Physician assistant students learn ropes of their new program

PA students take turns climbing and rappelling at the ropes course located on the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus.

Cheers of encouragement, reassurance and optimism fill the sunny, hot July air at the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus ropes course. It is the final day of orientation week for the new Master in Physician Assistant Studies cohort.

Earlier in the week, the students had become familiarized with their new campus, professors and simulation rooms. They also donned their white coats for the very first time.

The Class of 2019 students are learning the ropes of working together through problem-solving and team-building activities, helping them form bonds that will carry them through the next 27 months together. There’s also a little friendly competition, and these students know about competition. To get here, this year’s 45 incoming students had to beat out a field of 1,400 applicants.

Chantal Clement, the program’s admissions coordinator, says they are obviously looking for students with strong science GPAs and high GRE scores, but direct patient-care experience is a key factor as is personality.

“The PA’s interaction is very personal with the patients,” Clement says. “You can have the science grades and be very academic, but be an introvert and it’s not the right field.”

For new student Sereen Mughrabi, physician assistant seems the right career choice. “I really hope to gain a better understanding of different people — their religions, races, cultures and personalities,” Mughrabi says. “The program is also good for my personal life. The length of the training and the flexibility once in the career are perfect for me since I hope to have kids and start a family of my own.”

And job prospects are good too. Last week, Kiplinger, the Washington D.C.-based publisher of business forecasts, listed physician assistant as one of the “10 Best Jobs for the Future” with a median annual salary of $98,869, and a projected job growth of 28.8 percent over the next ten years.