What Current PA Students Say

Drawing upon our diverse backgrounds in education and health care, our faculty and staff are committed to teaching future generations of physician assistants with skill and compassion. To meet this goal, the UW–Madison PA program seeks the very best students who will care for patients with empathy and cultural humility and are devoted to improving the health and well-being of underserved communities. There’s nobody better to tell you about the student experience than students themselves.

Katie Miller, Madison Campus

What has the experience been like for your friends/family/significant other?

PA school has definitely been an adjustment for me and my partner, Lauren! Thankfully, we had many discussions about the changes that PA school would bring before school started, so the drastic increase in my school hours wasn’t a shock to her. Lauren also has a demanding job, so we try to balance the errands/chores as best as possible – with one of us doing extra work depending on who has a more cumbersome week . We also decided to get a dog this year – so if we can do it, anyone can!

What do you wish you had known before starting PA school?

PA school is a marathon! Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself because that is the only way you’ll get through it happy and healthy. Another thing I’ve found helpful is to find a hobby you really love before PA school and hold onto it/actively make time for it during PA school! For me, it’s running – I carve out 3 days a week and make sure I take the time to go for a run – I believe this helps me maintain my sense of self.

Erika Steinbauer, Madison Campus

Erin Steinbauer

What experiences have resonated with you during your first year on campus?

While starting PA school in the middle of a pandemic has not been ideal, my experience with UW’s program has been nothing short of amazing. They have been transparent and flexible, all while keeping our safety a top priority. I know that the quality of the material I’m learning is top-notch, and I love having guest lecturers who are experts in their fields.

There are no “fluff” classes — all the information we learn is relevant and will pertain to clinical practice as a PA. One of my favorite things about the program is the diversity of my classmates’ life experiences. I truly feel like I can learn something from each of them, and I love hearing about their experiences during class. They are a brilliant, inspiring and supportive group that I feel so lucky to be a part of.

Noel Kroeplin, Wausau Campus

Noel KroepinWhat has been unexpected?

I didn’t realize how many guest lecturers we would have. I love learning from MDs, PAs and NPs who are actively seeing patients, performing research and are often considered experts in their fields of practice. We also talk about trauma-informed care, motivational interviewing and patient-centered communication regularly.

The opportunity to form relationships with patients is one of the main reasons I chose PA school and it’s great to receive training and reinforcement in those “softer” (but super important) skills.

What do you wish you had known before starting PA school?

That it’s important to relax as much as possible before starting and on breaks! Routines, for me, have been the key to staying healthy and focused.

Hans Dibba, Madison Campus

Dibba Hans

Why did you choose the UW–Madison PA program?

One of the main reasons it was my top choice is the emphasis on diversity and equity. Today, I cannot honestly say if that’s what I am most proud about or the support and professionalism from the PA faculty and staff. Oh, and my classmates! What a diverse and open-minded group of students. Every day I learn from them and it astonishes me how smart and helpful every student is. We all recognize the importance of teamwork, and I could not be prouder to be part of such an amazing program!

Kate Gonzalez, MPH-MPAS Dual Degree

Kate Gonzalez

What has been unexpected about your PA experience?

I knew PA school was going to be hard, but the pace of the didactic year was something I wasn’t prepared for. You quickly learn to adjust, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at first. One thing that helped me focus and prevented me from over-stressing was taking steps one at a time. You listen to a ton of lectures and take lots of exams, but you can’t let yourself spiral into a ball of nerves about the exams that are one or two months away. You will make it through no matter how tough things may seem.

What has your experience as an MPH-MPAS student been like in the clinical year?

My experience as an MPH-MPAS student has been great! I really enjoyed building the foundation of public health knowledge before starting the PA didactic year. It gave me a different perspective on healthcare and the importance of prevention, rather than immediately jumping to “bandages” for health issues. Clinical year has been amazing, nerve-wracking, and rewarding all at the same time. You’re still a student, but you start building so much more confidence in yourself and your ability to actually BE a PA. Take advantage of every opportunity you can, but don’t be afraid to step back and ask questions or ask for direction.

Annie Schuelke, Distance Education Option

What has been unexpected?

I’m a cautious person by nature, and I did not expect to do so well in school!  I’ve never had material click so well for me and I’ve never felt so engaged in a program.  The courses and expectations are incredibly well laid out, and I feel very supported by faculty and staff.

What has the experience been like for your friends/family/significant other?

The summer was intense. My spouse was amazing and used vacation time to work half-time and do 100% of the childcare and cooking. When he had to go back to work full-time, I was able to move in with my parents for 1 month with the kids. I’ve never had so much support in my life! I’m not sure grandma and grandpa are sad they won’t be seeing us at Christmas this year, as they definitely earned a break from us. The fall has been more evenly paced. The children watch a more socially acceptable quantity of cartoons. Bathrooms are clean(ish). Food is in the pantry. We feel as put-together as one can in 2020.

Tyler Cairo, Madison Campus

Tyler Cairo

How would you describe your classmates?

You become really close to everyone in the class and rely on them to help you through the difficult weeks. There is no competitiveness and everyone around you wants you to succeed in the program and will help you in any way they can. Many classmates have a variety of different clinical backgrounds and can be useful to bounce questions off of, when you are learning about different topics. They also understand the exact struggles you will face going through school and become your go-to people when looking to unwind and have fun.

Mara Williams, Part-Time/Distance Option

Mara Williams

How would you describe your classmates?

I’m now a second-year student and it’s so cool to see this change happening all around me.  My classmates were always amazing people, but now they have a certain professionalism, confidence and empathy that wasn’t there before. They’re learning to appreciate the patient as a whole person and beginning to see the valuable role they’ll soon have in the lives of the people entrusted to their care. All around me, I see intelligence mixed with intuition and empathy.

I see a genuine search for knowledge that carries through a proper diagnosis and treatment, all the while focusing on the patient’s experience. I see this in my friends and soon-to-be colleagues, and I’m excited to also see it working in me.

Kim Breunig, MPH-MPAS Dual Degree Option

Kim Breunig

How would you describe your relationships with faculty and staff?

Having faculty in the PA program who are currently in practice as PAs is invaluable. It’s amazing to be learning from PAs who will be our colleagues within a few years.

What has your experience as an MPH-MPAS student been like?

I can’t imagine not having the public health experience and knowledge with me as I am going through my clinical year and looking forward to my future career. Having the background in public health has enabled me to engage much more fully in my capstone projects as well as in my rotations with the largely Native population at Red Cliff Community Health Center.

How would you describe your classmates?

Collaborative, Compassionate, Hilarious, Dedicated, Experienced

What has been unexpected?

They say that being a student in a PA program is like drinking out of a fire hydrant. No matter how many times it was said, I don’t think I really grasped how fast and how much information we’d cover so quickly!

Ashley Crawford, Madison Campus

Ashley Crawford

What experiences have resonated with you during your first year on campus?

The UW–Madison Physician Assistant program has exceeded my expectations of what I imagined PA school to be. When searching for the perfect fit, I desired a program that would feel like family, and the UW–Madison PA program has become just that. As the “inaugural COVID class”, the program seamlessly shifted instruction to the virtual space without compromising the integrity of our education. Communication has been timely and transparent, which has been such a relief during a time of so many unknowns. As you can imagine, virtual learning can make it almost impossible to get to know classmates. Despite this barrier, it has brought our class closer together and created a unique bond. These have been difficult times, but I am proud that our class has supported each other, shared resources and been open to sharing themselves in vulnerable ways throughout this process.

I cannot brag enough about our faculty and staff. They have made me feel comfortable going to them about anything and everything be it personal or school-related. In my role as our class Diversity and Community Outreach co-representative both faculty and staff have made room for my passions to create a more diverse and inclusive space within our program and within the PA profession. Through mentorship, many have made themselves available to offer wisdom and guidance. This has been critical to my positive experiences in the program.

PA school has been a whirlwind. Everything you hear is true: it is like “drinking out of a fire hose,” new study habits are necessary, and time goes by very fast. But the one thing that has helped me maintain a semblance of sanity is my support system. As a single mom, my family has been foundational to my success in the program. If I could offer one PA school pearl, it would be to lean into the process. PA school requires flexibility and pushes you outside of your comfort zone in more ways than one. The UW–Madison PA program is rigorous, and the expectations are high. But one thing that is for certain, the program will do everything in their capacity to make sure we are prepared.