Great, big, wide healthcare world – Physician Assistant

March 19, 2016

There is more to healthcare than just medicine and dentistry. Don’t get me wrong, medicine and dentistry are two lovely professions, however, that path isn’t the path for everyone.  Those with the desire to “help people” in a healthcare setting can do so as a physician assistant, optometrist, pharmacist, chiropractor.   Check out the interview below from Oakwood’s own Shonet Brown – PA, who works as a physician assistant.   To learn more about the road to becoming a PA, check out this website.


HO:What was your career goal when you started at Oakwood?

SB: My plan was to be a medical technologist (lab rat) to work my way through medical school and eventually become a pediatrician.


HO: What was your major?

SB: Pre-Physician Assistant (Associate of Science), Pre-Physical Therapy (Associate of Science), Biology (Bachelor of Science)


HO:How did you decide to become a physician assistant?

SB: First day of freshman registration I was waiting in line to see my advisor and saw a pamphlet about the Physician Assistant career. It gave me the option to do all I wanted in less than half the time just without the title of “MD” so I jumped on the opportunity!


HO: Can you describe your professional journey post Oakwood?

SB: After Oakwood I attended Nova Southeastern University where I earned a Bachelors in Physician Assistant Studies and a Masters of Medical Science degree. I was hired by a preceptor upon completion of my training. (make a good impression during clinicals!) I worked in Florida for a few years doing hospital admissions and rounding as well as in the out patient setting.

HO: Where do you currently work?

SB: Currently on Sabbatical but worked for years in Internal Medicine, inpatient (hospitalist) and out-patient (private practice) facilities.


HO: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?

SB: Movies and TV, Reading, Zumba, Quality time with family and friends


HO: What are good resources for students interested in learning more about becoming a physician assistant?

SB: American Academy of Physician Assistants, National Commission for the Certification of Physician Assistants


HO: What exactly does a physician assistant do?

SB: A Physician Assistant (US) or Physician Associate (UK) is a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine as part of a team with physicians.

PAs are concerned with preventing and treating human illness and injury by providing a broad range of health care services under the supervision of physician or surgeon. They conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, develop treatment plans, perform procedures, prescribe medications, counsel on preventive health care and may assist in surgery.


HO: Can a physician assistant prescribe medications?

SB: Yes


HO: What’s the path to becoming a physician assistant?

SB: Most PA programs offer Masters Degrees, usually less than 3 years to complete. So, obtain a Bachelors Degree in your field of choice as long as you have the pre-requisites for PA school like Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, etc. A period of extensive clinical training precedes obtaining a license to practice as a physician assistant, and similar to physician training but shorter in duration, includes all systems of the human body. Renewal of licensure is necessary every few years, varying by jurisdiction. Physician assistants may also complete residency training, similar to physicians’ residencies but significantly shorter, in fields such as OB/GYN, emergency medicine, critical care, orthopedics, neurology, surgery, and other medical disciplines.


HO: What are some of the pros and cons to life as a physician assistant?

SB: The biggest PRO of being a PA is flexibility. Not only are you not limited to a field of medicine to practice but you can choose the setting as well. Whether you like night shifts, 9-5, holidays and weekends off or want to work around the clock you can find the right fit. You can practice pediatrics for a few years then switch to orthopedics or dermatology if you’d like. You’re never locked down.

The only CON I can think of besides paperwork is getting stuck with a supervising physician you don’t get along with or whose view of the PA role is limited. If you and your supervising physician are in the same room you’re not being properly utilized. We are best effective and efficient when working with autonomy.


HO: Can interested students contact you with questions?

SB: Email questions to and I will try to respond quickly.







What Now? – what to do if you’re not accepted.

February 22, 2016

By now, senior prehealth students across the country and the campus are excited as they tote around acceptance /s to professional school. It’s hard to contain their excitement as they see that they are one step closer to the dream of becoming a healthcare professional. This is not the case for the majority of students however. Every year more hopeful students get rejected than get accepted to professional school. Yes, you read that right. Every year the applicant pool gets more competitive and fewer students are accepted. Don’t believe me! Check out the data right here . Looking at this data and doing a little math, you’ll see that in 2006 – 2007, 47% of total applicants were accepted, compared to 41% in 2015-2016 application cycle. So do not be discouraged, it is very very difficult to get into professional school. You’ll also notice that for each year about 25% of the applicants were repeat applicants. So I say all that to say, your goal to become a physician is not out of your reach. However in order to increase your chances of a successful application cycle in the future you have to do a few things.


You’ve taken the time to mourn and wallow in disappointment, while celebrating with your friends, now its time to get to work. First thing you have to do is truly look at your application and identify the deficits. The only thing worse than not being accepted, is to turn around the submit the same application the next time your apply. You can’t improve your application unless your first identify the areas that need improvement. So, where were your deficits: a poorly written personal statement, poor undergraduate grades, less than stellar MCAT score? Inadequate shadowing experience? Poor interviewing skills? Whatever it was, luckily, it can be remedied, but only if you identify it. It’s ok if you find that there are multiple areas where your application could be improved.



Oftentimes people talk about a gap year, but what it really turns out to be is a few years. Remember that the application for professional school is usually submitted 1 year prior to starting classes, so if you planning to reapply for the 2017 entering class you would need to submit your application this summer, which means you don’t have much time to make a lot of improvements. If you have every had a one on one meeting with me, you know I’m all about the timelines. I love timelines because they give a guide as to where you need to be, what you should be doing when. The challenge with the prehealth path is that there is a lot of pre-planning. For eg: summer plans are not made in the summer, they are researched in Nov/December, applied for in January, accepted to in March/April. If you wait till the spring to start thinking of what you’re going to do for the summer, you will find that lots of deadlines for research and enrichment programs are closed. Same for application season. Planning to take the MCAT in August, means your set a light spring semester schedule in Nov/Dec, so you can have time to study during the spring semester. So, if you are planning to reapply and join the 2017 entering class, your timeline will look like this:

March 2016: Launch plan B, since I didn’t get accepted this year

March 2016 – July 2016: Fix whatever deficit there was on my application that played a role in me not being accepted

August 2016: Reapply to medical school

August 2016 – December 2016: *Work. Complete secondary applications

December 2016 – Feb 2017: Interview for medical school

Feb 2017 – May 2017: Sort through my acceptances for medical school and pray about which to go to J

August 2017: Start medical school.

The most important part of this timeline is in bold. March 2016 – July 2016 is NOT that much time and so the deficits you noted when you gave an honest assessment of your application may not be able to be overcome in that short space of time. So, your gap year, goes from being a gap year to a gap 2 years. That is perfectly OK. Realize that many students end up taking 2 years before they start medical school, because one year is spent improving the application and the other is spent going through the process of applying, interviewing and getting accepted. The time in between undergrad and medical school doesn’t really matter. What matters is, is your application better the second time around. Do not reapply until your have crafted a more competitive application.

So what are your options?  Your options depend on where your deficits are.

Poor MCAT score:   Set up a detailed study plan now and prepare to take the test in August. Only do this if you will be able to devote sufficient time daily and more time on weekends to really study. If you aren’t ready to employ a hardcore study schedule, or your class schedule doesn’t permit you to devote much time to specific MCAT studying then defer your plans to start with the 2017 entering class. There is no use to retake the MCAT if you will not have adequate time to prepare well to ensure a better score. This is not the time for blind optimism. Be honest with yourself. MCAT prep takes time. If you don’t have the time, don’t plan to take the test this summer just so you can try and reapply for the entering class of 2017. If you will have time to employ a hardcore schedule, also consider taking a commercial MCAT prep course. They are expensive but can be extremely helpful if utilized appropriately, in conjunction with adequate personal study! You could enroll in the online courses available now, or plan to study on your own for the test of the school year and take a classroom course in your home town this summer.

No shadowing: Contact your home church and see if there are any doctors who will let you shadow. Contact your physician of physician of your parent and see if they will let you shadow. Shoot me an email and I can try and reach out to a physician I may know in your hometown to try and help make a connection. Contact your local hospitals and see if they have job shadowing programs – more offer this program than you think!

Poor undergraduate GPA: Retake some classes. Enroll in a post bacc program for academic improvement.

No research experience: Look for research assistant positions at local universities for full time work, you can participate in after graduation. Research summer research programs, there may still be a few that have deadlines in March.

Poor interviews: Your application was enough to get you interviewed but somehow you ended up with no acceptances. Practice mock interviewing with faculty members, family members in the summer.

Poor personal statement: Have your statement reviewed by faculty, family members, professionals. Consider revamping it if it reads like a resume and simply lists all the things you’ve done in your undergrad years. Read the following posts on the components of a strong personal statement



Finally, don’t give up. Your dream is still in reach, you just gotta work for it. Applicants who need to apply more than once have the same potential to be successful. Like this student.  Allison applied 4 times! Antonio applied 3, and is now in one of the most competitive specialities. IT.IS.POSSIBLE. Know that you are not alone. During the 2015 – 2016 cycle, almost 31,000 people were right where you are now: moving one step closer to medical school by learning from their mistakes and working to develop a more competitive application.

Good luck, keep the faith and know that the plans God has for you, He will bring to fruition in his time!   You are right where you’re supposed to be



Summer Programs

November 7, 2015

There is no such thing as a “free” summer if you’re a prehealth student.   All your free time from freshman year till your graduation should involve some sort of activity that can accentuate your application for professional school.

Options for summer include:

  1. Shadowing
  2. Research
  3. Volunteering
  4. Health related work experience
  5. Enrichment programs

Guidelines for exploring summer opportunities

  1. Going home and doing nothing or nothing clinical is not an option.
  2. Most of these opportunities include a stipend, and room and board.
  3. Doing research / enrichment programs shows a commitment to healthcare and that you’re actively seeking opportunities to learn more / participate in your future career.
  4. Apply to 5 – 7 programs.
  5. Some of these lists are tedious, but stick it out, check out some programs and actually apply to them! A good approach for lists that are extensive is to sort by location. Look at institutions in your home state / city.  Another approach is to look at schools that you may be interested in going to for professional school.

 Research Programs

Extensive list of opportunities.  Divides opportunities by areas of interest. Includes dental programs

Another already compiled list of tons of programs. Organized by state. Enjoy J

Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

Links to many programs across the country.

2015 List but some of the links are active for the upcoming summer.

Links to several summer programs across the country. Beware that a few links are outdated, but most are active.

NIH research opportunities

EXTENSIVE list of opportunities. A good way to approach this list is to first scan by location.  Look at institutions in your home state / city.  Another approach is to look at schools that you may be interested in going to for professional school.  This list also includes industry opportunities / organizational opportunities as well.

Enrichment programs

This is link to the AAMC summer enrichment program database. It is searchable by education level, state, and program focus.

Volunteer / Medical / Clinical

Volunteer medical programs abroad

Dental Programs

Not the only list what includes programs for dental school, but it’s a great one to start with.


June 2, 2015

Coming up for air after a long hiatus!  We had an electronic hiatus but face to face meetings with students definitely picked up over the past 3 months and as a result, online posting fell to the wayside.  Definitely plan to work on that for upcoming busy periods.   Look forward to continuing to provide valuable content as you journey towards becoming a healthcare professional.

Personal Statement Tips

February 26, 2015

Writing a personal statement for professional school can be a daunting experience. This article will offer key tips on drafting a personal statement that displays your strengths and uniqueness.

How to Start?

Just start! The writing process will require multiple drafts. Begin by writing whatever comes to mind as it pertains to your application process. As you continue to write, your ideas will become more focused and you will be able to add and delete what you do and do not want to use.

Get to the point. Admissions will read thousands of personal statements. Do not bore them with flowery language and nonessential details or stories. You can always start with explaining why you are pursuing this area of study or a pivotal experience that pushed you in the career you are pursuing.

What are admissions committees looking for?

Most schools use your personal statement to understand who you are as a person and who you will be as a future professional. Schools especially look for examples of leadership, overcoming obstacles, areas of interest, and commitment to society. Think carefully about your experiences and only discuss those experiences that portray you positively. It may help to review your resume and next to each experience categorize it was “leadership”, “community service”, etc. Then use your resume as an outline to help you draft your statement.

What should I put in my personal statement?

Your personal statement should highlight your unique qualities and your ambitions for the future in your career. Use your resume/CV to guide your writing. Think about experiences that changed you as a person, solidified your decision to pursue this career, or particular areas of interests. Remember to always answer the ‘Why’. Why do you want to be a doctor? Why did a particular experience make you a better person? Why is helping others important to you? Include research experiences, poster presentations, involvement in organizations/clubs. Do not simply state that you were involved in various experiences be sure to explain how the experiences have shaped you as a person.

Lastly, always, always have someone read your statement and offer feedback.


Natalie Blake, B.A. English, M.A. English Education, offers consultation on writing and editing personal statements and essays. She has assisted clients who have been accepted to Nursing, Medical, Dental and Law Schools. For more information on services, email:

Jessica Malcolm – Alumni Interview

February 22, 2015

Over the past 2 weeks, we’ve discussed the pros of the gap year and outlined some of the things students can do in the time between completing their undergraduate studies and starting professional school. Today, we have a real life gap year story 🙂  Jessica Malcolm MS1 talks candidly about her experiences with applying to professional school and what she did during her gap year. Hope you find the information valuable.  Also check out previous posts regarding the gap year.


Biography Photo


HealthOU: What year did you graduate from Oakwood?

JM: I graduated from Oakwood in 2013.

HealthOU: What were your academic goals / aspirations  (career plans) upon starting college?

JM: Prior to starting at Oakwood, I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do.  I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that involved building long-term relationships with many people. Looking back, I also remember feeling like God was leading me towards some kind of career in the medical field. I knew that Oakwood had a great pre-med program and that became one of the main reasons why I decided to attend.

HealthOU: Did those goals change at all?  How so?  What were some of the factors that led to those changes?

JM: They did not exactly change but instead, became more solidified. While I was at Oakwood I looked in to a number of different careers but soon decided that I wanted to become a doctor. I looked into nursing, bio-medical research, accounting, physical therapy, and engineering to name a few. At first, I looked into these fields because of my own curiosity. Later on in college, I started to look into other fields because I did not do well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT.)

The first time I took the MCAT, I did not commit to studying as long and intensely as I should have. As a result, I did not do well. To make matters worse, after getting a poor score, I applied to 2 schools very late in their application cycles. (I mean “the day that their application closed” type of late.) Needless to say, I did not get in that year. That failure was very difficult for me to deal with. I took that failure as a sign that God no longer wanted me to become a physician and I started looking into other careers.

The more I looked into other fields, the more I realized that I wanted to become a physician. So I prayed and fasted about it, and God sent the right people in my life to propel me towards medicine. After my senior year, I decided I would work as hard as I could to get into medical school. I then decided that if it did not work out, I knew that was not the career door that God wanted me to go through.

HealthOU:What was your academic / professional path after Oakwood?

JM: When I left Oakwood, the first thing I did was to pray and spend time reading the Bible. I did this to draw nearer to God and see the direction He had for my life. After that, I did my best to get into medical school. For about two and a half months I did nothing but study in the library with a few MCAT resources and a good friend.

After I took my exam, I started working to help pay for my application and living expenses.  I also volunteered in a research lab at a medical school (about 10 – 20hrs a week) to help keep myself connected to science. (I also knew that medical schools love to see research on your application!) On weekends I would volunteer at  my church and in the community.

HealthOU: What are you doing currently (professionally)?

JM: I am currently in my first year of medical school at the University of Connecticut (UCONN.)

(By the way — UCONN really likes Oakwood graduates. I strongly encourage all science majors to apply for their Medical, Dental, and Graduate programs!)

HealthOU:What are you future professional aspirations?

JM: I am very interested in pursuing a career in Primary Care. I am currently looking into Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

HealthOU: Were there any resources or websites that you found helpful as you explored different options for your career?

JM: Yes! The following resources I used were incredibly helpful:

  1. The Bible. – It helps connect you with God, who will direct you towards the career He has planned for you. It is also full of encouragement!
  1. The teachers at Oakwood. – They are so willing to help! They also have many contacts in different careers that you can speak with and even shadow.
  1. Student Doctor Network – – Which is full of medical resources.
  1. This blog. I really enjoyed reading it. It is also full of resources and encouragement from your peers.
  1. Missionary Orthopod in the making. – – A blog of an Oakwood grad thoughout his entire journey from applying to medical school to his residency.

Career Advice – – Specifically this article. I strongly recommend it to everyone who is struggling with what they want to do in life.

HealthOU: Can you give a timeline from the time you first took the MCAT to when you actually started medical school.

  1. Here is the timeline of everything I did:

August, 2012 – I took my first MCAT in the summer following my Junior year.

Nov/Dec 2012:  Applied to medical school.  Did not get accepted**

May, 2013 – I graduated from Oakwood.

July, 2013 – I took the MCAT for the second time.

August, 2013 – I submitted my AMCAS application.

August/ early September, 2013 – I started volunteering in a research lab.

August, 2014 – I started medical school

HealthOU:What advice would you give to a student who is currently where you, facing a gap year before starting medical school?

JM: At the beginning of my gap year, I can I vividly remember feeling like a failure. Most of my classmates were headed to graduate school or to medical school and I was not. I had to make a decision as to which direction I wanted to go in – graduate school or medical school. So I prayed, spoke with a lot of people, did some shadowing, and decided to pursue medicine. I put together a plan about how I would tackle my gap year. Even though I had a plan in place, it definitely was not an easy year. I can remember cringing at the anticipated question… “So what are you doing now that you’ve graduated from Oakwood.” But looking back, I am so happy that God allowed me to go through that experience! It was a period of growth both spiritually and mentally.

I would definitely advise other students to put together plans A, B, and C before they graduate! Do some reflection about the career they want to enter and find a way to set themselves up toward that path. If their goal is medicine and their grades are low, I suggest they find a post-bacc program to enroll in. If their grades are high, try to do some research or engage of some kind of clinical experience. But they MUST do something, it is vital to stay active!

Also, I would like to tell students to not let go of their dreams out of fear. The fear of failure is often worse than actually failing. If you humble yourself and do your best, God will take you to heights you’ve never imagined. I can often remember wondering what I would do if things did not go according to plan. However, during those rough points I would pray and cling to the promises in God’s word. If you give your all in pursuit of your dreams, trust that God will open the doors you are supposed to go through. He did it for me and He will do it for you too!


**Added by HealthOU for clarity


Jessica Malcolm is a 2013 graduate of Oakwood University. She was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica but grew up in Massachusetts. Jessica is currently a first year medical student at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Her favorite bible texts are: Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:19. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, cooking, swimming, and spending time with friends and family.

What to do during your gap year – Part 2

February 18, 2015

Earlier this week, we talked about the gap year and the fact that in most cases it’s not really a year at all.  Sometimes taking the necessary steps to cover deficiencies in an application may mean starting professional school 2 years later than a student had anticipated.  Like we’ve stated earlier this month; the gap year/s is not the worst thing ever.  If making the changes to take you from being an applicant to a matriculant takes 2 or 3 years it was time well spent.

The things that follow are all things you can do to augment your application. You are basically seeking to fill the deficiencies that may have played in a role in you not being accepted or in making the decision to delay your application.


  1. Post Bacclaureate (post-bacc) Programs

These are programs specifically designed to improve applications for professional school.  These programs cater to those with a less than stellar academic  ( science) record or to those who were not science majors).


Some of the things to keep in mind with post baccalaureate programs are:

– Post-bacc programs cost money

– Some programs offer guaranteed interview at the host medical / dental school

– Post-bacc programs offer academic support to boost academic record

– Some focus on test prep

The key is to know what your program is tailored to. A post bacc program can be rigorous, making time for adequate MCAT / DAT test prep difficult. So you may find yourself needing to sit out two years. I know, I know, that sounds like a scary thought, but trust me its not that long in the grand scheme of the many academic years you have ahead of you J

AAMC Post-bacc Database. Searchable database by location or type of program


  1. Shadow

Set up consistent and regular shadowing opportunity. Ask health professionals at your church or in your family. Check local hospitals and see if they have a shadowing program. This won’t necessarily be easy to do but you have to be persistent and you will eventually find someone willing to let you shadow them.


  1. Mission Work

Remember to consider when you are planning to start medical school before you go overseas. Interviews for medical school usually occur during October/Nov/December/ of the year BEFORE you plan to enter. So, if you are hoping to start professional school in August 2017, you would be doing interviews in October – December of 2016 and January/February of 2017; and so being abroad during that time may make interviewing a challenge.


  1. Work in a health related field

Job options include a scribe, unit clerk/ secretary, phlebotomist


  1. Pursue research

Research is not just limited to the summer. There are opportunities to work in a research lab for an entire year or longer.


Feel free to email me at to discuss your individual options. Planning for a gap year can be stressful, but HealthOU is here to help!

Stay tuned for our alumni profile for the month, a gap year success story 🙂



AAMC: What to do during my gap year

International Internship and Gap Year Opportunities (Calvin College)

Benefits of taking a medical gap year

What to do in your year off

Premed Gap Year

What Princeton Premeds did during their Gap Year