“You can’t be what you can’t see”

Kristina Stephenson

Kristina Stephenson, PA-s Class of 2023, OHSU School of Medicine

PA-s, Class of 2023
OHSU School of Medicine
Grew up in San Jose, Calif.
Attended Santa Clara University
Hope to practice: Emergency Medicine or Cardiology
Prior experiences: EMT, medical assistant, and morgue intern

Since my childhood, all I ever wanted to do was save lives. I grew up watching the reality TV show Dr. 90210 and seeing people insecure about aspects of their appearance suddenly have their lives changed via surgeries and having new found confidence. To me, this was magic, and I wanted to make it for others.

However, I struggled a lot in college. As a Black, first-generation student, I feared that asking for any help was confirmation that I did not belong there and these spaces were not meant for someone like me. Back then, my GPA was low and my confidence was shot. I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome and feeling like I was accepted by mistake.

I wanted my PA school experience to be different from undergrad, so I set a goal to prove myself wrong. It has been a difficult hurdle to overcome. In my life, I have had multiple barriers set forth in front of me to prevent me from getting to where I am now. Coming into PA school, I slowly had to push my insecurities aside. I repeatedly told myself that I was accepted for a reason. Someone on that admissions committee saw something in me. I needed to prove them right.

We are currently over halfway through our didactic year and my experience is so much more different than I initially expected. I have relied so heavily on my cohort. This experience is not one that you can get through alone. All 30 of us have such valuable experiences that have helped me grow, both academically and personally.

PA school is hard, no question about it. When I feel burnt out and wonder how I can get through certain parts of the curriculum I have to remind myself why I want to be here: To help my community, who historically has had a deep distrust of the medical field. To make my mom proud in return for all that she invested in me as a single immigrant mother who did everything possible for me to succeed in school. To help young girls who look like me to push through the doubt that others cast on us because of our skin color.

You can’t be what you can’t see. Only about 3 percent of PA’s are black. I want to join that number and expand the panel of options that patients can see and trust in. With this in mind, I remind myself that when things get hard, it doesn’t mean that I don’t belong, just that I have an opportunity to grow and work harder to achieve my dreams.

To anyone who dreams of being a PA, do not be afraid to ever ask for help. In learning this lesson, I have fully embraced my experiences here in PA school and Portland. I have grown so much as both a student and person. I am honored to be a part of the #Dirty30. I am constantly surprising myself with how much I have been able to learn in such a short amount of time. I have loved my PA school experience so far and can’t wait to see what is to come.

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