Paying for PA School without a Tube Top, Mini Skirt and Corner Real Estate

PA schools cost money, money that most of us don’t have to pay upfront so we join the ranks of the indebted and take out student loans. I am a bit of a forever student so it has become second nature for me to just sign on the dotted line. It seems like monopoly money once you hit six figure debt…
So is that it? Do we just take out private loans and pay them back at 8-10% interest over the next 25 years? Are there options to avoid the big financial dig? Yes. Read on.
1.Check local/national scholarships
Even if they are “small,” they help. $1,000 scholarship is worth much more if you consider the 8% interest rate over the 25 years it takes you to pay it off. Below are some that I have found or applied to:
Susan Vincent Scholarship (for ME residents only)
2. Check your institution.
Northeastern doesn’t offer any scholarships to their PA students, but they do offer a need-based PA Loan at a low interest rate. They also offer a “Double Husky” discount for those PA students that also received their undergraduate degree from NEU. This discount reduces tuition by 25%. Lastly, don’t limit your search to “PA” scholarships. Look for other scholarships based on your interests, heritage, gender, etc. At NEU I am aware of full scholarships available for African American and Latino graduate students studying any discipline. Ask around.
3. Military Service
This is not an option for everyone, but if you’re open to joining the ranks it can be a great option. What are the branches? Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. What are the options within each branch? Active duty or Reserve duty.
I have seriously considered this option and this is the information that I have been given and it may be personalized for me. If you are interested – I suggest talking to a recruiter to see what the newest “perks” are for signing up (sign on bonuses, loan repayment, etc).
Active duty means signing on the dotted line for 8 years (6 years active, 2 years possible recall). Typically if you go active there are bigger sign on bonuses and more money to either pay for school upfront or repay loans later. Reserve duty is 1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year unless you get called to duty. There are still sign on bonuses and loan repayment options but they are ever changing – contact a recruiter for the latest info.
4. National Health Service Corps – Scholarship or Loan Repayment
The Bare Basics-
The Scholarship: You apply it before school. If you are selected, it covers all of your tuition + some living expenses… in return you serve 2 years in an underserved environment of their choice.  GREAT option if you are flexible after graduation, not so great if you have a family or a significant other that can’t up and move to Montana for two years.
The Loan Repayment: Something you apply for once you are ready to start practicing. So you have already paid for school and if you are selected NHSC will repay up to $50,000 in exchange for 2 years of service.
If these sound interesting check out the site and READ THE FINE PRINT CAREFULLY.
5. Negotiate
This may or may not be an option for you but it is worth mentioning. When you are looking for a job after graduation consider trying to negotiate some loan repayment as part of your contract. Even if it $10,000 of repayment over 3 years. That is something.
There are many options out there to offset the cost of PA school. Be creative. If you know of any additional scholarships/grants I'd love to post them. Let me know.


Choosing an Elective Rotation.

So I am coming up on an exciting midpoint in my PA schooling… the transition from 1st to 2nd year! This means a switch from the didactic curriculum to the clinical – exciting stuff! At Northeastern we have nine 5-week rotations. Eight are required areas (Family Med, Pediatrics, Ambulatory, OB/GYN, Surgery, Psychiatry, Emergency Med, Inpatient Med) and the 9th is elective – meaning that you can pick which area you would like it to be in. For most soon-to-be 2nd years this is a tough decision because there are so many choices! Below are some things to consider when choosing your elective rotation:

Consider doing something that you may not have the opportunity to do again.
Think about international rotations. Many programs offer (or are at least willing to approve if you do the leg work) international rotations.
PROs: you are able to see the world, practice medicine without technology such as CT scanners and MRI machines so you will improve your hands-on clinical diagnosing skills, interesting pathology, and a chance to learn more about another culture
CONs: cost (most of the time your will responsible for your flight, program costs, additional medical insurance, and food), you will need to plan ahead – so that you have time to get immunizations, etc

Consider using it as a job interview.
Try to use it as a 5-week job interview. Five weeks is a good amount of time not only for them to see what you are capable, but also for you to see if that is a place that you could imagine yourself working. Remember – you are interviewing them too.
Consider using it to improve your comfort level.

Feel a little shaky in cardiology? Pulm? Onc? A rotation in that specialty will help you gain a better understanding of the material and thus increase your comfort level. Even if you plan on going into Primary Care – a better comfort level with cardio or pulm will be invaluable.

Consider using it to just try something new/different.

Know for a fact you will be working in pediatrics or orthopedics for the rest of your life? Maybe you want to take your elective rotation opportunity to work in something totally different like mental health or geriatric medicine just because you can.

Consider using it to just gain more experience.
Some of the current second years opted for a 2nd emergency or primary care rotation even though they will be entering a subspecialty after graduation just because of the diversity and volume of patients. More patients = more experience. As they said, “You can’t go wrong with more emergency care experience.” I agree.
I am leaning toward an elective in Neurosurgery or a 2nd Emergency Med rotation. More rotation suggestions once I start in Sept. Gotta make it through the summer semester first!


Kaiser Education Site: A Bookmark Must

There are some sites that you should just bookmark. The Kaiser Family Foundation is just one of those sites. You could quite literally spend days on the Kaiser education page and not even get through half of the tutorials, modules, and presentations.  If you have an interest in women’s health, HIV/AIDS, health reform, or minority health please do visit this site and sift through the tutorials. This is the place to look for the newest research and data on each of these subjects (plus many more topics such as Medicare/Medicaid, insurance, cost and spending, delivery systems, etc).
In addition, you can sign up for email updates (per day, week, or month) for your favorite subjects so you don’t have to continually visit the site. Kaiser Education Site


HMO, PPO, ABC, 123

Understanding the delivery system of health care is tough stuff. This entry is just meant to define some terms that every provider should know, but often this is not the case. As PAs will soon be practicing within these systems (or something similar)… and we should know what they are and basically how they operate.
HMO: Health Maintenance Organization
Basic Knowledge:
There are different models of HMOs (staff model, group model, and network model).
Staff models = providers are paid directly by the HMO.
Group models = the HMO pays the group and the group distributes the money to the providers.
Network models = the HMO pays providers in a network of groups

PPO: Preferred Provider Organization
Basic Knowledge:
An effort to supply health care services at a discounted cost by providing incentives for patients to staying “in-network,” but which also provides coverage for services rendered by “out of network” providers but at a higher cost.  

Hope this helps. Any questions? Feel free to ask. Knowledge is power. 

Information gathered from a lecture by Paul Gardent, MBA, CPA (The Dartmouth Institute)


Rx: Fun, prn

Alarm. Eat. Class. Class. Eat. Class. Study. Eat. Study. Sleep. Repeat. This is an easy schedule to find yourself keeping after you start school. You become a machine, a superhero of sorts. You will retain more than you ever though you could and you will also start to diagnose every person you see on the T or walking down the street. You won’t be able to shut it off. You will dream PA school. I promise you.
With all that being said, one of the keys to successfully completing PA school is the ability to have FUN. I am very lucky in that I have 33 wonderful classmates with whom I can let loose and laugh. 

Fun Class Photo with our T-shirts
Make plans, not just study dates, FUN dates! Below is a list of some fun things our class has done as well as some tips to help organize large group fun!
Blood Pressure Clinic @ Ruggles

We reserved a bar to celebrate finishing first semester. This was at 10:30am.

Fun Things:
1.     Meet up at our favorite local bar to watch sporting events
2.     Quick lunch dates between classes
3.     Class + Significant Other Meals (Thanksgiving!) – we had a potluck that was amazing!
4.     Secret Santa Gift Exchange
5.     Make T-Shirts!
6.     PA Bulletin Board
7.     Community Service Events
a.      Habitat for Humanity
b.     Soup Kitchen
c.      Sock Drive
d.     Blood Pressure Clinic
e.      Food for the homeless
f.       Toy Drive during Xmas
8.     Participate in National Service Month (April)
9.     Participate in National PA Week (Oct)
10.  Sign up for intramural sports (we had a volleyball team!)
11.  Work out together (We had a P90X ab Group for a while)

Habitat for Humanity - Boston

1.     Create an email list so that it is easy to send one email and contact everyone in the class (we used Google Groups)
2.     Use DropBox to share documents (sign up sheets for potlucks and class outlines)
3.      Be inclusive! Obviously you don’t need to invite everyone to everything, but its is just something to be aware of…
4.     Northeastern students feel free to contact me about discounted T-shirts. I have the insider information on how to get 40% off
5.     Include significant others in your plans if you can. We spend sooo much time together that they can feel left out – also its great to meet people’s better half!
6.     If you aren’t already signed up – try out Groupon.com or any of the group buying sites. They have great deals and maybe stuff that the group would like to do (whale watch, movie ticket discounts, concerts, etc)

Feel free to throw out your suggestions!Also, if you like the blog - sign up on left side for it to come straight to your email that way you won't have to visit this page. It will come to you!


Make Time for Service Activities

Life in PA school is busy. Perhaps the busiest you’ll ever be. Class 8-5pm Monday –Friday plus several hours of studying once you get home and on weekends leaves little time for much else… I understand the inclination to put service off until your schedule frees up a bit. In fact, that is exactly what I told myself… for the past 3 years. The problem was that “next year” was never any less busy than this year or the year before. I found myself just talking about doing community work, but not actually do it. I would hear about cool projects or fund raising events for diseases going on in the area and think, “Man, that’s so inspirational, but I just don’t have time right now to dedicate to a project like that.”

About a year and a half ago I was shifting at my Google calendar trying to find time to schedule a dental appointment and realized that I couldn’t fit it into my schedule for 6 weeks. 6 weeks! And then it hit me. I’m always going to be busy. Whether its school or work, I will never have an exorbitant amount of free time. So if I want to do community service, I just needed to make the leap and put it on the calendar. I needed to make a commitment.

After dabbling in some service projects here and there, I found The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. The mission of ASF is to develop leaders in service who are dedicated to addressing health needs in underserved communities. To be eligible for a Fellowship position you must be in a graduate program (PA school, nursing school, medical school, music or art school, etc). In other words, you must be in one of the busiest times of you life AND dedicated to service. It’s a perfect match, so applied. I was accepted as one of 25 Boston Fellows and I was thrilled. Other Fellows range from music majors at Berkley to medical students at Harvard to public health majors at Boston University. Each person has their own yearlong project (min. 200 hour commitment) to complete on top of their graduate studies. Its do-able. Over 200 Fellows from Boston have done it in the past. If you are interested in being a leader in service I highly recommend applying for the Fellowship or at least checking out their website.

I now have a network of Fellows with my passions to help motivate me when I feel like I just can’t do it anymore, which is unbelievably valuable. Oh, and did I mention there is a $3,000 stipend?

My Project:
I am addressing a lack of preventive care in Boston at a local high school by establishing free specialty clinics to be facilitated by Northeastern’s Physician Assistant students. These clinics will address the specific health needs of the student population and deliver related educational programming. My ultimate goal is to grow a continuous working relationship between the Edward M. Kennedy Academy and the Northeastern Physician Assistant program so that the adolescents may benefit annually from free preventive health care and education.

Life in general is busy, so if you are waiting for the magical time in your life when you have “more time” for community service- you may never do it. Incorporate service into your life now, while you’re in school. If you can handle it while you are in school, you can definitely handle it later. Get involved in your community. Find something you are passionate about… homelessness, childhood obesity, nutrition, physical fitness, recruiting future PA students from disadvantaged backgrounds, domestic violence… the list could go on forever. Find something that you care about and give some time.