First Year Student Blog: Martha La Rosa Snyder

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Martha La Rosa Snyder, PA-S

Year One

I got married a little over a year ago – one month before I started as a newly-minted Duke University physician assistant student. The golden ticket offer to interview at the No. 1 PA program in the nation had arrived in my inbox a couple of weeks before we were set to leave for Peru – the proposal destination that my husband had been planning. The exciting sequence of events in those few months ended with Duke e-mailing my acceptance for the Class of 2018. 

Once it was clear that Duke was my ticket to becoming a future clinician, we had some big decisions to make. Ultimately, my husband chose to accompany me on the two-year journey, and we decided to get married, plan a wedding/farewell party and road trip our way from Oregon to North Carolina.

From the start of the school year, my advisor and peers were understanding of the idea that I was not just a PA student, but also a wife. They knew my priorities included my spouse, in addition to studying, reading, and reviewing … and even more studying, reading, and reviewing. It was comforting to be asked how he was handling his role as PA-student support; my peers would invite the both of us to events and gatherings, and my friends encouraged my at-home study habits and didn’t let me feel left out if I chose not to be a part of a regular study group.

Through all of the ups and downs that I went through during the didactic year, I was constantly supported by my husband. He provided endless encouragement, kept our home in order so it would be one less thing on my mind, and was the primary caretaker of the puppy we fell in love with at the Durham Animal Protection Society.

There are several lessons I learned about striving to achieve a balance between PA school demands and the other “regular life” ones, including:

  • Don’t compare yourself to your peers: You are the only one who knows how much effort you have placed into studying and how much time you also need to maintain the things that are important in the other aspects of your life (the Duke PA program also helps eliminate competition that is regularly seen in medical education). This was important in keeping a stable mental state that will help you to survive the intensity of the two-year program.

  • Despite pushing yourself to maintain straight-As, it may not always be possible. The important thing would be to celebrate that you tried your hardest, but to also appreciate the fact that you didn’t leave the rest of your life by the wayside.

  • Continue on to the next task. As my advisor told me during one of our meetings, “PA school tests your resilience,” so it’s important to continue looking forward.

  • PA school will solidify the important relationships you have within your support system. I am lucky to have the consistent love and support of my best friend that lets me focus on what I need to succeed at Duke.

While my husband and I have already celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary, my classmates and I are just getting to the date of when we started PA school one year ago. It has been nothing like what any of us could have imagined, but we can say it has been a memorable experience so far.

We are all looking forward to Year Two.

Martha La Rosa Snyder is a second-year PA student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email with questions.

Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.