Athletics Paved the Way for PA Student’s Interest In Health Care

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Hannah McCarty, a second-year student in the Physician Assistant Studies program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, decided she would pursue a career in health care after witnessing the effects of athletic injuries.

Hannah McCarty

“As an athlete who suffered injuries and witnessed my teammates suffer different types of them as well, I became interested in the orthopedic process,” McCarty said. “Being able to overcome and return to playing a game you love is both a scary and amazing process. I knew I wanted to be able to be a part of helping other athletes through that process.”

A Tupelo native, McCarty served as the goalkeeper for the Pearl River Community College (PRCC) Lady Wildcats soccer team from 2011-2012, leading the team to the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference Championship. She is considered to be one of the top goalkeepers in program history and will be inducted into the PRCC Athletics Hall of Fame  later this month.

“It is an amazing honor to be able to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” McCarty said. “Those years of playing there helped me grow as not only a soccer player, but as an overall individual. I share a love of soccer with my late grandfather, who attended all of my games.  My love for it only grew stronger with the amazing coaching staff and teammates that I had while at PRCC.”

The physician assistant profession appealed to McCarty after she heard a PA give a speech at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she completed her undergraduate studies. “I shadowed a lot of PAs after that and found joy in the profession and what they were doing,” she said. “Another big plus for me was the lateral mobility aspect of the career. I would be able to practice in many different specialties.”

UTHSC’s Physician Assistant Studies program began in 2014.  To date, 164 students have graduated, and 59 students are currently enrolled. “Being the only public PA program in the state of Tennessee, our program has always been a draw for in-state applicants looking to go into the UT system,” said Kristopher Maday, MS, PA-C, program director and associate professor of Physician Assistant Studies.  From the state-of-the-art Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) on our Memphis campus, to the availability of clinical rotations across the state, our program generally has 40:1 applicant to matriculant ratio, and halfway through the admission cycle for this year, we are poised to exceed this.  It is a testament to the reputation of UTHSC, our program, our students, and our alumni.”

The program appealed to McCarty because of its location, the faculty, and its many facilities that students can use while pursuing their degrees. “The interview process for this program was different than most,” she said. “The faculty was very welcoming and made sure to make the interviewees as relaxed as possible. Since I’ve been at the university, one of my favorite aspects of attending has been learning in the CHIPS. Although the pandemic took away a lot of experiences for me and my classmates, having the CHIPS center on campus allowed us to practice different procedures and simulations to prepare us for the transition into our clinical experiences.”