Bella Menzel-Smith, Pathway to Physician Assistant School

My name is Bella Menzel-Smith, and I am currently a fourth-year student at Michigan Technological University. 

I will be graduating this May from MTU with a degree in Human Biology. After graduation, I will be attending Marquette University’s Physician Assistant Program. As a Pre-Physician Assistant student at MTU, I was able to take courses in biology, chemistry, psychology, public health, and epidemiology. My favorite aspect of MTU’s Pre-Health program has been the supportive faculty. I truly have felt that I have been a part of a tight-knit community throughout the past four years. Working with the Pre-Health advisor, Nicole Seigneurie, was so beneficial to me because she was always there to answer my questions and cheer me on along the way. In addition to this, all my professors have been more than helpful to make sure that I succeeded in their classes. 

When I was unsure about what I wanted to study during my first year of college, I had an annual healthcare check-up with my healthcare provider who is a Physician Assistant. I asked her questions about her profession, and she had nothing but positive things to say. I decided to do more research on my own, and I found out that the Physician Assistant profession was created in 1965 by Dr. Eugene Stead, in order to address healthcare disparities and the need for more primary care providers. Immediately, I was so excited that I had found a healthcare profession that was created for the exact reasons as to why I wanted to enter the healthcare field! Growing up in a rural area, I have seen firsthand how poverty and access can affect the quality of healthcare that people receive. When people in my community need to see a specialist, they have to travel at least four hours away. Therefore, it is my goal as a Physician Assistant to be a healthcare advocate for marginalized populations and to improve healthcare disparities in rural medically underserved areas. 

Once I decided that I wanted to pursue the Physician Assistant profession, I knew that I had to get involved in the MTU community. I have been a tutor at the Chemistry Learning Center, since my second year at Tech. Being a tutor has allowed me to support students during their difficult chemistry classes. I have loved being able to help students build their confidence and strengthen their studying skills. I have also been a Co-President of Student Well-being Advocates at MTU and the President of AED Pre-Health Honor Society for the last year. Both of these opportunities have allowed me to work on my leadership and communication skills. Through Student Well-being Advocates, I was able to start a Winter Warm-Up winter accessory drive that takes place annually on campus. In addition to my involvement on campus, I was fortunate enough to be a Crisis Text Line Counselor where I learned how to be an empathetic listener to people who were in crisis. I know that the lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience will help me with my future interactions with patients. I believe that it’s so important for everyone to get involved with extracurricular activities that you enjoy to help you find your passions in life! 

The most valuable advice that I have for anyone who is on a Pre-Physician Assistant pathway is to gain clinical experience. I was a Certified Nursing Assistant for over a year at a local nursing home. Through this experience, I was able to learn how to provide person-centered compassionate care to my residents. I cared for individuals who had a diagnosis of dementia, and I learned the importance of treating my residents as the human beings that they were and not as their diagnosis. I also found that one of my professional callings in life is to be a healthcare advocate for vulnerable populations like the elderly. I know that this experience has taught me so much and will be very beneficial to my future as a Physician Assistant. I hope everyone takes advantage of their time at Tech and gets involved in the community as much as possible. I will forever be grateful for the time that I have spent at MTU!


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