“PA school cannot be done alone.”

Chris-Dirda-bannerI heard some variation of this phrase throughout my application process – during admissions lunches, from current students and from practicing providers. Prior to PA school I was usually a pretty independent person when it came to studying, and I took this to reflect on changing these habits to adopt a more group-study focus.

Six months into the program I found that this saying had a much broader meaning than I originally thought. I found that I had to rely on my family more than I could have even anticipated. For example, some nights before tests I’m not home until well after my wife and child are asleep. And my wife took a big risk in quitting her job and moving to a city where she had no connections. It was, and continues to be, difficult for me to ask them to make the sacrifices they do, but I know I could not make it here without them.

Beyond family, I found that I’ve needed my classmates more than I ever did in undergrad. By spending such an incredible amount of time with these people they became intimately involved in my life. Outside of studying, we commiserate, vent, blow off steam, explore Portland and have gotten to know each other well. Classmates regularly scheduled activities and get-togethers, especially after major hurdles in the program, and many turned out for them. The other day I thought about what an amazing job the admissions committee did in choosing our class. It really made all the difference in getting through these first few quarters.

For future PA students, or anyone in related programs, my advice would be to really get to know your classmates and spend time outside of class with them. It will be almost impossible to avoid doing this given the nature of these intense programs anyway, and it will make the time that much more enjoyable. If you do have family joining you through the experience, thank them regularly for the sacrifices they make to support you.