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PPA Alumna Stephanie Rodriguez Offers Hope and Encouragement to PA School Applicants

For students on the pre-medical track, the prospect of potentially not getting accepted into medical school can be daunting. Amanda Stephanie Rodriguez (Amanda is her legal name, but friends and family know her as Stephanie) completed Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Postbaccalaureate Pre-PA Certificate (PPA) program in May 2020 and offers hope from the other side.

Not only will she be attending her first choice—the Physician Assistant (PA) Program at George Washington University’s School of Medicine—but she was awarded a competitive merit-based scholarship. Now, she has been meeting with KGI students in this year’s postbaccalaureate program to offer support and encouragement.

“It’s been really nice to give back from my perspective because when I was in their position, I felt scared about the next step,” Rodriguez, PPA ’20, said.

For Rodriguez, Joon Kim and Elba Muñoz—Director and Assistant Director of KGI’s PPA and Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) programs—did an exceptional job helping her navigate the application process, mainly when it came to interviewing prep.

“Having that one-on-one opportunity for all those practice interviews taught me how to interview properly—what questions to expect and how to talk about yourself in a manner that is interesting and intriguing but also not too flamboyant or arrogant,” Rodriguez said. “It was also great that we got to fine-tune our resumes as well, and I felt a lot more confident about my answers.”

Kim consistently had students practice their elevator pitch, even taking an extra step by giving feedback and sample responses that a potential medical school program director might provide for such a pitch.

“He would give us tough questions and see how we would answer,” Rodriguez said.

“All that individual attention made a huge difference.”

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic cut short their in-person time together during the school year, the PPA class of 2020 remained and continues to stay close.

“We’re always texting and checking in on each other, congratulating each other on our accomplishments and just checking in to see what’s been going on in our lives, especially because we got separated so abruptly,” Rodriguez said.

When it comes to her long-term career goals, Rodriguez is most drawn toward neurology but is also open to working in surgery or cardiology as she’s shadowed in both of those fields. Currently, she is working as a medical assistant for a neurologist who specializes in hearing disorders.

“We see a lot of patients who come in dizzy—some have ringing in the ears, some have hearing loss, and then you have extreme cases where people come in with Bell’s Palsy or strokes or brain tumors that have caused nerve damage whether it be in the face, hands, or feet,” Rodriguez said. “It’s interesting to see this full spectrum of conditions in just one specialty.”

Previously, Rodriguez worked with Alzheimer’s patients, where she processed complex information daily, but she feels that the responsibilities in her new position are even more difficult.

“It’s been a growing experience,” Rodriguez said. “Now I feel more confident when I’m talking to patients. They treat us like medical professionals, not just assistants, and we work closely with the PAs. It’s a very interdisciplinary type of environment—which is the main reason why I wanted to be PA—so working in this office has solidified my decision.”

In addition to PA school, Rodriguez has other exciting events on the horizon. She is currently planning a wedding with her fiance, who lives in San Diego.

“One must know Stephanie’s background to appreciate what she’s accomplished thus far, but more important is who she is as a person,” Kim said. “What I will remember most about her is her unwavering commitment to helping others. Her altruism is genuine, so I was motivated to go the extra mile to support her in her goals.”