Celina Ayala
Physician Assistant, Ranch View Family Medicine
Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, 2007

I work as a physician assistant (PA) at Ranch View Family Medicine in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, which means that I am a mid-level provider and work in primary care.  I work under the supervision of a practicing physician, but I get to work independently and on my own—I treat diagnose and provide prescriptions to my patients each day.  As I look at my day tomorrow, I already have 14 patients, plus will have additional patients added on.  Each day, I go in and see my patients—everything from the common cold to chronic disease like high blood pressure and diabetes. I love my role as a physician assistant, because I don’t have to worry about the business aspects like a doctor, I get to focus full-time on care of my patients.  And, my doctor is very respectful of me, she asks my opinion too.  We are very much a team.
Day in and day out, I feel like I am making a difference.  I am building relationships working with whole families—kids, their parents and grandparents.  At the end of the day I feel like I am helping—whether it is listening or providing medicine.  It can be overwhelming, but is very rewarding.
In high school, science was my thing, but I did not know what I wanted to do with it.  I never wanted to go to med school, but knew that I wanted to be in the medical field.  My sophomore year at CU-Boulder, I started to explore options and shadowed a few PAs.  I learned that physician assistants are similar to nurse practitioners, but as a nurse practitioner you have go into one field. As a PA, I had the option to go into a variety of specialties and I can change out of family practice if I want.  I could still go into pediatrics or surgery.
After shadowing, I decided that I wanted to be a physician assistant.  I liked the idea of helping people—whether short term with a cold or building a relationship over time.  So, I looked into the PA program at CU’s School of Medicine.  I talked to the director and made sure that I fulfilled my pre-requisites.  After I graduated from CU-Boulder with my bachelor’s degree, I began the three year PA program.  
I start seeing patients at 8:00 a.m. and my last appointment will be at 4:30 p.m.  I generally see between 14 and 20 patients per day.  About 80% of my day is patient care, the rest of it is office notes, which means documenting exams or calling patients with results. I also take calls.   We have a rotating call schedule, so once a week, I am on call to cover the phone line for patients with emergent questions.  On average, I work four days a week.
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) is a great undergraduate program for anyone going into medical.  MCDB was really beneficial and helped prepare me for the intensity of the PA program.  Some classes, like anatomy and physiology, were spot on with what I took in PA school.  CU-Boulder grads in my PA program were very prepared.
In college, in general, you have to be prepared.  No one there to tell you when to study, plus I was in a really intense major, if you are not on top of it you will fall behind. 
I was a part of Pi Lambda Chi, the Latina sorority on campus.  Through the sorority, we did lots of community service and were really involved.  We did a mentorship program with Boulder High School, lots of student fundraisers and things on campus, like getting students registered to vote.  There was always something going on in community that we would help with.  I think that was great to put on my application.
I also did Semester at Sea, which was outstanding. I went in Spring 2007 and there was a really large CU-Boulder contingency.  I think 60 out of 700 students came from CU-Boulder, but I also got to meet people from across the United States.  We went to Puerto Rico, Brazil, China, Japan, South Africa—basically you travel on ship and take classes while traveling to port. Then, when you get to port, you get to see the country.  I saw the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.  It was an awesome learning experience and something that I will never be able to do outside of that program. The letter grades that we earned on ship transferred, which was unique to CU-Boulder.  Lots of the other students only got pass/fail credit.

I think my activities at CU-Boulder really set me apart as candidate for PA school, which wanted to see that you were well-balanced. CU-Boulder let me have that balance.