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"BEHIND THE LINES" an inside look at the MDC PA

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This year I witnessed how people equally qualified and even less qualified made it through. I remember sitting outside after the entrance exam getting a bite to eat. Slowly more and more people started to come out. An incredible easy exam took up more than 40 minutes for some individuals. Around six students all from different backgrounds sat around me as we discussed the test and the questions. After a couple of laughs and confident we had all aced the exam, I was curious to know the professional backgrounds of some of my colleges. The girl to my right around 27 years old had a 4.0 and an Associate’s degree and had at the same time applied to nursing school. No healthcare experience whatsoever. The man in front of me was around 28 years old; this was his second time around and was taking classes at FIU in an attempt to get Bachelors in Biology for “Plan B medical school” he was hoping MDC looked at his fancy Organic Chemistry and Physics courses and blow us little fish out of the pond. He also had no healthcare experience and only knew what a P.A. was or did because of what he heard at the introduction. To my left was a genuine guy also 27 he had a 4.0 AA had no idea how the program was who founded it and somewhat knew what a P.A. does. He had no healthcare experience and “Plan B was further pre requisites in order to attend Barry or Nova”. To his side was a fireman/paramedic whom didn’t speak much but to me the most deserving. To preserve my confidentiality I can say I had more experience than all of them together in 3 different specialties and my GPA was 3.7 with very powerful recommendations.

We of course all got interviews and they had pleasant experiences, Antonelli and Jimmy Santana joked around had some laughs and got to know them as a person. The usual array of questions such as how do you plan to survive financially through P.A. school. You have good grades but no healthcare experience. Why do you have this Withdrawal and how do you expect to pass P.A. school if you got a C in Biology etc…

Some people had pleasant experience some were mauled either because the Director was having a bad day or was fed up with interviewing people or they just didn’t like you.


I remember it like if it was yesterday; I walked into the school late in the evening with a firm stride and a confident smile. “I got this”, I told myself as I walked to the waiting area. My suit was impeccable and I had a pair of beautifully crafted Italian shoes and a magnificent blue tie. I had spent the little money I had in my bank to acquire the 120.00 dollar shoes,the 220.00 dollar suit and not to forget the 50 dollar tie. Everything was riding on it for me, this was my dream and I did everything possible to achieve it.

I sat down next to a girl whom was waiting and the clock ticked slowly, the wait was agonizing. I had some small talk with the girl and she didn’t know squat about how the program was of the sacrifices needed in order to attain success in it. An older women maybe in her 40’s step out with a smile on her face and as we asked anxiously how it went, she smirked and said “not so bad”. They take around 30 minutes as they review your file and jot down the assault. After 30 minutes it was her turn and then I would be next. It was getting late and I was sure I had it down to the T. My turn came and I was taken to a small office where Jimmy Santana, Antonelli , a P.A. and Rivas sat. To my right behind her desk sat Antonelli whom immediately stood up and greeted me with a smile (“little did I know the only one I would witness in those 30 minutes”). Jimmy Santana always a pleasant fellow smiling and energetic followed a long with the rest. Once Antonelli sat down and before I had a change to get comfortable she fired the first one at me. “Soo… why P.A.?”


“Well I want to be a PA because I want to be able to treat patients without the burden of a medical off…..

“Why not a nurse, an MD or a Nurse practitioner”; she interrupted without lifting an eye of my application.


“Umm because I have always been passionate about medicine and P.A. offers me the opportunity to do as much as a Physician without the responsibilities and I want to treat, and diagnose all which a nurse can’t do”. “In fact I read medical board reviews and I even have a copy of Current Medical treatment and diagnosis…


“So why did you get a B in microbiology” she said as her head was down and her eyes looked above her glasses.


I’m sorry?” I asked.


“Yes, why did you get a B in Microbiology if you supposedly ready these books”... said Antonelli once again.

I was so shocked and nervous I couldn’t even remember, so Jimmy Santana stepped in an asked… “Did you have family troubles, where you working too much or were you taking too many classes? Nope! “Just Microbiology and the lab”, said Antonelli as she flipped the page of my degree audit. I finally came to my senses and responded because I had missed a test and got a 0 on it. “Oh okay then” said Santana.


I see here you withdrew from a class back in 2009 can you explain why? Said Antionelli . (At this point I was feeling disappointed, shocked, sad, and angry. I was expecting an interview where they would want to get to know more about me and my aspirations, but I felt as if I was facing a firing squad and they all thought I was an idiot because I got a B in Microbiology). “Well I believe my work schedule and my school schedule didn’t match so I had to drop it or be fired”, I told them in anguish. “Oh ok I see”, responded Santana. The P.A. whom was in the interview stepped in and asked me “Do you know what a P.A. does in the day to day?”

“Yes I work with P.A.’s every day I speak to them and… “That’s not what I asked you, I asked you if you know what a P.A. does”, interrupted the girl.


Yes they do 90 % of what MD’s do and they do morning rounds, in fact as you can see in my application I rounded with several P.A.’s both in the hospital and at the office. They order morning labs, admit new patients etc… “


“Very well”, she responded with a look as if she wasn’t too convinced or fond of me.


(By this time I was thinking to myself were I had gone wrong, I hadn’t done anything to offend them. I was hoping I didn’t have anything in my teeth which disgusted them or that I didn’t smell bad and that’s why I was being treated like that but I managed to throw my pride down my *** and brown nose them all the way.)


The interview ended and I could barely stand up as my feet were quavering and my soul was shaken. I walked out with so many questions left unanswered. It didn’t matter who I knew, it didn’t matter how much experience I had in healthcare and it surely didn’t matter the high score I got on the exam. For the next month all I did was play those events in my head over and over. Till this day I get anxious to remember that day and how bad I felt. I have a mild form of Post Traumatic stress to the point where I had a nightmare about Antonelli the other night as she slaughtered me in an interview again. I know for some on you this all might seem out of proportion but for me, being a Physician Assistant from Miami Dade has been my dream for the past 4 years, back when no one believed in them, back when they had provisional accreditation I chose to believe in them. 7 of my friends and classmates have been in the program, have graduated or are currently in the second and first year. Those whom in the classes we took used to copy from me and asked me questions about the profession. I had stood by and witnessed how I was left behind, knowing that I can do just as well as my friends if not better. Miami Dade College P.A. is unorthodox and they do things as they like. I’m here to tell you that just because you have Bachelors in Biology with a 3.5 GPA doesn’t guarantee you entrance into the program. An undergrad with a 3.5 and Associates in Arts can take that spot and it has happened. Don’t believe as I did that, having healthcare experience, either a Nurse, a Paramedic or a respiratory therapist will guarantee you a position in the program. This program is unpredictable out of 600 that applied this year only 50 made it. Those 50 are as diverse as possible GPA’s ranging from 3.4-4.0, from foreign physicians to business administration mayors from 20 years old to 50 years old. Luck is the biggest factor in such a statistically truthful numbers.


Good luck to you all and may this have provided you with some insight into the madness and sad story of my struggle. In the pursuit of becoming a PA-C from MDC

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I sympathize with your dilemna, however I would not go as far as saying being accepted is pure luck. While it is true that the 2013 class is as diverse as they come in terms of experience, the interview itself I feel is not an asessment of character or even experience, but more of how you respond on the spot. As a PA, this will be one of your key roles, in being able to assertively adress members of your health care team and patients with both respect and confidence. The role of a PA isnt a subserviant one of MD's/DO's, nor one with less responsibilities. In contrast, it is one where the patient is first, and the PA should be just as responsible if not more than the doctor, as the PA is a direct reflection of the doctor who's liscence they work under. Although experience and GPA are wonderful assets to have when applying, they dont make the perfect candidate at all times. This year's class has foreign M.D.'s to 21 year old A.A. graduates with limited medical experience. However the board is not looking for a PA to walk through the door, they are looking for a student who is willing to learn how to become a PA and work with a team, just as medicine has evolved into being team oriented. Im not saying that you dont posess these qualities and it seems you obviously have a passion for the profession, but considering myself to be someone who has faced adversity and has heard the words NO uttered to me in the past, I feel that portraying the school in such a negative light is unfair to future potential PA applicants, and ridiculing the institution belittles the degree for which previous graudates have worked. Lastly I find it insulting to belittle the process for which I myself, and fellow classmates were selected. Everything is done for a reason I believe, and while we may not always understand those reasons, the selection board consists of all PA's. This may be easy to say being someone that was accepted, however there are many students I am with who had applied upwards of four times before acceptance. I understand the frustration you must feel with your application process this year, however if you decide to persue your dream of becoming a PA at MDC you will reconsider your outlook on the prgoram itself and look for ways to make yourself a more attractive candidate next year. Should you ever have any questions or comments, Ill gladly try and make myself available.

Fellow Miami-Dade Resident

Christian Atkins

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Christian thanks for understanding somewhat of my dilemma, I apologized if any part of the story is insulting to current P.A students or previous ones. I simply told the story exactly how it happened to me, and any conclusions drawn from it are up to the reader. I added the part about LUCK being a big factor because if out of 600 only 50 are chosen then anyone sole person who applies has less than a 10% chance of being accepted. Its simple mathematics, and this coming year might experience even greater volume of applications; making the percentage even smaller. Lastly Christian if you’re not aware yet, many people in the program are a friend of a friend, a nephew, an ex-colleague, the wife or husband of a previous student and even the son of a student. Regardless of all this; the price tag for the program and the minute amount of requirements make it an attractive try even if my chances are 10%.

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  • 1 month later...
Its not what you know, its who you know. Chalk it up as an experience and apply elsewhere. Many people will read this and interpret you as someone who is disgruntled about not getting in.


I didn't.


This was very informative for me, as I have a number of "W" grades on my transcrips along with 3.0-3.5 following in the same classes with different instructors. Very informative and very good in describing the atmosphere of the interview.

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