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This Doctor Can: Choosing to study to become a physician associate

For Black History Month, this This Doctor Can blog focuses on the life and career of physician associate student, Simisola Olatunde-Adeyemo.

Although I was born and raised in the UK, I am also Nigerian. From a very young age, my parents always made sure I stayed connected to my Nigerian culture. This is something that has shaped and influenced how I have navigated through life. I have always been aware of the emphasis placed on education and choosing a career that would ensure success, such as medicine or law. It is something that eventually led me onto this path, to become a physician associate (PA).

As an undergraduate student, I studied biomedical science. After securing my first graduate job in a cytology laboratory, I quickly realised that it was not what I wanted to do. The lack of patient contact and repeating the same old routines were things that I just didn’t enjoy. I knew I wanted to do something else, but I didn’t know what. I knew I wanted a career where I could be around people, rather than laboratory machines, and also make a difference. I decided to leave the lab to work in mental health as a crisis support worker, helping people with mental health conditions when they were in their most vulnerable state. This job helped me to realise that I wanted to be able to help people more than my current position was allowing me to.

One of my closest friends had just graduated and was already working as a PA, so I was already aware of the course – but hadn’t done much research. My family had encouraged me to consider doing a masters, but I refused, as I was adamant about not going back to study. After having a chat with my friend and doing some research into the PA course, I saw that it would be perfect for me. I decided there and then that I was going to study to become a PA – a decision I am so glad I made! It is no secret that the course is intense, but it is not impossible to get through. It has been challenging, but very rewarding. I am in my final year of study, and I’m so shocked by how quickly time has flown. The course allows me to interact with patients and connect with them, rather than just seeing them as a patient with a particular condition, and that’s what I love about it. No two days are the same, and I get to explore the breadth of medicine.

Being black and Nigerian has shaped my career and experiences, because I am always aware of how important it is for people like me to occupy spaces in healthcare, and to ultimately be able to advocate for other people that look like me. Representation matters more than ever in a time where some black people may be hesitant to visit their GP or go to the hospital, out of fear of being overlooked or not taken seriously due to the colour of their skin. Representation matters because I have seen just how big of a difference it makes to a patient when you are being treated by someone that can look past your condition and truly understand and relate to your background. I feel so privileged to be able to study to become a PA because I know how it feels to have someone that truly understands you, and treat you holistically, and I can’t wait to be able to do the same with my patients. 

Would you like to share your experience of going into medicine? Get in touch on Twitter via @thisdoctorcan.