First Year PA Student Blog: Isha Amin

Monday, December 30, 2019

Isha Amin PA-S

A little over a year ago, I was walking circles around a beautiful brick-walled building on a corner in downtown Durham, North Carolina, seizing the moment. I was at the Duke Physician Assistant Program!

It was the day before my interview. I stood there, staring at the building, allowing my feelings to run their course. Let me tell you, there were A LOT of thoughts and feelings. On the one hand, I felt proud— a small-town girl like me, who never even imagined leaving India, had made it across the world, and to the doorstep of a program I believed to be out of my reach. On the other hand, I was scared. Do I have what they are looking for? Will they recognize my potential? Will I deserve a chance to attend the program of my dreams? Is it too good to be true?

To anyone who resonates with these feelings, know that it is possible!

The building that intimidated me at first has now become my second home. We call it DPAP.

What makes this program so great are the humble and affable faculty and staff, who treat every student as their family member. They genuinely care about our physical and mental health. Where else would your adviser check-in on you regularly to see if you need anything? I still remember the welcome picnic when Dr. Jacqueline Barnett, our program director, reassured my mother, “there will be days when your daughter will call you, stressed about her grades, and you will worry about her. Just know that we will not let her down.”

PA school is the most challenging venture I have ever dared to embark upon. Yes, we have days when we spend 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in class, and some weekends are spent entirely in the library. I struggled with sitting in class, day after day, staring at a computer screen. I felt that my sense of purpose was fading, like I was just studying to get grades. This was when something called the Duke Navigators Program helped me the most.

Duke Navigators Program has helped me through difficult times as a student.

The Duke Navigators Program is an interprofessional opportunity where I learn about bedside manner, empathy and having difficult conversations with patients. As a part of this group, we attend a workshop called Medical Improv, where we develop conversational skills and strategies to explain disease states in creative ways. There was an opportunity to sit with a panel of social workers and discuss the experiences of teens and young adults with cancer or who had family members with cancer. Prior to that day, I had never thought about how I would explain the diagnosis of cancer to a child.

The program paired me with a nurse practitioner in the critical care unit of Duke University Hospital. I have the opportunity to shadow her, talk to her patients and learn about their experiences during long-term hospital stays. The most valuable lesson has been how to build a relationship of mutual trust with patients. The Duke Navigators Program helped me focus on the bigger picture by bringing my PA education into perspective. These experiences have shifted my goals from getting good grades to studying the material so that I can provide the best care to my future patients.

PA school has been everything that I expected and more!

I feel just as honored to be a part of the Duke PA program as I felt on the first day. Yes, I have worked unbelievably hard some days of the week, but I have also been able to find time to enjoy others. I often wonder how much harder PA school would have been if it weren’t for the supportive faculty and staff. To all the aspiring PAs out there: believe in yourself, and pick a program that believes in you! While PA education can be a roller coaster, it will prepare you to be an amazing provider for the rest of your life!


Isha Amin is a first-year student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program. Email isha.amin@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.