Hi! We are Brooke & Lauren and we are The Skin Sisters. We were born just 13 months apart. We went to elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college at the University of Wisconsin - Madison together. We both joined sororities and studied until all hours of the night at Helen C. White library in Madison. But that is where the similarities in our professional path diverge for a bit. Lauren was studying biology and anatomy, while Brooke was preparing for a career in Tech PR. There are many different paths to becoming a Physician Assistant; ours happen to mirror just two of them.
Lauren: I always wanted to go into medicine. Our mom was a nurse and our stepdad was a physician; from an early age, my interest was piqued and I wanted to enter the health care field. However, I was unsure about going to medical school and completing a residency; I just didn’t see myself going down that path. I remember one afternoon my sophomore year of college; I was chatting with our stepdad and discussing my interest in medicine, but my hesitation to apply to medical school. He suggested that I explore the path to becoming a Physician Assistant. It was 2001 and the Physician Assistant field was growing quickly. His suggestion made a lot of sense to me, so I started to reach out to every PA, physician and nurse I could find to get his or her opinion. I questioned them on how they chose their career path and spent countless hours shadowing Physician Assistants to learn about their career. It soon became clear that I had found the profession for me.
I applied and was accepted to a great program in Nashville, TN, where I was able to get all of the clinical hours necessary to apply to PA School. It was through an organization called Dialysis Clinics Inc. (DCI) that I was able to spend the summer in Nashville reinforcing my decision to become a PA. I spent hours and hours at St. Thomas Hospital and Camp Okawehna providing basic care to both children and adults who were on dialysis or receiving kidney transplant.
I returned from Nashville and started applying to Physician Assistant Programs. I was fortunate to be admitted to a program in New York City, where I wanted to live at the time. It was an interesting time, because PA Programs were not as ubiquitous (or as competitive!) as they are now. Back in 2004, there were 3 PA Programs in New York City, and there were not many Masters Degree programs like we have now; all of the 3 programs in NYC offered only a certificate or Bachelors Degree at the time.
I started PA School knowing that I wanted to practice Dermatology. Through my shadowing prior to PA School, Dermatology had interested me very much and I thought I would enjoy practicing in the field. However, during PA School, there were many times that I questioned this plan - I became interested in each rotation I completed and realized that I could be happy in many fields. Thankfully, this interest allowed me to actively learn and participate fully in each clinical rotation I completed, as I now utilize so much of my general medical and surgical knowledge in my Dermatology career. I love being a Physician Assistant and am thankful that I realized early on that becoming a PA would provide me with a fulfilling, enjoyable, and challenging career.
Brooke: After college, I moved to San Francisco to start a career working in Corporate Communications for a Tech PR firm, where I stayed for just under five years. In that time I learned so much and had wonderful opportunities to learn, grow and live in some really fun places! Over time, however, I realized that I wasn't pursuing what I was passionate about and began to take steps to figure out my next career move. I was always cautiously interested in science and especially the human body, but never really know how to place my interests into a specific career path.
Over almost a year, I took time to talk to and spend time with anyone I could to expose myself to all different types of opportunities. This led to taking night classes in basic sciences and starting work as a Medical Assistant. During my time working at a Pediatrician's office, I start to notice different things that I would later learn are social determinants of health and health disparities within communities. After much discussion with family members, they to helped guide me in the direction of pursuing a Masters in Public Health. I moved to Washington, D.C. and embarked on two years of study that would significantly change my life. Learning about community health and the social determinants of health has absolutely helped shape me as a clinician for the better. During these years, I had the opportunity to complete a Fellowship abroad in India, which gave me the opportunity to see community health and disparity in action, as well as see how health policy works both domestically and abroad.
As I entered into my final year in Public Health I knew that something was missing, and that I was craving the training and knowledge to be able to serve individuals at that patient/provider level. I applied to PA school at the same University and was accepted. Fast-forward two years, and countless library hours later, and I was walking across the stage with my degree as a Physician Assistant.
I was recently engaged upon graduation and was moving to a city where my now-husband would complete a Fellowship and I knew no one, and certainly didn't have any contacts in the medical field! I put my resume up on several different sites and began cold calling offices in the area to see if they were hiring a PA. I initially wanted to work in Emergency Medicine but broadened my horizons and was so lucky when a Dermatologist called saying they were looking for a PA.
The practice I joined trained me in dermatology and specifically to assist in Mohs surgery for the removal of skin cancer. Over the year I spent there I fell in love with Dermatology, in many of the ways I had previously loved Emergency! I love the fast pace of dermatology, the variety and the ability to do so many different things! When my husband and I moved back to Minneapolis, the practice Lauren was at was looking for another PA and the timing worked out perfectly.
There are so many paths to becoming a PA, and no path is right or wrong. We are both lucky to have found a profession we love, and look forward to working in for many years to come.