Anali Cisneros, a first-year student in Feinberg’s Physician Assistant Program (PA), was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, before attending Judson University in Elgin, Ill. for her undergraduate studies. Prior to beginning her PA school journey, she was a phlebotomy technician at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group.
In addition to pursuing studies to become a PA, Cisneros is also an Olympic-level athlete in race walking. In 2021, she competed in the Olympic trials for the Tokyo Olympic games, where she placed eighth nationally. She now has her sights set on competing in next year’s Olympic qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.
Read a Q&A with Cisneros below.
Why did you choose Feinberg?
Listen to Cisneros here:
I chose Feinberg because I think it stood out in a lot of different aspects. Personally, I was an employee of Northwestern, so it was a goal of mine to one day graduate from the Feinberg PA program. The mission that Northwestern has of putting the patient first and having patient-centered care is something I always resonated with. From day one, I felt like I was welcomed into a family. From the interview process until now, the faculty have been so supportive, and I’m just really excited to be led by them in the years ahead.
Why did you want to become a physician assistant?
I wanted to pursue a career where I was responsible for developing treatment plans for patients and where I could embrace patient education. Most importantly as a PA, I could improve accessibility for patients to see a provider. The story behind the PA profession is one of service and bridging the gap between patient and provider. So, I knew this was the fulfilling career I had been searching for all along as I am passionate about helping underserved communities.
Tell me about how you became interested in competitive race walking.
I was a runner since I was in fourth grade, and when I was in middle school, there was an opportunity to join the race walking team. I would say I was pretty talented right away: the technique that we have in race walking can be challenging for some people. But because I was really good at it right away, I was invited to go to national competitions. When I was 14 years old, I was able to travel the U.S. for competitions and that was very motivating for me, so I was very eager to continue. As I continued in high school, I was very successful. I broke junior records, and I traveled internationally as part of the USA Junior Elite team. That got me to the Olympic level, and I continued to race walk in college and would compete in USA national meets, which led me to the Olympic trials.
What was it like competing in the Olympic race walk trials for the Tokyo 2020 games?
The Olympic trials were awesome. The event for women is 20 kilometers (12.4 miles), and this was my first time doing such a high-caliber event with so many experienced professional athletes. Of course, with COVID I did have some bumps in the road with training, but it was still a really good experience, and I placed in the top eight!
What advice would you give to prospective PA students?
The PA application process is very difficult and can sometimes intimidate people. Being a first-generation Latina student, I was definitely a little intimidated, but I want to encourage everybody to not be intimidated by it and to value your own personal story because it can be that bridge to getting you an entry into PA school. If you enjoy what you’ve done and you have a passion for becoming a PA, then that will for sure drive you and get you accepted into a program.