Ready for Action
First Cohort of Physician Assistant Students Graduate
Left to right: Myriam Luma, Avo Serafino, Marissa Mertens
May 3, 2018 — The Marist Physician Assistant (PA) Program will graduate its first cohort of students this month. After a 24-month intensive program, these newly minted health practitioners reflected on their time at Marist and shared news about next steps.
Program Director Kathleen Lill is extremely proud of her students. “The future is bright as they move forward into a profession where their opportunities are limited only by their personal goals and motivation,” said Lill.
Intense Experience, Plentiful Job Opportunities
Students spend the first year in the classroom taking a heavy course load that includes applied sciences, medical knowledge, clinical skills, and research methods. Following that, they work in nine clinical rotations that are five weeks each. During the rotations, students come back to campus every third Friday to work on hands-on skills, such as suturing or spending time in the simulation lab.
“My experience in the program was phenomenal,” said Tim Bangert. “The didactic year was intense. It involved a lot of coffee and not enough sleep,” he joked.
The intense pace pays off: job prospects for physician assistants is strong. Since 2006, the profession has grown by 34 percent, with more than 6,000 new PAs graduating and entering the workforce each year. Today, PAs can be found practicing medicine in primary care, as well as medical and surgical subspecialties throughout the U.S. “Our PA students are trained in a myriad of clinical environments and learn to work as contributing members on a variety of interprofessional healthcare teams,” said Lill. “This creates tremendous possibilities for our graduates, as they are confident of their role, competent in their skills, and as comfortable as they can be stepping forward into their profession and practicing in their chosen fields.”
“It was an awesome experience. I did my undergraduate work at Marist and loved it here, so the bar was high,” said Marissa Mertens ’15. “But this program was even better. The support in the PA Program is incredible.” Mertens is headed to Kingston Hospital, where she will work in the emergency room. For her, it will be like going home. “I did my first clinical rotation in the Kingston ER, so this is very exciting for me.”
Emergency medicine is a strong area of interest for the class of 2018. “My interest in helping people and in medicine aligns with emergency medicine,” said Avo Serafino. “In the ER, you must know how to identify life-threating situations and how to stop or reverse those conditions. As a practitioner, you have to stay updated on different modalities of care as well.”
For Myriam Luma, emergency medicine is appealing because of the teamwork it entails. “When you work in the ER, everyone is involved. And you meet the trauma team. A cardiologist will come in as needed. You learn on an ongoing basis from these specialists, and their expertise makes you better at what you do.”
Caitlin Albano is on a different path. She took part in two family medicine electives while in the PA Program that really helped crystallize her area of interest. “I want to help people keep their health on track. That’s why I love primary care and pediatrics. I also like the idea of being in an office setting and forming relationships with patients,” Albano explained. “I do think people underestimate the importance of primary care.”
Samantha Calabro ’13 is heading to Queens to work in an emergency room as part of an 18-month fellowship. The fellowship will allow Calabro to continue her education while getting valuable work experience.
Others in the Class of 2018 are open to various opportunities. “I’m interested in so many things—pediatrics, women’s health, emergency care. The great thing about being a PA is that you are not locked into any one field,” said Mary Kate Mineman, who’s from Chicago. “Geographically, you can go anywhere and I’m open to that.”
Alexis D’Aloisio is interested in working in a neo-natal intensive care unit or in-patient pediatrics. “I have really enjoyed my time here. My clinical rotation at Vassar Brothers Medical Center was great, and I’m excited for what’s ahead.” D’Aloisio is willing to go to where the best opportunity is, noting that she has gone on interviews from “Danbury to Delaware.”
Karen Kaytes decided to pursue her PA degree after raising two children and volunteering as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for 20 years, so she’ll be working close to her home in Warwick, New York in either emergency medicine or urgent care. She’s excited to use her training but says, “I’ll miss this caring community of professors and classmates.”
Amazing Facilities, Amazing People
Many of the students cited the program’s newness as part of what appealed to them. Administrators and faculty were high-energy and excited to be part of a new enterprise. Marist’s Allied Health Building, which opened in 2016, features a simulation laboratory with manikins and a gross anatomy lab.
“The facility is state-of–the-art and jaw-dropping,” said Kaytes.
Serafino agreed. “The tour sold me,” he explained. “I visited from California and when I arrived in the Allied Health Building, I knew I wanted to be here.”
“Everyone has been so supportive,” said Luma. “Faculty bring recruiters to campus, and they helped with my job and fellowship applications.”
“Ultimately the people involved are what make a program great,” said Serafino. “And the people at Marist are amazing.”
As the students prepare to head out into the world as healthcare professionals, they are managing a range of emotions. “I feel well-prepared,” said Mertens. “I’m a little scared, of course, but I do think that’s part of being a good provider. My education at Marist has prepared me for this.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Kaytes. “This is what I’ve been working toward for two years, but I’m going to miss these wonderful people.”
Serafino, Luma, and others note that the students formed strong connections with each other in part because of the intensity of the course work. “We have special bonds,” said Mineman. “As classmates, we know what we’ve been through in a way no one else can understand. My friends here have been so supportive.”
“It was an intense program, but it needed to be. A good foundation is necessary for this work,” said Serafino. “Our challenges don’t stop here. They are just beginning.”