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Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Little About Me

Hey Everyone! I’m Jennifer and I am currently a first year physician assistant (PA) student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) in Philadelphia, PA.  Ever since deciding to become a PA I have wanted to share my experiences.  The goal of this blog is to educate others about the PA profession and to give you an inside look about of my experiences during the didactic and clinical phase of my PA curriculum.
Let me start by saying a little about myself: My name is Jennifer Pilchman and I graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2008 with BS in biology.  I decided to become a PA on Christmas Day, 2008.  I kid you not!  And, I got into PA school almost exactly a year later on December 19th, 2009.  My decision to become a PA was made for many reasons.  I wanted to be in medicine but not necessarily at the top of the medical hierarchy.  It’s a career choice that allows me to work hands-on with patients, do procedures, assist in surgeries and work in tandem with my supervising physician and medical team.  The PA profession allows flexibility in scheduling as well as specialty choice.  Not having gone through the clinical phase yet, I am not sure what specialty I want to go into, however, I have always leaned towards pediatrics and primary care.
Just so that you are all aware, both my parents are doctors and they LOVE what they do, so my love for medicine was in the blood so-to-speak.  I believe one of my first words was “stethoscope.”  The decision to become a PA was a difficult one, and yet so rewarding, and I have not looked back since.  The PA program at PCOM is 26 months; 14 months are didactic and 12 months are going out on clinical rotations.  Right now I am in the didactic phase and I go out on clinical rotations starting August 15th, 2011 (not like I am counting or anything).  So far, school is really tough.  For those that don’t know about PA school, let me put it this way: we were told on the first day of orientation that PA school was like drinking out of 2 fire hydrants, and man, they were not kidding.  I have never worked this hard in my life!  BUT, I have to say, it is amazing how much you can learn in such a short period of time.  For those that are unaware, PA school is based off the medical model, so we learn a similar curriculum in a shorter period of time.  Although PCOM is an Osteopathic Medical School, we do not learn any osteopathic manual manipulation, which is something unique to the DO program.  However, we are still taught to see the patient as a whole, which is a benefit to attending an osteopathic institution.  I chose PCOM because of its close-nit atmosphere and welcoming faculty and students.  
I can’t wait to share my experience with you all soon!  Please feel free to share your experience with me as well.


  1. Hi Jennifer. I noticed that you were accepted to PA school not too long after you completed from undergrad. What type of healthcare experience have you had since your bachelor?



  2. Hi Natalie,
    I worked in a lab one summer in Colorado working on the human T cell leukemia virus. I also volunteered in an ER, ambulance, and an office. I also had a LOT of shadowing experience. While taking 5 pre-recs for PA school I decided to shadow 2 PAs in different fields and got about 100 hours. It's actually funny, I only had 8 shadowing hours of a PA before my interview and I told them in my interview that I did a lot more. I had shadowed doctors before then but not PAs really.


  3. Jennifer--

    I'm so glad I found your blog! I think it's great to see a student's realistic perspective while in school.

    I have a few questions for you whenever you have time --(I'm sure you get this all the time! Haha)

    First, what made you choose PCOM? I'm from South Carolina and visited Philadelphia back in college and loved it--I'm applying to PCOM this year. But what was the draw for you personally?

    Second, what have been your biggest hurdles while in school? Emotional/social etc.?

    Finally, what is the make up of your class? Everyone says their program is diverse, which is likely true, but how is PCOM? Race/age/pt. experience. etc?

    Get back to me whenever you get the chance--I know you're busy!!

    P.S. Congrats on getting most of the rotations you wanted! I bet you're thrilled :)


  4. Hey Kateland,
    I chose PCOM for many reasons. I really loved the campus it is very quant and inviting. I also really liked the students in the PA class above us that took us around for a tour. They were both enthusiastic about the program, friendly, and willing to answer any questions. I also loved the teachers who interviewed me (they actually teach us now). I felt really comfortable in my interview and they gave me a lot of feedback about the program. Another thing which I did not notice that seemed more unique to PCOM than any other places I interviewed: I like the people in my interview group. I had about 8 people on my interview day and I liked every one of them. I know that is weird to think because technically they were my competition, but it showed the type of applicants PCOM is interested in. Everyone was soo nice and had a lot to offer. It is not just about grades. This also shows in my current PA class, everyone gets along and we all help each other. That is REALLY important in any PA school you go to. Support is key.

    I dont know exact statistics on the make up of my class BUT I would say in doing a rough count about 20 % diversity. I would say this depends on the year and pool of applicants. There are also more males in our class than last years class, we have about 11. The age varies we have some who are older and some who just graduated college. I personally am in the middle. I would say the majority reside in the middle of the two age ranges.

    If you have any other questions feel free to ask and THANK YOU for reading. I hope you will continue to. Good luck on applications!

  5. Hi Jennifer,
    I will be a senior in college and I am trying to make up my mind about what I want to do after. My dad is a vascular surgeon and my mom is a nurse in research so medicine is in my blood as well. I keep going back and forth between medical school and PA school. I like the hours and schedule of a PA but I wonder if I would just want to have be an MD...

    In order to apply and be competitive for PA school I need to take organic I and I need direct patient care hours. I am a certified EMT basic. How do you suggest I get those hours in? I've shadowed a bunch of PA's in and out of surgery but even with my EMT certification I'm not sure how to get all of those hours in.

    All in all I am confused and was looking for some advice about why you really wanted to become a PA instead of MD and what you suggest for me.
    Thanks so much!

  6. Hi Sara,
    I had the same problem, it was really tough. For me, my parents are both MDs so thats all I knew. What it came down to was, do I want to go through a long amount of schooling to do 80% of what a doctor can do? And also I realized I didn't want to be the top of the medical hierarchy. It was not which profession is better or worse. It was what fit most to my personality and my future goals. Good luck in your decision. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

    As far as hours go, apply with what you have and continue to get as many hours as you can. I ended up having very few hours when I applied but when it came to interviews I told them that I knew that was my weakness and that I had accumulated much more. Sorry, I did not see this message until now.

  7. Hi Jennifer,
    I am a sophomore in college and I really think I want to be a PA. This year is my first year taking college-level sciences and so far I am not doing to well in Chemistry. I was wondering how important our course pre-requisites were when applying to PA school? I know they put an emphasis on Bio, Chem, Organic Chemistry, etc, but will it make or break my chances of getting accepted if my grades are not high? I am really considering going to PCOM because of your blogs. Thank you so much for all of your advice. Reading your posts makes me want to be a PA more and more.

  8. Hi Jennifer,

    First of all Congrats! I'm pretty sure you graduated by now :)

    I was searching some stuff about PCOM and I'm so glad I found your post. (I know this is very late) but I would like to know how you liked the school? What are some interview questions they asked you and how was your overall experience with the school?