Villanova University, B.S. in Biology with minors in Spanish and Global Health
“ As a PA, I will fully dedicate myself to serving a diverse community through meaningful relationships, effective communication, and a desire to push the boundaries of our capabilities. ”Meghan Morrissette
College of Health Sciences-Downers Grove, Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2024
What inspired you to pursue a healthcare career?
I have wanted to be a healthcare professional since before I can remember. I cannot recall a day I answered, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with anything other than a role in healthcare. While I am not sure where this unwavering desire was created, I can recall several moments in my life where this decision was made concrete.
The most influential of these involved my time with Special Olympics. Villanova University hosts the largest student-run Special Olympics Event in the world. Part of my role as Special Events Director was overseeing the Healthy Athletes® Program. The Healthy Athletes® Special Olympics program invites healthcare professionals to campus to provide specialized care for athletes in various medical specialties. This is often the only healthcare some athletes receive all year. The smile when an athlete learned how to properly brush their teeth or were fitted for new glasses was inspiring. There is a lack of healthcare education for those with disabilities, and one of my passions is to bring quality healthcare education and treatment to this community.
Special Olympic athletes taught me to see the person in the patient, emphasizing the importance of creative problem solving. The drive of Special Olympics athletes also influenced my approach to medicine; like them, we will never stop learning and progressing if we continually challenge ourselves to improve and commit to teamwork. The passion I discovered in Special Olympics mirrors my passion for healthcare. As a PA, I will fully dedicate myself to serving a diverse community through meaningful relationships, effective communication, and a desire to push the boundaries of our capabilities. My Special Olympics relationships remind me of the value of human connection and compassion in healthcare. They prompt me to see each case as an opportunity to challenge myself as a person and as a healthcare professional. This along with so many experiences as an EMT, an orthopedic technician, a medical assistant, and even as a patient have solidified my desire to serve those in need using my medical training, my problem-solving skills, my natural empathy, and my dedication to hard work.
How did your background and history factor into your career choice?
Growing up as the youngest of four energetic, athletic, curious children meant bumps and bruises were commonplace in the backyard. Thankfully, we always had my aunt, an experienced nurse on speed dial to answer any question or concern we had. I remember thinking I wanted to be the person others could rely on in times of stress. Later, my brother attended Physician Assistant school in New Mexico and returned home for his clinical rotations. Being his younger sister by eight years, I took every opportunity to spend time with my brother which usually meant watching surgery videos to prepare for his case load the next day. As I began asking more questions and learning through my brother, I realized the autonomy of the Physician Assistant career mixed with a healthy work-life balance and lateral mobility was a perfect fit for me.
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a diverse neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago. My parents taught me the value of inclusion and respect by encouraging me to become involved in our community through community service.
As a child, I volunteered at MorningStar Mission, a homeless shelter nearby. My dad and I went before school and prepared food while the families slept. After serving the meal, we went into the dining area to talk to people. As we volunteered more often, the barriers between those serving and those being served disappeared, and I understood the impact of treating others with respect and refraining from judgment, regardless of circumstance. As I reflected more on my career path in healthcare, I realized my responsibilities extended far beyond treating a diagnosis. Not every profession is afforded the opportunity to interact with so many different people of diverse backgrounds. Vulnerable patients look to their providers as a source of comfort and strength, and it is imperative to extend honest communication, empathy, compassion, and respect in these settings.
Why did you decide to attend Midwestern University?
My decision to attend Midwestern University was multi-faceted. I was initially drawn to Midwestern’s reputation for excellence in academics and dedication to service of the community. Service was an integral part of my upbringing and education up to this point and was something I felt passionate about continuing throughout my professional career. Growing up with a very large, close-knit family, I was thrilled to be accepted into a school so close to where I grew up. Being far from home the past few years at Villanova University reminded me of the importance of a solid support system and quality time with family.
Most significant for me, however, was the feel of the PA program. The idea of finding where I “fit” was one I had greatly overlooked before my interview with Midwestern. I was looking only at numbers and mission statements and locations. While all these aspects were important in my process of selecting a PA school, this criterion was not complete. Compared to other experiences, I was able to be the most comfortable and most confident version of myself in my interview with Midwestern. My interview felt less like a performance and more like a conversation in which the faculty truly wanted to get to know me as an individual, not just an applicant. After attending a “Closer Look Day,” my decision was confirmed. The current students exhibited the same sense of genuine welcome. It was inspiring to see so many dedicated people in one space all striving for a common goal for the benefit of others. I knew this community was something I wanted to be a part of me and my career.
What about a Midwestern University education do you want to carry forward in your career?
Very recently, the Physician Assistant Program Director, Dr. Chung, invited our class to reach out to her with ideas for topics for our weekly Program Meetings; topics we, as students, think might be overlooked in the curriculum or that we wanted to learn more about. I emailed her with a quick suggestion of learning a bit more about healthcare for those with disabilities and offered to put her in contact with an expert from within Special Olympics. However, Dr. Chung suggested I present to my peers instead of an outside source. While I was slightly nervous at first, the PA faculty and my classmates at Midwestern were incredibly supportive and encouraging. It was beneficial for me to share something I was so passionate about and helped my classmates on their journey to be the best providers possible. The people around me at Midwestern encouraged me to take a leap and commit to something that was slightly intimidating.
Since then, they have also supported me in arranging a volunteer opportunity for my cohort with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® Program. Moving forward, I will be more willing to share my experiences and speak up for what I believe in. I am extremely passionate about healthcare for those with disabilities, and it would have been a disservice not to share this knowledge with my classmates simply because I was nervous. Midwestern has given me the tools and platform to combine my passion for underserved populations with my passion for healthcare and continue to share them with others.
The faculty and my peers have shown me that we can do incredible things when we chose to speak up, take initiative, and dedicate ourselves to the service of others. I cannot wait to volunteer with my classmates with Special Olympics later this quarter and continue our lifelong learning together!
Meghan Morrissette is a Class of 2024 student from the Physician Assistant Program on the Downers Grove Campus.