MPA Student Branched Out After Returning to Healthcare Roots

When Miguel started his educational journey with a bachelor’s in exercise physiology, he expected to become a physical therapist — just like his parents. However, it didn’t take long after finishing his undergraduate degree to figure out that physical therapy was the wrong field for him.

“You can feel it in your gut that something’s not right,” he shared. “But then again, it was in my gut that I still wanted to care for people, you know.”

Instead, Miguel went into the food service industry for a few years, taking roles as a food runner and waiter in North Carolina where he was living at the time. While being a server was not his long-term plan, he liked working directly with people and helping provide a positive experience.

Eventually, he decided to return to his healthcare roots, but this time seeking out the path that was right for his strengths and goals. “I gave myself another chance at healthcare,” he said. And it paid off! One year into the Master of Physician Assistant program at WCU-Texas, Miguel is glad to be back in the healthcare space, preparing for a career that’s full of possibilities!

Check out what he has to say!

WCU: What was your parents’ reaction when you told them you were switching away from physical therapy? 

Miguel: They thought it was crazy at first. There was a business to be run, and I said I always wanted to do it. But then they saw my resolve that I really wanted to do this. I understand that PAs are great leaders in the healthcare industry, so here I am now. I’m really happy about it.

WCU: Was there a moment that solidified it for you that PA was the right career choice?

Miguel: When I found out that you can switch between fields. The lateral mobility has never been like that in any other field. There’s no limits. For physician assistants, it seems like the possibilities are endless. If I do not like one field, I could go to another field a few years later.

I would like to find out if I’m still interested in orthopedics. I guess I’m interested in finding out what I’m really interested in. With these clinicals, I’m excited to find out more about myself in terms of how I want to help patients in practice.

WCU: How did you find WCU? 

Miguel: I found West Coast University just through searching PA programs throughout the country. I was in Oklahoma at the time. It was only four hours from where I had been living. WCU was a fairly new program. We’re the second cohort in this program, so it was a blessing I was able to find this place before all the applicants found this place. It’s starting to fill up. Now it’s harder to get in.

WCU: What has your first year in the program been like? 

Miguel: It was crazy that we were able to learn all of this information, to be honest. Looking back, a year ago I knew nothing, and now I feel more confident that I could practice well going into my clinicals.

It was a lot of studying, a lot of crying — I’m not afraid to admit that — but thank God we have these friendships that we cultivated throughout the year. We helped each other and we’re here now.

WCU: How did you get through the hard moments? 

Miguel: Just look at what the prize is. We know we’re going into one of the greatest jobs America has to offer. We know the opportunities that await us, and we can’t just give up. All of us like to pick ourselves back up to push on because of the opportunity that’s ahead of us as future physician assistants. I would go on Zillow and be like, ‘I could own this one day!’

WCU: What has been the best part of the program so far? 

Miguel: The best part of being in PA school is knowing that the faculty believes in me. That’s part of why I was able to push through. They believe in me almost like they see me as a colleague, a future colleague. I just know that I’m not alone in this journey.

WCU: Anything you want to add?  

Miguel: I’d like to thank West Coast University for the resources that they provide for us. We have counseling services. We have academic services, and we have financial services. We have a diversity clinic. We have the library where we have access to all these journals for free. Not all schools have these things in place. It’s nice to know we have this plethora of resources. 

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.