For many, becoming a PA is not always a clear-cut decision. Sometimes it may come much later in life after ample time for self-reflection and life experience. Take Chaya Korf for example; A wife, mother of two and first-year PA Student at Nova Southeastern University. It would be after years of travel and a gap year from college that she would begin her journey to PA school.
Born and raised in South Florida, Chaya decided that after high school it was time for a change of scenery. Her first stop would be Australia attending a Jewish Seminary for one year. Later she would attend Touro College at the New York, Israel, and Miami campuses.
In between the excitement of traveling the globe, Chaya was still uncertain about completing a college degree. So, she decided to take a year off after Seminary to think about life’s next steps. During this time, she would find her passion for the PA profession.
Why did you decide to become a PA?
I’ve always been interested in medicine. During my year off, I worked for an organization called Friendship Circle in Long Island, NY. They focus on establishing meaningful relationships between children and teens with and without special needs. I also worked at Camp Simcha during the summer; It’s an overnight camp where kids with pediatric illnesses can just have fun and not focus on their medical conditions. I realized that I loved interacting with the children, but I wanted to know more about their disabilities. I wanted to understand the mechanism of it all and be more on the side of treating them as opposed to a camp counselor or friend. My career would have to allow me to treat patients and still have a family life. As a first-generation college graduate, medical school was never on my radar.
What obstacles did you face as a mom on the pre-PA journey? PA school?
Balance! I had my kids during undergrad and I was in complete control of my schedule during that time. I was strategic about choosing classes that I knew would fit around my work and family but allow me to maintain a high GPA. I knew that wouldn’t be the case in PA School
How did you overcome these obstacles?
My support system. My husband and family are very supportive and I’m thankful for that. But there’s a part of my support system that I had to build. I knew the schedule wasn’t going to be ideal, but I had to be flexible and make the necessary preparations by hiring a nanny. I’m paying more than I’d like to because I have a nanny, but it removes a lot of pressure which makes my marriage and family life more enjoyable.
How do you manage PA school, marriage, and parenting?
Paid help and being easy on myself.
If I’m getting the same grades as I did in undergrad, then my family life is suffering, you can’t be 100% in everything. I think if I look at it that way then it makes not doing as well as I want to or not getting as much study time a good sacrifice. My goal is to learn as much as I can, graduate, get my PA-C and remain happily married. Life doesn’t stop when you’re in school. When the curve balls come, you have to ask yourself is it worth the difference between just passing or passing with an A on the next exam?
You’re in class Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm, commute to and from school one hour then get home after 6 o’clock to spend time with your family…. How do you find the energy to study after a long day?
If it doesn’t get done now, it will have to get done later.
I try to listen to recorded lectures in the mornings during my commute to school. When I get home, I decompress by spending time with my kids and having dinner with my husband. Once everyone is in bed I study for a few hours. I’d rather put in the work on weeknights while my kids are asleep. That way I can spend time with my family instead of cramming the entire weekend.
What does a “typical” day for you look like?
Are there any specific days of the week off limits?
I’m Orthodox Jewish so Saturday is my day to completely unplug.
What do you wish you knew before starting PA School?
I wish I would’ve done more research about student life. I knew what it took to get into PA school but didn’t really have an idea of what was truly behind “The Great Arc walls of PA school.”
If you were able to go back in time to the moment you decided to become a PA, what is the one thing you would tell yourself?
You’re going to study more than you’ve ever realized but gained more than you could have ever expected.
I’ve studied more in PA school than I could ever imagine but I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in such a short time span.
How many times did you apply to PA School?
I’m a two-time applicant. I didn’t get a response/interview the first round. For my second application, my bachelor’s degree was complete and I wrote a new personal statement. In the new essay, I took ownership of what made me seem like everyone else, then highlighted what made me stand out. On paper, I sound like a 25year old white girl. But when I talk about my being Orthodox Jewish and traveling after high school, it highlights who I am as an individual.
My GPA was 3.79, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Touro College with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (really Biology). I received thousands of HCE and PCE from my work at Friendship Circle and Camp Simcha. Shadowing hours I accumulated by just shamelessly asking people, a total of just under 100 hours. As for my GRE scores, I don’t remember the numbers but they were horrible.
Any advice to the mom who is hesitating?
Focus on the purpose of it all. Don’t let your responsibilities as a mother or wife hold you back from going after what you want. Down the line, you can tell your kids, from experience, that they can fulfill their dreams whenever they want. It’s a temporary alternate reality but you’ll be a better wife and mom in the end.