Reanna Williams, a first-year student in the Physician Assistant (PA) program and president of the PA class of 2022, is no stranger to the medical profession. Before coming to Feinberg, she worked as a registered nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit. In 2017, Williams graduated from Marian University in Indianapolis with a degree in nursing. Prior to nursing school, she attended Northwestern for undergrad where she majored in psychology, graduating in 2015. Now being back at Northwestern and a student in Feinberg’s PA program, Williams is excited for the ample opportunities becoming a PA can offer her in the healthcare field.
Read a Q&A with Williams below.
Why did you choose Feinberg?
I received an incredible education from Northwestern University as an undergrad and after being accepted into Feinberg’s PA program, it only made sense to return “home” for my graduate degree. What stuck out to me most about Feinberg’s PA program was the utilization of Problem Based Learning (PBL), which is not very common in PA programs. It really offers this fantastic opportunity to integrate information you’ve learned from multiple classes into whatever mock case you have for the week. It has helped hone my critical thinking skills and reinforce all of the information I have learned in the program so far. Also, it’s nice to be fairly close to home since I’m from Indiana.
Why did you want to become a PA?
I chose PA as a career because of the ability to switch specialties and experience many areas of healthcare. That’s one of the things I loved about being a nurse, and it was important for me to retain that ability as a PA. Healthcare is an ever-evolving entity and I also wanted to choose a career that gives me a great foundation to continue to build my medical knowledge and skills. Most importantly though, PA’s have outstanding rates of career satisfaction; a lot of PAs just really love their job. This is just a testament to how awesome our career is and how valuable we are to our patients and the healthcare team.
What are your research and clinical interests?
I worked in a pediatric intensive care unit before I came to PA school. I’ve previously worked with adult patients, specifically within in an emergency department. But I think kids are a lot more straightforward and adorable, so I wouldn’t mind staying in pediatrics. I also really liked our cardiac unit, so a pediatric cardiac specialty is what I’m leaning towards right now.
As president of your class, what are your responsibilities?
One of my main responsibilities is being able to support our class board and the entire class overall, being a liaison between students and faculty, especially now with COVID-19 and our largely virtual environment. I ensure that our thoughts, concerns and needs are conveyed to our faculty and staff, but also within the larger community if an opportunity is presented. This has been a hard year for a lot of people, but it was my goal as president to try to bring as much joy and normalcy to my peers as possible. Our board has been phenomenal in setting up events for us to bond or hold space for people to vent if needed. A president can only be as great as those that surround him or her and I have been very blessed to work with my classmates.
As a class, we also decided that diversity was very important to us and we have been striving to help make the next incoming class as diverse as possible. We created the role of diversity representative within the board and she, Rosalia Garcia, has been awesome at educating us about different topics and encouraging an open dialogue about diversity. We are attempting to do more outreach with high school students. I’ve been working with a couple of college and career advisors in the hopes to speak with high school students about what a PA is, how to become a PA, how to get into Northwestern and what it’s like being a PA student at Northwestern. We already have a connection in place with Northwestern’s undergrad campus to mentor pre-PA students as well, so I feel like as a program we are on the right track.
Besides becoming a PA, what are you plans for after PA school?
Just to be an advocate for people that look like me. I plan to continue to use my voice and resources in whatever manner that I can to bridge and combat the inequalities that are rampant in healthcare and society at large. Representation very much matters and as a Black student and future PA; I would love to see academia, healthcare and other avenues of society become more diverse and I will do what I can to see this transition occur. Advocacy, in every form of the word, is one of the biggest motivators in everything that I do.
What advice would you give to prospective PA students?
Do your research. Programs are interviewing you, but you are also interviewing the program. Find a program that has a mission statement that is in line with your morals and views. Then ensure that they actually uphold those views and put their mission statement into practice daily. PA school may be one of the most challenging things you do but make it easier on yourself by choosing a supportive, inclusive and open environment. Our faculty does a great job at listening to us and implementing changes when they can and that is important.
I would also say to really evaluate why you want to get into healthcare as cliché as it sounds. Healthcare is not for the faint of heart as is clearly proven by this past year. We see a lot of really sad and tragic stories sometimes; we go through rigorous programs and often we provide care for others at the expense of our own health. But if you have a “why” and can hold onto the beauty, inspiration and humility of healthcare, you will find a very fulfilling career ahead of you.