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MCPHS student Rachael Sanders, MPAS ’19.

Student Spotlight: Rachael Sanders, MPAS

  • As a former athlete, Rachael Sanders, MPAS, understands how teamwork can make all the difference. In fact, it was her love of being part of a team that inspired her to pursue a career as a physician assistant (PA).

    “I thrive in scenarios and situations where I have a team to work with,” said Sanders. “As a PA, I will be able to make more decisions and be the leader of that team, but, if needed, I can still consult with a practicing physician. The level of independence for PAs is, in my opinion, the perfect balance between being autonomous and having someone to collaborate with on more complex scenarios.”

    This balance, combined with the ability to change specialties and work with a huge variety of patients, convinced Sanders she had found the perfect career match.

    Now in her first year of the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program on the Worcester campus of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), Sanders shares her insight into her field and the MCPHS community.

    What is your biggest piece of advice for someone who is considering earning an MPAS?

    Clinical experience is key. Getting hands-on experience not only helps you get your foot in the door of healthcare but also allows you to easily transition into school, helping you make correlations in the classroom.

    Why did you choose the MPAS program at MCPHS?

    First, I chose the MPAS program because it’s accelerated and will allow me to finish the program and begin practicing within two years. Second, the Worcester area was appealing because of the large diversity of people that I would be able to interact with. Finally, MCPHS has a large variety of well-established rotations for clinical year, as well as the ability to create new rotation locations for the PA students.

    What has most surprised you about the PA program?

    What has most surprised me about the PA program is how team-oriented it has been. The curriculum really challenges us to act as a team, instead of being competitive with one another. The PA class is supportive, and we rely on each other to succeed, not only in the classroom but outside as well. Furthermore, the professors are very personable and really try to get to know the students and help them in any way they can.

    How do your professors support you?

    The professors are very helpful and try to get to know you outside the classroom. They are always accessible, whether through email or discussion boards. They are always willing to have conversations with the students and give feedback on anything.

    Tell us about the facilities on campus. What are they like?

    My favorite place on campus is the study room on the sixth floor of Lincoln. It is wide and open, with lots of windows and a great view of the town. After sitting in class all day, it is nice to go up there and study. Our lab space is always open to us, which is nice because we can access the lab to practice our skills whenever we need to. The models in the lab help us visualize what we should be looking for when we are seeing a patient.

    What’s your favorite #MCPHSmoment?

    My favorite memory thus far has been watching our class come together to support a classmate in need. All 71 of the PA students came together in a time of need to uplift one of our fellow classmates, and it was amazing to see the comradery and the love of our small community.

    You had previous experience working as an intensive care unit (ICU) certified nurse aide before starting at MCPHS. How has this experience helped you in the program?

    Working in the ICU has helped me make clinical correlations in a didactic setting. I am able to draw conclusions about why a certain treatment would be given, or the mechanisms behind a disease. My experience has also helped me with my confidence in talking to patients and handling many different situations.

    What do you like about the Worcester campus and the city of Worcester?

    I like that all my classes are in one building; it makes everything very accessible. The campus is also great because you are exclusively with other future healthcare professionals from different concentrations. This is nice because it fosters collaboration early on. The city of Worcester is primarily a college town, which is great because there are many students around whom you can meet from different schools. The city is also in close proximity and is home to many large and well-known hospitals, which is helpful for clinical rotations.

    Tell us about SAAAPA. What is it like to be involved with this organization?

    SAAAPA is the Student Academy of the American Academy of PAs, which is the national organization for physician assistants. I’m very excited to have been elected to the executive board because this organization not only helps our class but also gives us exposure and participation on the national level and allows us to give back to the community through social outreach.

    Why did you choose to run for a leadership position within SAAAPA?

    I chose to run for a position on the SAAAPA board because I think it is important to foster collaboration with other schools and practicing PAs to help enhance our experience as students and future providers. I specifically wanted to run so that I could attend the national conference to help put MCPHS on the map and get the university’s name out to the PA community.

    Why do you recommend that students get involved with activities and projects outside the classroom?

    I think it’s important to have a balance between classwork and social life; especially with this program, you need to have excellent time management skills and an outlet so that you will not get burned out. In addition, collaborating with others on projects, whether community outreach or social gatherings, allows people from the different healthcare concentrations come together and form relationships.

    Why would you recommend an MCPHS education?

    MCPHS offers a great environment for future healthcare professionals because it offers multiple programs in the healthcare field. It is nice to be in a university devoted solely to educating future healthcare providers, and to have students who have similar goals and a similar drive as you.

    The School of Physician Assistant Studies at MCPHS, which offers Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) and Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (DScPAS) degrees, prepares graduates for meaningful and successful future careers as PAs. Students learn from the profession’s top educators in modern patient assessment laboratories with the most advanced technology available.