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AUGSBURG ALUMNI CLASS OF 2020

LYN ZURAKOWSKI, PA-C

Lyn Zurakowski photo, Augsburg PA Alum 2020 and PA-C
LYN ZURAKOWSKI, PA-C

We continue our alumni spotlight series by speaking with Lyn Zurakowski, PA-C. Lyn Zurakowski, PA-C is a 2020 graduate of the PA Augsburg program. She currently works in a hospital where she practices hospital and critical medicine in Wisconsin. Lyn took the time to discuss her work as a PA, and offers some fantastic tips for PA students.

What type of setting do you work in?

I practice in Chippewa Falls, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin which serves a rural population.

Why did you decide to choose your area of medicine?

I practice hospital and critical care medicine. These environments allow me to care for patients with a wide array of medical conditions, which I find fascinating. Both of these areas are also very challenging, in that these patients are acutely ill. Because I care for patients with such a wide array of medical conditions, I am constantly learning and being challenged professionally. Additionally, hospital medicine is very collaborative; I really enjoy getting to work closely with my colleagues within the hospital medicine team as well as the other specialists/consultants. 

What was the biggest transition between PA school to your first job?

When you are in PA school, faculty often says that the volume of information and learning curve “is like drinking out of a fire hydrant”. I have joked with my fellow new graduate physician assistant colleagues, that being a new graduate physician assistant is like “climbing up a waterfall”. The volume of new information and learning curve doesn’t end on graduation day. Additionally, the mindset from thinking of yourself as a “student” to “provider” is also a challenge. In part, because there is now a lot of responsibility bestowed upon you, but also because there are feelings of imposter syndrome. 

What was a major challenge in your first year?

I started practicing in March 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has posed many challenges. Treating COVID-19 wasn’t something I had learned about in didactics because it wasn’t around at that time. Learning how to manage this patient population and continuing to keep up with the latest and everchanging evidence and guidelines has been an ongoing task. 

Coming up on your first-year anniversary, what are areas you feel more comfortable in now compared to when you started?

When graduation was nearing, I felt terrified in being starkly aware of how much I still didn’t know within the world of medicine. However, now I have embraced the fact that I will never know everything because that would be an unrealistic expectation to have of myself. Acknowledging that it is always ok to ask questions and knowing who/what my resources are have substantially increased my comfort level in practicing medicine. 

What tips do you have for students on applying and interviewing for their first job?

An interview is as much about you interviewing your potential future employer as it is about them interviewing you. Just as you should come prepared for what questions the interviewer might as you, you also need to come prepared with questions to ask. As a new graduate physician assistant, questions that I find important to ask include: What type of support will I be given? What does the onboarding process look like? 

Additionally, do your research and have a knowledge base regarding the organization you might be working for and the specific position you have applied for. Be able to speak to why that organization’s mission statement aligns with your own beliefs and goals. Most importantly, be genuine. 

What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy doing things that help me to feel relaxed and balanced in my life. Spending time with my husband, family, friends, and dog Gracie is very important to me. I also enjoy biking, kayaking, hiking, and reading. 

Do you have a favorite Augsburg PA memory you wish to share?

My time at Augsburg University was a very memorable one! I enjoyed being able to form many connections with fellow students, faculty, and preceptors. My clinical preceptor for my first clinical rotation was a physician assistant who was also an Augsburg alumna and a former registered nurse, like myself. Having those things in common, allowed for us to quickly form a connection. This preceptor helped me to build confidence in myself during my first clinical rotation and allowed me to struggle at times, knowing it would only make me stronger in the end. She pushed me when I needed to be pushed, but also reassured me and provided support.  She became an informal mentor to me and is someone who I still remain in contact with today. 

If you were not a PA, what career could you see yourself doing?

If not a physician assistant, I would want to be an astronaut! I have always found space and aeronautics very interesting. I really enjoyed reading the article published by the AAPA titled “Reaching New Heights: From Cancer Survivor to Becoming the First PA in Space” authored by Paulette Bleam, MBA. I can only dream of being a PA in space someday. 

Is there anything else you wish to share?

Set big goals for yourself. At the end of the day it is mind over matter, if you think you can’t, you won’t. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with others who also support your goals and dreams. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and try new things, both as a student and practicing physician assistant. 


 

AUGSBURG ALUMNI

We continue this week with our profile of Alumni from the Augsburg PA class of 2020.

Bo LaFountaine PA in a medical office
Bo LaFountaine, PA-C

BO LAFOUNTAINE, PA-C

This week we have interviewed Bo LaFountaine, PA-C.

Bo is a 2020 graduate of the Augsburg PA program. She works in the Twin Cities area where she is currently in transition from Pain and Addiction Medicine to Emergency Medicine. 

We asked her a few questions about her continued involvement with Augsburg, working as a PA, and her time at Augsburg. 

What attracted you to Augsburg, and keeps you connected with the University?

Augsburg was one of the most competitive PA programs with very high pass rates on its boards, and I knew the education provided through Augsburg’s PA program would equip me well for life as a practicing PA. I had an incredible experience; my cohort was very close and I made some of my closest life-long friends through this program. Many Augsburg Alumni taught and mentored me and continuing to give back to the student community allows me to pay it forward for the future PAs. 

What type of setting do you work in?

I currently work in the Twin Cities, and am amidst a transition from Pain and Addiction Medicine to Emergency Medicine at two large Hospitals in the Cities–it is my dream job!

Why did you decide to choose your area of medicine?

From a young age I knew I wanted to be in medicine, helping as many people as I possibly can. Emergency medicine allows us to prevent further illness and injury and even the unique ability to save lives. I thrive in a fast paced and chaotic environment; however, I value a team-oriented approach to patient centered care. I have been fortunate enough to find a team that shares my values and is invested in my growth and development.

What was a major challenge in your first year?

COVID! An unprecedented time for everyone, particularly those in healthcare. Everyone was adjusting and the steep learning curve transitioning from a student to a practicing PA was incredibly humbling. But, that’s why we pursue medicine, to remain humble and continue learning. 

What tips do you have for students on applying and interviewing for their first job?

Money does not equal happiness. As a new grad, finding a team that you are comfortable approaching with questions and concerns is of the utmost importance. This allows for you to continue learning, avoid harmful mistakes, and shape your practice. Remain confident in yourself and your training, but also remain humble. 

What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling (Pre-COVID my goal was to hit 30 countries by 30 years old), eating wonderful food, and knitting–during PA school I knitted ~200 hats! 

Do you have a favorite Augsburg PA memory you wish to share?

The people. The class of 2020 was a great cohort. We LOVED having potlucks, gathering and taking a respite from the chaos–together. We were a group that supported each other and cheered at each other successes. The academic phase of PA school was intense, and what I remember most are the friends that I made and all of the countless hours we spent together studying.

Is there anything else you wish to share?

For those applying to PA school, do not be discouraged! it only takes ONE school to say yes. Be authentically you, and the right school will choose you.

 

Augsburg Alumni Spotlight

As part of a new blog series, we will showcase some of our Augsburg PA alumni. December will focus on alumni from the class of 2020.


Isaac and his wife Glory.

ISAAC PIERRE, PA-C

As part of our Alumni spotlight series, today we have reached out to Isaac Pierre, PA-C.

Isaac is a 2020 graduate of the Augsburg PA program. He is a practitioner at Nice Healthcare in Minnesota. We asked Isaac about his time at Augsburg, his approach to medicine, and his practice as a PA.

What attracted you to Augsburg, and keeps you connected with the University?

Among the many aspects that drew me to Augsburg was the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. When visiting and interviewing with the PA program, I felt a sense of community, connection, and support from not only the cohort of students, but also the faculty. I continue to stay connected with Augsburg due to the program’s values as well as the quality of the people and relationships created.

What type of setting do you work in?

I work with Nice Healthcare, a tech-enable primary care clinic that provides both virtual and in-person care to patients. Our services come as an employee benefit and, thus, allows us to forego insurance and provide care at little or no cost to patients. In light of this, I work in a virtual and home visit setting within the metro, suburbs, and, at times, more rural areas of Minnesota.

Why did you decide to choose your area of medicine?

I was drawn to Nice’s model and company structure because it seeks to limit barriers to care by providing rapid, no cost, and convenient care. These factors, along with our longer visit slots of 20, 40, and 60 minutes, allow more ability to connect, support, and encourage patients to follow through with their care and sustain better outcomes. Additionally, I chose to work with Nice because of the culture that seeks to support one another’s personal growth, encourage employees to treat others as we would like to be treated, and create a psychologically safe environment to practice and work.

What was the biggest transition between PA school to your first job?

The biggest transition came in the way of navigating licensing, the job search, and the adjustment from the rigors of PA school into a more balanced approach to work and life. Completing my terminal degree provided a chance to reexamine the “when this, then that” approach that I had fallen into when planning the next steps in my life. I would often tell myself, “when I finish up school, then I will be able to invest in relationships or hobbies”. This mindset, as many of you are likely aware, can continue in perpetuity as we continue to create “when” items for which we must wait or accomplish. In light of this, one transition I have faced is continuing to study and gain medical knowledge while also enjoying life and finding a healthy balance of life outside of work and school.

What was a major challenge in your first year?

Continuing to implement the thorough and quality charting techniques that we learned in school, in a more efficient and time saving manner.

Coming up on your first-year anniversary, what are areas you feel more comfortable in now compared to when you started?

I feel more comfortable in many areas of practice. Specifically, diagnosing and treating common conditions as well as confidence in patient education. I have also learned much about goal setting and people management techniques.

What tips do you have for students on applying and interviewing for their first job?

While remuneration is an important component to any competitive offer, it is paramount to prioritize cultural fit, setting, and work/life balance. While it is easier said than done, ensuring that you land in a place that gives you the opportunity to learn and grow as a clinician and as a person can outweigh a difference in pay.

What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

My wife, Glory, and I enjoy all things outdoors (gardening, hiking, biking, camping, snowshoeing, etc.). Thanks to a fellow Auggie PA grad, we have recently begun mushroom foraging this year and have yet to ingest a poisonous variety…thus far. We both find a lot of life in spending time with family, knitting, and also enjoying tv shows and documentaries (currently awaiting the next season of Ted Lasso!).

Do you have a favorite Augsburg PA memory you wish to share?

It is hard to pick just one memory as I fondly recall numerous evenings studying with classmates and celebrating after exams. That said, some of the most fun memories that I think back upon took place in Costa Rica during our summer immersion trip (including swimming in rivers, exploring new communities, touring a coffee roastery, and taking a salsa class).

If you were not a PA, what career could you see yourself doing?

I find a lot of life in working alongside those on the margins and have learned innumerable lessons of kindness, gratitude, and forgiveness from folks who have disabilities in the past. Given this, if I were not a PA I would hope to work in a setting that provides the opportunity to continue to learn from those on the margins of society.

Is there anything else you wish to share?

Though mental acuity, experience, and knowledge of medicine are all important aspects of the PA profession that we should strive to embody, my experience at Augsburg, throughout clinical rotations, at Nice Healthcare, and working with those with disabilities in the past have taught me that within a successful practitioner is the passion and the desire to serve another – to unveil their beauty, make known their worth, and recognize each person’s importance. We as practitioners are invited into a vulnerable and privileged position to, at times, hear a humble cry for communion that reveals to us something that is shared by all of humanity; each person is broken, each person is wounded, and each person is poor. The communal understanding that we are enough, in spite of and because of our imperfections, gives a sense of freedom to an individual and allows that person to tap into the well of tenderness hidden within. It is my hope that we can continue to embrace this freedom ourselves and better enable those around us to do the same.

PA GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT

With the support of Augsburg University’s Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, Augsburg PA program is proud to announce our 3 PA Graduate Fellows for 2021-2022! 

Miranda La Croix, Augsburg PA Student, Augsburg PA Fellow
Miranda LaCroix, Class of 2021

They are Miranda LaCroix, Merari Morales Rosales, and Brandon Young, Class of 2021. 

Merari Morales Rosales, Augsburg PA Student, Augsburg PA Fellow
Merari Morales Rosales, Class of 2021

The fellowship is an opportunity for recently graduated, diversity-minded PAs to grow their leadership and teaching skills in a hands-on classroom setting during the time between graduation and clinical practice.  The Graduate Fellow will be supported financially to work with the PA program to become mentors and role models to current PA students and PA faculty, reaffirming and growing our culture of equity, inclusion and diversity. 

We are very excited to have Miranda, Merari, and Brandon as our Augsburg PA graduate fellows for 2021-2022! We look forward to supporting their fellowship endeavors.

Brandon Young, Augsburg PA Student, Augsburg PA Fellow
Brandon Young, Class of 2021

SCHOLARSHIP SPOTLIGHT: THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE CORPS SCHOLARSHIP

Mayan Aideed, Augsburg PA Program Student
Maryan Aideed, Class of 2023

Congratulations to Maryan Aideed, Class of 2023, for having been awarded the National Health Service Corps Scholarship. The NHSC builds healthy communities by supporting qualified health care providers dedicated to working in areas of the United States with limited access to care. The NHSC scholarship is a highly competitive award that pays for all PA school tuition, provides monthly living expenses while in school, and other costs like books, fees and medical equipment and in return, scholars work for two years in a medically underserved area in primary care. Awardees demonstrate their commitment to primary care and in serving communities that need medical providers most.

Maryan says about the scholarship; “I am so honored and grateful to be the recipient of the National Health Service Corps Scholarship. It is truly rewarding to be immersed in my passion and get an award for serving underserved and underrepresented communities in primary and preventative health care. This is in perfect alignment with my own mission and values, so I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you to all who have helped with this achievement, including the remarkable faculty, and mentors here at Augsburg University and in the PA program.”

We are proud to have Maryan in our 2023 cohort, and we thank the National Health Service Corps for offering this scholarship to generously support Maryan in her PA studies at Augsburg University.

The PA role in medicine is flexible and innovative

The following article, co-authored by Augsburg PA Program’s Program Director, was recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Alicia Quella, PhD, PA-C is an epidemiologist and the Chair and Program Director of the Augsburg PA Program in Minneapolis, MN.

The PA role in medicine is flexible and innovative. PAs work in every clinical specialty and thrive in other roles too: CEOs, administrators, public health experts, business owners, researchers and professors.  Not only have PAs continued to emerge into different careers, especially during the pandemic, they demonstrate the ability to change clinical specialties over the course of their careers. A recent study demonstrated that new PAs spend about 3.4 years in their first job, on average, before they decide to move to another medical or surgical field.1

To better demonstrate this flexibility, an alluvial diagram was developed for PAs who report one clinical specialty change on the AAPA annual census within a 10-year period.1 An alluvial diagram contains additional information beyond summary statistics that illustrates aggregate changes in each clinical role. The two vertical bars represent the clinical roles of PAs’ first and second jobs, respectively. The flow between the two vertical bars demonstrates the movement of PAs from one broad clinical category to another.

Career progression of PA between primary care, sugrical subspecialty, other specialty, internal medication, emergency medicine and pediatric

 

This flow from one clinical specialty to another, occurring early in a new PAs career, emphasizes the adaptability and potential of this career arc. Additionally, from clinician to administrator (many are also dual-employed across specialties), it will be exciting to see what lies ahead for this innovative profession.

 

  1. Quella, Alicia K. PhD, MPAS, PA-C; Hooker, Roderick S. PhD, MBA, PA; Zobitz, John M. PhD Retention and change in PAs’ first years of employment, Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants: June 2021 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – p 40-43.

doi: 10.1097/01.JAA.0000750972.64581.b0

Congratulations, Megan Knoll PA-S2!

Megan Knoll, Augsburg PA-S2We are so happy to announce that Megan Knoll, of the Class of 2022, has recently awarded the AAPA Rural Health Caucus Scholarship – her second scholarship win this year. Megan is one of 26 PA students to be awarded a scholarship through the PA Foundation in 2021. She had this to say, regarding her award: “As I enter the clinical phase of my education, I could not be more thrilled to receive this scholarship supporting my mission to become a rural primary care provider. I am eager to raise my family in a small town and fight for the cause of increasing access to quality health care in underserved farming/ranching communities of South Dakota.”

Class of 2022 White Coat Ceremony

PA Program Class of 2022 in white coatsYesterday, after a year of demanding academic work, the PA Program’s Class of 2022 celebrated their transition to the clinical phase of the program with the presentation of their white coats. The ceremony was recorded and is archived on the Augsburg Physician Assistant Facebook page. Resiliency, equity, and humility were common themes in speeches from Professor Kristen Lindvall, President Paul Pribbenow, Dr Kurt DeVine, and the Class of 2022. In addition to a rigorous academic program, navigating the challenges of COVID-19, civil unrest, and ongoing racialized trauma and reckoning in Minnesota have forced our students to develop and demonstrate the kind of grit and determination required of healthcare professionals. It is with great pride that we offer our congratulations to the Augsburg PA Class of 2022!

Welcome, Augsburg PA Class of 2023

Classroom photo

Summer has just begun and many students are enjoying a break from classes. Meanwhile, here at the Augsburg PA Program, our incoming class has begun a rigorous first semester! Last Monday marked the first day of the term for our incoming class. We have been so excited to meet them, and to bring them all together for the life-changing experience of PA school.

Augsburg PA students talking in groups

 

To ensure everyone’s safety, we maintained our COVID-19 safety plan. For the time being, we are still requiring mask usage in classrooms and regular COVID-19 testing. For contact tracing purposes, we assign students to small groups, and recommend students utilize physical distancing precautions with peers outside of their assigned groups. With these measures, prescribed by Dr. Alicia Quella, the program has been successful at navigating the COVID-19 pandemic with zero cases of intra-class transmission amongst our students, staff, and faculty.

Augsburg PA class of 2023The students got to know each other through a distanced icebreaker activity, to develop a sense of community amongst the cohort. They got to meet all of our staff and faculty, as well as their faculty advisors. We rounded out the day with a mask-less outdoor group photo, in accordance with the Governor’s mandate which warrants outdoor gatherings for fully-vaccinated individuals. Here’s to a safe, challenging, incredible adventure for this phenomenal cohort of healthcare providers!

 

 

Congratulations Dr. Kurt Devine

Dr. Kurt Devine

Augsburg University and the PA Program attract faculty who are the best in their field. And we’ve got the receipts to prove it! Dr. Kurt DeVine, MD, the program’s Medical Director, is a Family Physician of the Year finalist through the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP). Dr. DeVine is a multi-disciplined family medicine physician, practicing family medicine and addiction medicine. Over the past two years, Dr. DeVine, along with his associate Dr. Healther Bell, MD, has provided a unique learning opportunity for our students through his ECHO Substance Use Disorder curriculum. The Augsburg PA Program is honored to have Dr. Kurt DeVine on the team! We would like to congratulate him on this prestigious recognition, and extend our thanks for taking on this critical work and for representing the Augsburg University PA Program!