Thursday, March 31, 2011

So it begins...

I mailed off a check and a signed piece of paper Monday which will, when it arrives at its stated destination, make me a very official, and very real member of the 2013 class of Duke’s Pathologists’ Assistant program.

I went up to Chapel Hill/Hillsborough this past weekend to apartment hunt because I like to have things settled far, far in advance. I’m on the waiting list for three different apartment complexes and will live in whichever one calls me first and says there is an opening. I need to get living arrangements sorted out so I can get the kids signed up for school/records transferred etc.

Ah, I guess I should also mention I have kids?

Perhaps an introduction is in order?

I’m Tammy, currently 30, married to Robert, mother to Mercer and Myles and owner to Max Power the super large fluffy creature we call a dog. I graduated from Clemson University with a BS in microbiology in 2007 and have been working for a large pathologist’s group for the past three years as a surgical grossing* tech (2:30pm-11pm). I really enjoy what I do and I wanted to take it farther, which is why I applied to PA programs (or actually just the one, but I had to apply twice for reasons I’ll get into later. Er, later in the blog, not later in this particular entry since I am writing this in the wee hours of morning I’d like to go to sleep eventually).

Anyway, brief introduction now over, I should mention the children are moving with me. The husband is not since he can’t telecommute and we would have to sell our house in the next four months, which is unlikely given the current market condition (two houses directly to our left for sale, the two to our right are for rent). However, my dad is moving with us, which means he goes from couch potato retiree to semi-active soccer grandpa (except we call him Lolo because my mom is Filipino and that’s what you call grandparents in Tagalog) and assistant kid-minder. I was touched and surprised that my dad was willing to uproot himself and move 5.5 hours away from my mom and his home of the last two decades to be there for me while I am in school. My mom has always been very vocal about her willingness to do whatever she can to help her kids but it is nice to know that when it comes down to it my dad is just as committed. I just have to feed him and provide high speed internet so he can stream the view instantly options on Netflix.

I know I am not the traditional student, but I still thought it would be useful to blog about this experience. I know the first year is busy, but I will try to make time to keep this updated since there are med, dental, vet and physician assistant student blogs but only one other pathologists’ assistant student blog that I found. The author just started his classes at West Virginia University in January, so different program, different gender, different professional background, and wildly different opinions about the GRE**.  For now, I think that’s a decent start, I got the basic information out of the way at least.

*I was going to link to the wikipedia article about gross examination but it is fairly spartan. Essentially I describe tissues taken from people or animals and then submit portions for processing for microscopic exam, which is actually much more interesting than it sounds.

**The author apparently studied a great deal for the test and then got into a program which didn’t require it and feels his time was wasted. Perhaps it was. I didn’t study for it; although, I did take a practice test a few weeks before I took the actual one. However, if you are intending to apply to PA school and you don’t want to take it, just be aware that it is not required for all programs.


  1. I guess I should mention that the three entries posted today were written over the past few days and not all just written at once.

  2. Hi! I stumbled across your blog when I searched up "pathologist's assistant statement of intent" that had led me to, and then your blog. I'm applying this cycle, and I'm quite scared since my GPA ain't that great (2.75 overall, going to be a senior in undergrad this fall), although I'm hoping that the brand-name of "UCLA" would have wee bit more weight, haha... Anyway, I was wondering if you have any advice for the applications cycle, especially for Duke. I've been shadowing other PathA's quite frequently so I'm hoping that my letters of rec and personal statements will help pull some of the weight caused by the horrible GPA.

    I'm quite stumped as to what to write for my Statement of Intent.... =/ Do you have any suggestions as to what I should include (or what you had written about)? Let me know, thank you so much!

    1. Have you taken the GRE yet? I think when your GPA is lower it is much more important to have a really competitive GRE score (from what I've heard 1200 is the low end of what most programs like to see for any applicant).

      It might also be worth it to go ahead and plan to take some non-degree graduate level science classes after you graduate (I'm not saying it is impossible for you to get in on your first application cycle, just that it is harder and having those classes will help with reapplication immensely!).

      You can also email the program directors of programs you are interested in directly and ask them what they think would help with your application. It is useful both because it gives you direct feedback about what you need to work on and shows them that you are dedicated to trying to get into PA school.

      I really can't help you with your statement of intent since it is usually a narrative from your own life experiences. How did you find out about the profession and why does it appeal to you enough that you want to pursue it as a career? What lessons did you learn from your previous academic struggles that will help you through graduate school, and why Duke's program rather than one of the others? It is very personalized...

  3. Thats cool that you are from Greenville. I grew up in South Carolina. Greenwood South Carolina to be exact!! And I am applying to PA school I applyed to University of Maryland and Duke but I was not accepted due to my low GRE score. But I did get an interview at WVU. Even though WVU does interview the majority of there applicants. I hope I stand out!!

    1. Ah cliff hangers! So how did you do? Sorry i dont mean to be nosey just feeling anxious with the whole app process

  4. Hi. I hope you get notifications when someone comments on your old posts! I'm in the process of applying to PA schools and it's incredibly difficult to find resources out there, so I was wondering if I could pick your brain. I graduated from UNC in 2011 with a BA in Biology but only had a GPA of 2.3. From there, I went to pastry school and recently started a nursing program in an attempt to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (maintained a full-time job while in school the second time and had a 3.75 GPA). I got a job as a grossing tech and have been doing that for a little over a year. It's just solidified my desire to be a PA, but my lower GPA has been a hindrance to getting accepted. Do you have any advice on how to make up for that? Thanks!