First Year PA Student Blog: Shelby Neil

Friday, November 22, 2019

Shelby Neil, PA-S
Shelby Neil, PA-S

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would end up at the Duke Physician Assistant Program. I submitted my application, thinking, “What if they accidentally let me in?” I could not believe my eyes when I saw an email inviting me to an interview.

Whatever it took, I would be there

The entire process was amazing. I felt more welcomed by the staff and faculty than at any of the other PA programs; I walked out of the interview, called my mom and told her that this was exactly where I wanted to be. Soon after, I found out that I would be attending my dream school.

I went into PA school thinking I would be studying non-stop, all waking hours.

Of course, I spend more time and energy studying than I ever have in my life, but I have realized my mental health is vital for success in this program. The professors, advisors, faculty, and staff all encourage taking care of your mental health and maintaining a balance in your life. I have taken their advice and been able to explore North Carolina, keep up with friends and family, and

maintain hobbies like working out and cooking.

I was also lucky enough to be elected president of the Eugene A. Stead Society here at the Duke PA Program

The Stead Society is a student organization dedicated to community service and awareness of the PA profession. We host philanthropic fundraisers, cultural awareness events, student wellness events, blood drives, and opportunities for community service. We also arrange to have food trucks come every few weeks over the lunch hour, a well-needed break from a long day of lectures. We have 15 officer positions and we all work as a team to speak to the needs of the students and maintain the best learning environment possible. Being a part of the Society has also allowed me to engage more with my academic experience and student community.

I ran for president because I want to build on my leadership skills so that I can pursue leadership roles in my future career. This role has forced me out of my comfort zone and has allowed me to practice skills such as public speaking, with which I have always struggled. As president, I host monthly community forums, run our officer meetings, and assist the other officers in planning events. Initially, I was worried about taking on such a big responsibility, but I have developed time management skills to balance Stead Society, academics, and my personal life.

Stead Society Class of 2021

PA school has not been easy, but what has made it truly amazing is that as soon as classes started, I suddenly had 89 amazing new friends. There is always something going on, whether it is intramural sports, kayaking, rock climbing, or exploring Durham. Our class cohort is truly a family. They give me strength, laughter, and joy. Know that when you start school, you are not alone. Everyone struggles in their own way, but I constantly see people checking in on one another and making sure that if someone needs help, they have it.

I started school thinking it was an accident that I was accepted, but have come to realize that I am meant to be here. I know that every lecture I sit through, every exam I take, and every hour I spend in the library brings me closer to becoming a phenomenal PA like my predecessors. I have so much pride in this program, and I am excited to see what lies ahead.


Shelby Neil is a first-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email shelby.neil@duke.edu 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.