Sabine Wetzel

Graduate Student Shares her Journey to Becoming a Physician Assistant

By Sabine Wetzel

“Hold out your hand and stay still,” whispers my grandfather in Swiss-German as he angles the lamp to illuminate my injury. My failed attempt to whittle a roasting stick for my bratwurst left me with a superficial laceration and tear-stricken face. He swings open the bathroom closet to reveal a myriad of concoctions in glass jars ranging from Chinese teas to onion extract. A few drops from a carefully selected bottle are applied to my wound with the reassurance that I will heal quickly.

My grandfather’s illustration of Swiss home remedies first sparked my enthusiasm for health and medicine. When he was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, there were always family members, friends, or neighborhood hospice workers by his side. I remember thinking that everyone deserved a strong network of support comparable to what he had received. I began to see health care as a collaborative network of care that encompassed the support of family, health care providers, and an entire community.

After graduating from college, I began volunteering and working in various health care positions to investigate my potential role in the field, including medical scribing and providing direct patient care as a phlebotomist with the American Red Cross. But it was during a routine health visit where I was treated by a physician assistant that my future career presented itself. The individual’s scope of practice was remarkable, and I was astonished to discover that a physician assistant’s could be the provider of one’s medical needs.

Eager to learn more about the profession, I shadowed a surgical physician assistant. who demonstrated compassion for her patients, expansive clinical knowledge and a proclivity for patient education. We rounded on critically ill patients with a team of attending surgeons, and would return to each patient after rounds to review and further
explain what had been discussed earlier. This experience solidified my path to becoming a physician assistant.

When applying to schools, several facets of the USF program caught my eye, including its emphasis on small, interactive classes and its commitment to preparing students to provide primary care in rural settings. While the USF faculty has offered constant support and encouragement, the most significant support I’ve received has come
from my fellow classmates. The Class of 2019 is made up of compassionate, intelligent, inspiring future providers, and I am humbled and ever-grateful for my journey with them over these last two-and-a-half demanding years.