The Calm Before the Storm


My name is Phoebe Ke and I am a Physician Assistant Student.

That’s what I’m supposed to say when I introduce myself to patients I see while on rotations. So yes, my name is Phoebe Ke. I recently completed the third year of my college education, and more importantly, the didactic year of Physician Assistant (PA) school at St. John’s University in New York. What that means is for fall and spring semester I went through 16 units of clinical medicine and took classes such as Pediatrics and Geriatrics, Emergency Medicine, General Surgery, Ethics, and two semesters of Health History and Physical Diagnosis. Ask any PA student and they will tell you PA school is no joke. For example, spring semester we had 32 hours of in-class instruction meaning nearly every day we were in class from 8 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. Anxiety levels were high and the number hours of sleep gotten were few. For months on end it was class, study, sleep, repeat.

Didactic year was by far my most difficult academic experience. No matter how many times I tried to explain PA school to someone, either he or she would balk or would not fully comprehend. Yes, the 7-8 hours after class spent in the library were very necessary, as were the 14-hour days studying in the library on the weekends. The only time I had off from class or studying was Friday evening Bible study and church on Sundays. If I thought my brain was tired by the end of September, my brain was completely fried by spring semester finals week. Each semester had an average of 18 exams which broke down to about an exam a week. Two weeks ago, we took a competency exam which tested everything we learned in the past two semesters. Thank the Lord I passed despite being completely drained mentally. Looking back, it was a long, long difficult year, but every time I flip through my eight three-ringed binders of material and Pance Prep Pearls book and many powerpoints, I’m amazed at all the hours spent poring over notes, the number of exams taken, the friendships that grew and many memories made that brought me to the closing of didactic year and the beginning of clinical year. It’s all God’s grace, I’m telling you.

I’m currently embarking on a year-long experience where I rotate through ten different rotations, each five weeks long, to gain experience and exposure and to put what I learned the past year into practice. This journal is an account of my clinical year as a final component for my Honors Program requirements. I decided that as excited I am that the Honors Program faculty will be reading this (Hello Mr. Pennacchio and Dr. Forman!), I would also share this with my peers, whoever was curious of or interested in the PA world, or if no one else wanted to read I would be fine with that, too.

This coming year I will be immersed in these specialties: emergency medicine, primary care, surgery, internal medicine, oncology, orthopedics, geriatrics, OB/GYN, and pediatrics. All these rotations will be completed through various clinics and hospitals in Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Butterflies and the urge to pee are common these days because I’m excited to get out into the field but also nervous since I feel my competency as a health care practitioner is far below what it should be. Nevertheless, that’s what this year is all about—learning from other practitioners and my own mistakes, growing as an individual and health care practitioner, and enjoying this incredible adventure to becoming a physician assistant.

If you continue along with me, awesome! If not, that’s cool, too. Hopefully you gain something—perhaps a look into the Physician Assistant profession, insight from a current student, or maybe an interweb friend. Until next time!


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