On January 13, 2021, Lynn Timko-Swaim, clinical associate professor and vice chair for the Physician Assistant Program at Stony Brook University, and a group of her first-year physician assistant (PA) students paused their rigorous study schedules to present for a group of local students at Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station, NY.
The one-hour presentation gave aspiring high school students an overview of the current PA program, the application process and the importance of beginning to build their professional experiences now while they are still in high school. They were joined virtually by about 30 high school students, half of whom signed on from their home computer. The high school students were very engaged and asked timely questions.
PA students took turns presenting about the ins and outs of becoming a PA at Stony Brook University and beyond. They openly shared their personal experiences as well as the realities of what their studies entail. Currently, they are in classes Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Although much of it is virtual, they will receive face-to-face experience during their practicum, which occurs during the second half of their education. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the group was eager to continue community outreach activities and embraced the idea of doing a virtual presentation in place of their regularly planned visits to local schools.
The Community Relations Office at Stony Brook University connected them with business teacher Anthony Ketterer from Comsewogue High School. He has recently been in touch with several SBU professionals to grow the high school’s career preparation program. Ketterer sets up his classroom like an office with meeting tables and cubicles and has his students take on typical company roles such as a CEO, accounting, human resources and sales. Under his guidance, students set up a business model and participate in what’s called “virtual enterprise.” He was eager to have SBU’s distinguished PA students share their personal journey and their perspective on achieving success.
Several of his students have future healthcare ambitions, but he also emphasized the importance of transferable skills and career readiness.” I tell them that whether you are interested in business, medical or whatever, communication, teamwork and study skills are all critical for whatever topic you choose,” said Ketterer.
Professor Timko-Swaim agreed, “When I get calls from employers asking about references for our PA students, they rarely ask me about their GPA. They ask me about communication skills, leadership skills and professionalism that could be for any career. Employers want to know they are hiring someone who is going to be on time, respectful and a valued member of their staff beyond just the PA profession.” These are essential skills that are embedded into the SBU PA program.
The virtual event participants had only positive things to say about the presentation. Each PA student was well-spoken, gave useful information and patiently answered all of the questions. “My students really enjoyed it,” said Ketterer. “They are already discussing a lot of what was presented to them.”
— Tamara Gregorian, HEA graduate student