First Year PA Student Blog: Jessica Veale

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Jessica Veale
Jessica Veale

How many of you are thinking, “I don't have a chance of getting into Duke; I shouldn’t even apply”? Well, you are not alone; I felt the same way. As a second-time CASPA applicant, I had little hope that I actually would get into the program. Self-doubt stopped me from applying to Duke the first cycle and almost stopped me the second cycle, too. I came up with every excuse why I shouldn’t apply: My grades were not high enough, my health care experience was not competitive enough, and to top it all off I am a Tar Heel. However, with some encouragement from my family, I finally decided to apply.

To my surprise, the aspects of my application I thought would interfere with my chances of getting into Duke, such as taking courses at a community college, were actually celebrated and I was offered an interview. I realized Duke’s program was different when they extended an invitation for my husband to join me on interview day. No other program had offered me this opportunity. He was my sounding board during the pre-PA process and I appreciated the opportunity to share the day with him. This gesture, although it may seem small to some, indicated to me that the program truly valued family. Therefore, on November 10, 2017, when I received my acceptance email, the decision was a no-brainer. I was going to Duke.

Unfortunately, I started PA school by having to kiss my husband good-bye as he boarded a plane back to Rhode Island. Although he had a job offer in North Carolina, we still had months of waiting for his transfer paperwork to come through. On top of undertaking the hardest academic course load of my life, I also was away from my husband for the first time since we were engaged. For four months, we flew back and forth between North Carolina and Rhode Island to see each other every other weekend. My first semester of PA school was challenging, to say the least. I felt like I was constantly being thrown into the deep end of the pool but didn’t know how to swim. Although I felt as if I was drowning, I always managed to stick my head above water in a nick of time. (This usually occurred after passing a test.)

'There is no time like the present'

Fast forward to second semester. My husband had moved to North Carolina, my study habits improved, and I gained a better grasp of what to expect on exams. For the first time since starting PA school, I learned to float. I had become better equipped with the tools necessary to handle life as a PA student. Although this year has been challenging, I have been able to persevere by relying on my faith, encouragement from my family and friends, and support from my Duke Physician Assistant Program family.

Often, individuals prefer to wait until the perfect time to apply to PA school; I believe there is no time like the present. Life isn’t going to stop once you begin PA school, so why wait? The workload will always be intense, there will always be family emergencies, and tuition will always be outrageous. Take it from someone who had to find time to study while catching multiple flights during the semester: You can do it!

So, my advice to anyone interested in PA school is: start the process now! Don’t let Duke’s No. 1 ranking deter you from applying and there is no need to wait for the perfect time, because it may never come. Furthermore, if you are like me and did not get into PA school on your first try, do not get discouraged. Remember, “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.”

Jessica Veale, MLS (ASCP)CM, is a first-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog twice a month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, or Duke University.