Following seven years in Arizona, Jennifer and her husband moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now in the Navy Reserves, James is coincidentally an air ambulance pilot. Even though he transports patients from remote reservations and rural areas to specialist appointments and hospitals with higher levels of care, unlike Jennifer, he has no health care background.
There in New Mexico, Jennifer’s interest in one-on-one patient care continued to grow.
From the labs to the bedside
“I realized that I did blood work to help diagnose patients, but I really wanted to work directly with them and be more involved in their care and treatment, not just their diagnosis.”
She decided to take the physician assistant route, earning her degree from the University of Saint Francis in Albuquerque. During her five years as a PA, Jennifer spent two of those as a primary care provider in the Veterans Administration (VA) Health System, experience that prepared her for the next step in her career.
“Medical school wasn’t really on my radar until I was a PA. That path showed itself to me slowly as I became ready to expand my responsibilities and work with more autonomy,” says Jennifer, who admits that she first heard of OUM a couple of years before she applied, but initially put it on the back burner and went “back to PA world.”
When she began revisiting the idea of medical school, she looked into traditional medical school in New Mexico and a PA-to-DO program in Connecticut, but she was not ready for a cross-country move or to completely do away with her current life. Remembering OUM, she attended a Meet the Student webinar.
“That’s when I realized that there was a pathway for me. Here was someone who had actually done it and that got me excited,” Jennifer says.
The speaker at the webinar was Orla Weinhold, MD, just prior to her graduation in OUM’s Class of 2014. Jennifer later had the opportunity to meet Dr. Weinhold at her new student orientation in early 2016.
“Hearing from other students ahead of me in the timeline really helped my husband and I make my decision,” she says. “My husband is great. He’s my rock and he always says ‘we’re doing this as a team.’”