Physician Assistant student is where she wants to be — Upstate

SUNY Upstate Physician Assistant

Katie Bubnack, a student in our Physician Assistant master's degree program, volunteered as an Emergency Medical Technician before enrolling at Upstate. Photos by William Mueller. Video by Steve Garlock.

Katie Bubnack is among a growing number of graduate students looking to fill New York State’s health care provider gap. She’s a student in Upstate’s Physician Assistant master’s degree program, and will graduate in 2014.

“There is a shortage of primary care providers,” Katie said. “There’s an aging baby boom population that needs health care. This is where mid-level providers like PAs can be very helpful.”

Physician Assistants are licensed health care professionals who practice medicine with physician supervision in a variety of settings. Katie talks about the profession, and coming to Upstate, in a YouTube video that’s part of a series on our College of Health Professions programs.

After 15 months on the Upstate campus, Katie and her classmates left in August for their 11-month clinical rotations in smaller communities throughout the region.

“This gives you chance to be ingrained in the community and the culture of the health care system,” she said.

SUNY Upstate PA program

Upstate Physician Assistant student Katie Bubnack in our Educational Communications studio.

Katie didn’t consider becoming a PA until she graduated from Siena College near Albany with a biology degree, and entered the work force in the pharmaceutical industry.

Students in Upstate’s PA program come from a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds, including Army medic, nurse, physician, medical technologist, surgical technician, EMT, respiratory therapist and athletic trainer.

“The great thing is that in class, you can learn something from everyone,” Katie said. “I have found that to be so helpful. Every time we go through something new in class, there’s always someone with a little extra real-world expertise you can draw upon. Real-world experience in health care will allow you to understand things quicker.”

Another great benefit of Upstate’s PA program, Katie said, is that it’s part of an academic medical center with “access to bells and whistles” such as the Human Anatomy Lab and Clinical Skills Center on campus.

Being a PA also has advantages that not every health care profession offers, Katie said.

“You can have flexibility to change up your career path,” she said. “You can be interested in (for example) dermatology for five years, and then be interested in geriatrics for five years. It’s definitely one of the benefits that led me to this career. As long as you work with a supervising physician, you can work in whatever health care setting you’re interested in.”

After six years in the work force, Katie said she made the right decision to enroll at Upstate. “When I finally got here,” she said, “I felt like this is what I should have been doing all along.”


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