency-based, team-based learning in order to form truly well-rounded, collaborative, and compassionate PAs.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
I really enjoy the fresh mountain air, so I will take any excuse to go camping, hiking, backpacking, etc. I unwind by playing music and often spend my 10 minute breaks between online classes playing guitar or keyboard. You’ll often find me at a park playing pick-up sports/games with friends and family. I also make a point to read and stay current on social issues, especially as they relate to the medical field.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
I am conversational in Swahili because I lived and worked in Tanzania for two years with the United States Peace Corps. Ninaweza kuongea Kiswahili kwa sababu niliishi Tanzania kufanya kazi kwa miaka miwili na Peace Corps ya Marekani.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
I was encouraged early on in my didactic year to “keep an eye on the bigger picture,” and it has become my motto. We will all have bad days: lower-than-expected test scores, difficult assignments, enormous amounts of course material, a complicated standardized patient that did not go as planned, etc. It’s important to remember that these challenging experiences are molding us into compassionate and competent healthcare providers, and we are growing tremendously through the program both personally and professionally. We must have grace for ourselves, especially on our bad days.

What are your medical interests?
I am interested in women’s health, behavioral health, family medicine, and internal medicine, though I am excited to explore more specialties during my upcoming clinical rotations.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
My favorite memory thus far is being a part of the Inaugural Summit for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which was a 4-part series with guest speakers from across the country to discuss common injustices in the field of medicine and how the RVU community can improve its advocacy. It was inspiring to see RVU students, faculty, and staff come together to have incredible discussions about how to foster a culture of inclusion in our future practices, at the university, and in the medical field at large.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
When I was a prospective student, I wished someone reassured me that admission into PA school is not entirely about looking like the perfect PA student on paper. There is no one true path to PA school. As long as you are genuinely building your skills and life experiences in your preparation for school, you will go far. Focus on what you are learning from each job, shadowing, and volunteer experience. If you have something to show for it on your application and in your interview, do what you are passionate about and don’t be afraid to explore the field. You may even stand out more in the stack of applications in your experiences are unique and authentic.



Erika Gallardo, PAS I
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)

Campus Location
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Denver, CO

Undergraduate studies:
BS in Biology from Gonzaga University.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a first generation college student alongside my sister who is a nurse. We could not have done it without my parents who are the most supportive humans anyone could ask for. I attended Gonzaga University for my undergrad (Go Zags!) where I met my best friends and people who really pushed me to be the best I can be and still do to this day. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain which ignited my love of travel and experiencing new cultures. Currently, I am a homebody thanks to the pandemic but prior I was traveling every 3-4 months or whenever my budget allowed. I scribed during my gap years at Emergency Departments across Denver and loved the experience as it has shown me the type of provider that I want to be. Being in PA school has been one of the hardest things I have done but has also been the most rewarding experience. I cannot wait for clinical year to get back into seeing patients again.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
I knew from when I was 16 that I wanted to pursue a career as a medical provider, however during my undergrad I did not have many opportunities to shadow. During my gap years, I scribed at Emergency Departments across the Denver area and worked alongside amazing providers. It was during that time that I was introduced to the PA profession and I knew it was the career for me for so many reasons but to just name a few; the autonomy, the flexibility and the opportunity to always learn and grow. I applied to schools all over the country, however when I interviewed at RVU I felt so welcomed by not only my colleagues I was interviewing with, but also the faculty and staff. I loved that RVU stressed teamwork and the non-competitive nature of the program.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
I love traveling which has not been possible during the pandemic so I am very excited for my first trip after graduation. Other than that, my hobbies are now stay at home friendly; riding my peloton, watching reality TV, decompressing and eating Mexican food with family, cuddling my dogs (Pawco, Meeko and Chiquito), and facetiming with friends whenever our schedules align.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
I played basketball from the time I was in second grade through high school. I was the "shooter" always standing and ready to take a shot. I haven't played in years but I still love the game. Again, Go Zags!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
The best advice I've received is whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed and like I cannot study another disease or pathway, I need to remember why I wanted to go into medicine in the first place. I need to remember the patient encounters I have had, remember how tough it was to go through the application and interview process and remember the unreal feeling of receiving the acceptance email from RVU. It still gives me chills to this day and always boosts my motivation.

What are your medical interests?
I loved my time working in the Emergency Department prior to entering PA school and I still love learning about acute care. I have heard that rotations will surprise you and could possibly change your plans so I am going into clinical year with a very open mind. I am passionate about working with underserved populations in the inner city and I am excited to get back to that.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
I find it really hard to narrow it down but what comes to my mind is our Ultrasound workshop we had. We were able to perform FASTs on one another. It was so satisfying to see my own heart and my partner's heart on the machine as well as our kidneys, liver, spleen, and bladder. It felt very real that we are going to be providers in that moment and that we will be able to do this soon on our own patients.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
I would tell prospective students to never lose track of the big picture. Unfortunately, applying to school to become a medical provider (whether it be PA or DO or MD) will have you face rejection after rejection and it is very difficult not to take it personally and make you rethink your path. However, remember the reasons why you wanted to do this in the first place and keep going. Perseverance is necessary in all aspects of life and it is one of the greatest characteristics in medical providers in my opinion.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Going through PA school during a pandemic has been difficult to say the least. Attempting to make connections with classmates and faculty through a screen has brought on challenges that I did not expect when starting this journey but I think it has only made myself and my class more resilient than we ever thought we could be. I am so thankful for my classmates, my study group, and the faculty who have been doing all that they can to teach us how to become competent, collaborative and compassionate physician assistants. We're a quaran-team.



Jemari Roberts, PAS I
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)

Campus Location
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Long Beach, CA

Undergraduate studies:
Human Biology and Psychology with degree in Psych from Stanford University.

What clubs and activities are you currently involved with?
Class Council Vice President, RVU Diversity Committee, and Medical Spanish Interest Group.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Long Beach, CA where I spent the majority of my life before moving to Colorado in 2016. After completing my formative education in southern California, I was blessed to receive a scholarship to Stanford University. I have cherished memories from my time as a Division 1 football player and student athlete on the farm. Shortly after graduation I moved to Barcelona to teach English and developed my Spanish language skills though now I'm a bit rusty so I definitely need to practice. Prior to PA school I worked at St. Joseph hospital in Downtown Denver as an emergency room technician. I currently reside in Denver with my lovely wife and 2 year old daughter.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
In addition to being close to home, RVU offered a competency-based program that I thought would prepare me well for the career ahead. I also found the willingness to take feedback and work to make the program better over time to be desirable attributes of a learning institution. I chose the Physician Assistant career path because I wanted to begin making an impact in the healthcare field as soon as I could and I like the idea of being able to work across specialties as my career develops.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
. I enjoy spending time with my lovely wife and beautiful daughter. We enjoy being outside and hope to make camping a bigger part of our routine now that the little one is old enough. When I'm not reading for school I enjoy novels and the occasional science fiction adventure. Also, as a collegiate student-athlete, fitness and health have always been important so I like to stay active whether it's cycling, hiking, or whatever the day brings.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
I had the honor of attending the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine and learn lessons from the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision from my uncle who was a member of the group, for several weeks in the fall of 1957, was escorted to and from class by the U.S. Army.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
Learning during the didactic year is kind of like the first-pass effect in metabolism. Don't worry if not everything that goes through your brain on the first go-around sticks.

What are your medical interests?
I'm quite excited to start clinical rotations in June and I think Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and surgery are all very interesting. Though, I can't wait to learn more about all the fields.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
Even though it has been a zoom heavy year, we were able to play a modified version of codenames utilizing course specific clue words. It definitely challenges your brain in a new way but the interactive nature of the game was a welcome change of pace. 

What advice do you have for prospective students?
Take it one day at a time and remember that the medicine will always be there. If you need a break, take one and remember to check in on friends/family when you can. School can fly by but you'll remember the small wins more than anything.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
School is challenging but how you frame the hurdles in your path can make a world of difference. Also, try your best to learn for understanding rather than solely for recall as it makes the learning process more fun and the neural connections that much stronger.



Dana Filias, PAS III
Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)

Campus Location
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Manchester by-the-Sea, MA

Undergraduate studies:
Wake Forest University - B.S. Mathematical Economics .

What clubs and activities are you currently involved with?
OB/GYN Club; AMWA, AAPA, and CAPA.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
When I came across RVU I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from a brand new program, but it was a leap of faith that was worth taking. I got such a good feeling from the faculty and other students during my interview, and I have felt that same sense of community throughout my time here as well. RVU fosters a small, student-focused environment that allows you to build close relationships with classmates and professors alike.
Pursuing a career as a PA was always an easy choice for me. I have always been drawn to medicine, but I knew that the role of physician wasn't a perfect fit for me. I craved a role that would allow me the scope of practice to be able to manage patient's autonomously, but that would also provide more of a team-centric, collaborative approach to patient care. Being a PA will also afford me the ability to move around in my career and to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
Much of my free time is spent exploring all of the hiking, scenic views, and craft beer that Colorado has to offer. I love catching a few rays of sunshine wherever possible, but when the weather keeps me indoors, you can find me in a spin class, cooking some variation of tacos, listening to podcasts, and diving into a good DIY project.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
I have never broken a bone!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
"Don't try to control the things that you cannot control." There are so many things in PA school and in life in general that will be beyond your control. It is a waste of time and energy to stress about these uncontrollable factors, and it won't make you feel any better. Instead, focus your energy on the things that you can control. If you did poorly on a test, don't argue it. Instead, rethink your study habits.

What are your medical interests?
I like little bits of everything that I have sampled while out on clinical rotations, but I would have to say that I am most drawn towards acute care and hospital medicine.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
Some of my classmates and I made it a tradition to get brunch after every exam during didactic year. We would post-up at Snooze with stacks of pancakes and coffee and sit there chatting for hours on end. It was so much fun to have a few moments to decompress and recharge after a week or two of intense studying, and I will cherish all of those Friday hang-outs.  

What advice do you have for prospective students?
Think about where you are at right now. Think about how badly you want to go to PA school. Now, file that away in your brain for when times get tough. PA school is not easy, and the journey is not smooth. You might fall behind in sleep. You might have to miss out on a friends wedding, or a Holiday spent with your family. You might find the rigorous schedule to be frustrating and inconvenient. Whatever happens, however, you just have to continue to remind yourself why you are doing this and how grateful you are to be here, actively pursuing your dream.



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