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Monday, January 20, 2014

Introduction

Hello,

My name is Paul Alexander Gonzales, and I am currently a Physician Assistant Student living in Dallas, TX. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, but my family is originally from a little town outside of Austin called Lockhart, the BBQ capitol of Texas. I am the second to youngest of 5 biological siblings, but I have 2 half sisters that are also older than me. I started PA school on May 19th, 2014 at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. I previously worked for St. David's Medical Center in Austin, Texas while attending the University of Texas at Austin. While there, I worked on attaining my bachelor of science in biomedical engineering. During undergrad, I also did lots of volunteer work for many organizations on and off-campus, including working for Austin State Hospital. While at ASH, I worked for the education rehabilitation facility where we would hold focus groups for patients that used drugs and developed mental disorders (such as schizophrenia) or had mental disorders and used drugs to cope with them. I learned a lot about mental health and the lack of resources in the state of Texas. It fostered a desire for me to want to pursue mental health, such as psychiatry or neurology, which is why I eventually found myself at St. David's. At St. David's Medical Center, I was a patient care technician, which is similar to a CNA, but we are trained on-the-job, and is how I originally was introduced to the physician assistant profession. After working in the ICU and Neurology units for about 2.5 years, I decided to shadow a PA & physician at Scott & White (now Baylor Scott & White) Hospital in general surgery. I was able to see the differences between the physician and PA, but also see their team-work and how their relationship meshed so well together so that they could get work accomplished much faster and efficiently. I also was able to see them both act together in clinic and in surgery, so it was a really nice dynamic that I'm not sure most people get to see anywhere else. Before entering PA school I also was a private mathematics tutor for many years, and eventually I worked for Sylvan Learning Center the fall before PA school started. I had always wanted to teach children and I knew it would be my one opportunity to do so. Since this was a short-lived experience, I took a job with an artificial cervical disc company. While there I created presentations for physicians to present at conferences and wrote papers over the data we were receiving from the patients using our products. I basically learned a lot about degenerative disc disease and arthroplasty, and sparked my interest in neurosurgery. Now I am attending my dream school, UT Southwestern Medical Center, about 4 years later, and I am so happy I made the decision to come here. I love Dallas and I can't wait to become a physician assistant. I am currently in the clinical phase (5th semester) and will continue to update my blog after competing each rotation, beginning with pediatrics, psychiatry, and Ob/Gyn. I will graduate in December of 2016. This is my personal blog, and I will post about topics that I have read about in previous and current issues of PA professional, JAAPA, JPAE, and other articles I find online that may be helpful to Pre-PA students, current PA students, and practicing PA's. I hope you enjoy and let me know if you have any comments or questions for me.

37 comments:

  1. Your Blog is really helpful. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for reading! I appreciate the feedback!

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    2. Hey paul so this is crazy but i am from Lockhart too and wanting to attend UT SWs PA program, just wanted to say thanks for the info!

      Jonathan Coster

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    3. Paul, thank you for sharing your story. I know you will succeed and do well because I can sense your passion and motivation in the medical field.

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    4. Thank you both and best of luck on applying to PA school!

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  2. I have to say I wish i found this blog before I had my interview!

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    1. Thanks Anonymous! I hope you continue to find it useful throughout your journey.

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  3. Hi Paul,

    Really happy I found your blog, lots of useful information here, thank you for your hard work! I had a general question about UTSW PA program and wasn't sure where to ask. I currently work in Dallas and UTSW is my top choice program (I can dream haha). Could you tell me a little about what you found helpful during the application cycle for this specific school? Did you think they put more emphasis on GPA, HCE, etc.? Anything in particular they look for in their applicants? How are you liking the program so far? Thanks for any advice!

    - Alex

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    1. Hi Alex,

      First off, I encourage you to read this blog post about my first semester at UTSW: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/08/first-semester-at-ut-southwestern.html

      It's very detailed and I think a lot of your questions can be answered. Secondly, I don't think our school places emphasis on one part of the application versus another. They always talk about how when they chose us they were looking for the most well-rounded group of students they could find. Not necessarily all 4.0 students or not necessarily all students that had lots of volunteer work or HCE, etc. But instead, a mixture of all of that. In addition, your interview plays a huge role in your acceptance.

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  4. Hi Paul,

    I was really wondering if you could help me. I read your blog all the time and even favourite pages like "oh, this will help me in the future!" So first off thank you for making this information accessible to us. But I'm currently so very desperate, I don't even know where to turn. I wish I had roommates to talk to or even friends here that would just get it, but I don't anymore. You see, I entered my first year of UG in 09. I mean, I had dreams, I knew what I wanted and how I was gonna get there. But the summer going into my second year, I got in a pretty bad car accident, one that left me home for 3 years. By this time, everyone graduated. I even went back weeks after my accident and fronted to everyone like i could walk in a straight line with no help, I was wrong, came out with terrible grades and that's when I knew, girl, you have got to put your health before your career, what the heck is wrong with you. So fast forward to Sept. 2014, here I am, back at school feeling as alienated and lonely as ever. I am still in massive pain bc my family couldn't afford physio. My grades aren't stellar, I'm just trying to get out of here you know, can I be honest? This place just makes me so .. I don't know anymore. I've been reading forums today, you know, the ones that scream LOW GPA WILL I GET IN. And it looks like a no for me. I don't know where else to turn and what else to do. All i know is that i am not doing my undergrad again. I had hopes that once I graduate this year, I would go back home and kill those prereqs then apply, hopefully get accepted to my dream school (in Texas too!) but i'm just feeling super down and out because these forums are telling me "no, you won't." I know for a fact my gpa wont be great, but what if they see my prereqs next year are the opposite? Can you please offer a glimmer of hope, anything, I don't know who else to ask or where to turn, I'm literally alone here, literally unfortunately.

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    1. Hi Ayana, thanks for being a dedicated follower! I understand how you feel - many students feel stressed just like you do, although their situation may not be as circumstantial as yours. I'll put this quite simply, a GPA does not determine acceptance alone, however, it is important and you do need to prove somehow to admissions committees that you are academically ready for a graduate level PA program. If your undergraduate GPA does not show this, then you will have to show them another way. I am sorry if the answer you are looking for is an easy way out and that there is a school you can apply to that accepts people with low GPAs. There is not. PA school is challenging, it is competitive, and for good reason. If it is still what you want to do, then I would suggest after you graduate from undergraduate studies, look into a masters program or post-baccalaureate program. I have a blog post about them on here that talks about how you can improve your chances if you suffer from low academic performance, which seems to be the case. Also, performing well on your GRE and gaining hands on health care experience and shadowing experience will also aid your application in addition to quality recommendation letters. This is the key to getting into a PA program. I don't want to mislead you and let you think that applying to PA school is all about how well you do on the pre-requisites. Schools do not only care about those courses. They care about all of your courses and how well you have done since the beginning. They look at you holistically and they will take your situation into consideration if you talk about it in your PA narrative. Take time to read my blog post about the narrative.

      To answer your question - there is hope for people like you - to turn things around. You just need more time to prove yourself. Don't rush it, though. Be prepared to spend more time in another program (masters or post-baccalaureate) preparing for PA school. It will only help you in the long run. Remember - you'll need to do well in that program to show schools you are ready! So do well! Good luck Ayana.

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    2. Hi Paul,

      Thank you SO, SO much for the wonderful advice, i just got home a couple days ago from school and will be looking at Post-Bacc programs starting tomorrow. Merry Christmas, and thank you again :)

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  5. Hello Paul,

    First of all, I want to mention that your blog is great and I have gotten more information and a better picture of how PA school at UTSW will be. I recently interviewed and was accepted! I would like to know if you could help me find out what books and materials are needed for the summer. My mother in law wants to buy me a stethoscope and I have no idea what kind I need. Also, when I interviewed Vallery mentioned a way to get grant money from "Texas Comission...." Do you know about this or other ways to get grant money besides FAFSA?

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Maria,

      Congrats on your acceptance! I created a list of scholarships, grants, and fellowships for PA students here: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/private-scholarships-grants-and.html

      I will try to update the list.

      As for Valery, I'm not sure. The Texas Workforce Commission offers grants to 9-12th grade students. http://firstintexas.org/twc/

      Otherwise, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) offers grants to students that are eligible for them. Here is a list of all Texas state and federal Grant/scholarship programs available:
      http://www.collegeforalltexans.com/apps/financialaid/tofa.cfm?Kind=GS

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  6. Hey Paul, I was wondering, how did you get that job as a patient care technician? The fact that they train you on the job is very appealing. Was it a right place right time sort of thing, or a specific program you applied through? I'm asking because this would be a great opportunity for me given my time constraints and the exposure to healthcare it would give me. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Lara,

      I actually had a reference from a scholarship program that referred me originally, but I don't think having a reference is always necessary. It helped me get a job in the specific unit I wanted to work in. I hope this helps. Networking has great power and LinkedIn is a great resource for all PA hopefuls!

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  7. Hi Paul, I knew you back when you were still applying for PA school! I stumbled upon your page as now I am taking the PANRE. Just wanted to say thank you for creating this space for hopeful PA school candidates, current students, and certified PAs. You are a wealth of knowledge. Thank you for paying it forward and helping those who wish to one day follow their dreams as you have. Keep up the good work!!!

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    1. Hi anonymous,

      Thank you for reading and for your continued support. I definitely hope to continue this trend, connecting the dots for PA hopefuls everywhere.

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  8. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for your blog-it is full of very useful information! I am currently completing prerequisites for PA school. I was wondering if you had ever heard of a special pathway to becoming a PA for people who have their MBA? If so, where are those programs? I did not think such a pathway existed, but thought I would check. Thank you!

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    1. Hi anonymous,

      I have not, but if I hear about one, I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks for inquiring.

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  9. Alfredo Mier y LeonMay 17, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    Hi Paul, awesome information you display. I am a FMG with a particular profile, 60, interested in becoming a PA because my children are US citizens, live and study in the US and I want to be near them, and still do what I love to do. What would be your advice about my chances of achieving my goal and places where to apply for?

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    1. Hi Alfredo,

      I actually really appreciate that you want to practice as a PA because of your love for medicine. I'm sure with your experience, if you had the right grades in the prerequisite coursework, you'd be well accepted into a program. I think you'll have to do a little bit of research into what a PA is and make sure you understand the role of the PA as it is probably very different from what you've been used to as a FMG from another country. Shadowing a PA for a day would probably be helpful.

      I think if you're really motivated, which it appears you are, you'll have no problems getting in as long as your application is complete. See if there are PA programs in your area (or where you want to live/work) and then see what their prerequisites are and go from there. Good luck to you!

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  10. Hey, Paul -- I just came across your site. I am the creator of ECG Academy, which you mention in your list of valuable programs. I really appreciate your support! Please contact me at drnick@ecgacademy.com. Thanks

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  11. Hey, Paul! I'm not sure if you remember me, but it's Michelle Ko, the scribe from Presby Dallas ED. We worked together a couple times while you were doing your rotations there. I recently came to the decision that I'm going to apply for PA school, and I came across your blog while Googling things about PA applications! I had no idea you were such a successful blogger/writer!! I have yet to see all the posts, but from the few I have read, the blog is very helpful and I can tell you have put so much heart and time into it. Congratulations on all your achievements and best of luck with the PA life!

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    1. Hi Michelle! Of course I remember you! Thanks for reaching out to me and thanks for reading. I appreciate the positive feedback and I'm so thrilled that you've chosen the PA profession.

      Let me know if you ever have any questions or need any advice. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Google+

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  12. Hi Paul! Thank you for all the info that you offer! I wanted to know what the difference is between being a PA and a Physician, besides the obvious difference that one goes to PA school and the other goes to Med School. Thank you!

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    1. Hi chantal,
      I have a blog post about this topic, if you choose from the drop down menu under pre-PA!

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  13. Hello Paul,

    Thank you for creating this blog page. I thought to seek your advice. I have recently applied to several PA schools and simply waiting. I would like to continue preparing for PA school even in my waiting time (just in case I do not get in). Kindly what can I be doing?

    As new mom, I don't really have time to work (now) in a hospital or clinic, but I can render 2 days out of the house doing something. What kind of activities would you suggest to become a even more stronger applicant. I would really appreciate your help.

    Thank you, Mary

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    1. There are some medical assistant programs that aren't terribly long or you could look into becoming some type of tech. My best bet is to look and see what jobs are already open at nearby hospitals. See if they're jobs they can train you on-the-job (OTJ) or if you need a training program for them.

      It sounds like you need direct patient care experience, no? I would definitely look at my blog post on healthcare experience and see if any of those fit. If not direct HCE, maybe looking at becoming a scribe or a pharmacy tech would help? So many options! If you don't have volunteer work or shadowing, I would get those knocked out. You could also take on a leadership role in your community (can be anything, not necessarily healthcare related).

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  14. Furthermore, I will like to increase my clinical experience as I have a public health background. Are there any certificate programs that can be completed within some months that will give me the opportunity to gain clinical experience in a hospital or clinic?

    Thank you, Mary.

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  15. Paul,

    I am in the process of interviewing. Got rejected by 2 schools. Got wait-listed today by one and got 2 interviews at the end of the month. Any advice on how to nail these interview and get 'accepted?'

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    1. Here is a list of my interview tips, if you haven't already found them: https://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/03/physician-assistant-school-interview.html

      I apologize for my late reply. I was studying for my PANCE and needed time away from my blog. Best of luck to you! Never give up! Getting the interview is the hardest part.

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  16. Hi Paul! I am a recent graduate with a B.S. in health sciences. My cumulative GPA was a 3.25 and my science GPA was only about a 3.1 upon graduating. Currently I work full time as a scribe in primary care for a women's health practice, and am the first one they hired so I will be helping them build an entire scribe program and eventually become the chief scribe. I am looking to apply to PA school in about 2-3 years, but am feeling like I need to boost my GPA. I did extremely well in all my upper level science classes junior/senior year of college (almost all A's with some A-'s and B+s), but my first two years of college didn't do as well because I was not as good at studying. I got B's in anatomy and biology, and C's in my chemistry, physics and microbiology classes. I feel like it has to count for something that I got A's in classes such as neurobiology and immunology, but had C's in general chemistry and micro. I am not sure if i should retake all of my prerequisite courses, or just those that I got C's in. Any feedback you could give me would be awesome as I would like to thoroughly prepare within the next few years and hopefully get into PA school on my first try. Thank you!

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    1. Hi anonymous,

      Sorry for the late reply. I was studying for my PANCE and needed time away from my blog.

      For your specific case, I think its tough to determine where your weakest area of your application might fall. Yes, your GPA is on the lower side. Competitive would be above a 3.5 for both cumulative and science GPA. Having poor grades in your basic science coursework doesn't look good to schools that have students who received As in all of them, but that just means you'll have to prove to them that you can handle graduate level science coursework. Have you considered a post-bacc program or masters degree? I have blog posts on those.

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  17. Hi Paul, thank you for your blog posts they really have been helping me as I'm starting to think about applying. Just one question I have for you would be do you think that work as a neurophysiologist (which on requires a BS) would count as patient healthcare experience? I'm currently a surgical care tech (PCT in the OR) but I was considering changing my job temporarily until PA school while still building up hours. I know that each school is different and from what I can tell by the ones that come in the OR do have patient contact (inserting monitors and supervising the case), however the patient is asleep during it, therefore in my head it creates a gray area in terms of what may be acceptable. Thank for any input you could provide!

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    1. I'm not sure what all a neurophysiologist does, but if you are somehow monitoring patients and making clinical decisions, then maybe? Its always best to clarify this with the programs you plan to apply to. A surgical care tech should be counted as direct patient care experience, but again, I agree with you that there are some gray areas in medicine. I don't think the patient being asleep really has any bearing, but I could be wrong. Again, best to check with your programs. Good luck!

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