Our PA Journey – NSU PA FTL Faculty

Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale
Natalee Covitz, MMS, PA-C
Assistant Professor NSU-FTL PA Program
Married, Mother of two: Austin 8y, Janet, 2y
PA School: Class of 2007 NSU-FTL
Undergrad: FAU in Biological Sciences/Pre-Medical Studies with a minor in Psych.

I decided to become a PA during my senior year of undergrad. I was taking a class called “Intro to Pre-Professional Studies,” that exposed me to a variety of medical professions but PA stuck with me like glue.  The more I researched the profession, comparing it to both the nursing and physician routes, PA better suited my needs. It painted the perfect picture of balancing home and work life. From the time that I graduated, I knew that I wanted to give back what I was given in terms of both passion and knowledge which led me to academia. I love to help others understand what I do so I precepted both PA and NP students for many years.  Going through the program, I had always admired how much my Professors seemed to love both medicine and teaching; so as soon as the opportunity arose for me to get my foot in the door, I was on it! As a professor and PA-C, I have the best of both worlds!  I still practice approximately 80 hours a month allowing me to continue providing TLC to the elderly. On top of that, I get to help create future PA’s. The most challenging part about balancing a career with family life is time. Now that my son is older, it has been difficult handling the after hour calls with his extracurricular activities. I am that Mom that has to be present for literally EVERY baseball game and practice.  It was difficult for me to pay attention to his games when I had my phone constantly ringing.  The day my son said to me “do you think that you can put your phone down for 5 minutes and pay attention to your kids?” was the day I knew I was ready to shift into academics. With that being said, there is absolutely nothing that I regret about my career choice.  I can wake up every day and be glad about going to work.  After all, it’s not a job if you love what you do! My advice to Pre-PA parents is: if you have a strong support system, DO IT!  As my Mom has always told me: “A degree is the only thing that you can call your own.  Nobody can take that away from you.”

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Sylvia E. Fernandez MLT, MMS, PA-C
Assistant Professor NSU-FTL PA Program
Married 13 years, Mother of 2 sons, ages 7 and 11
PA School: Class of 2004 Barry University
Undergrad: FIU B.S Medical Laboratory Science

I’m a South Florida native, born and raised in Miami attending both high school and college (FIU, MDCC, BCC, and Barry University) locally. Before becoming a PA I was a medical technologist for 4 years. As cliché as it may sound, I decided to become a PA because I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much. Everyone has a special skill or attribute that they can offer, mine just happened to be the love of medicine. One of the greatest joys as a family practice/primary care PA is being able to take care of an entire family, from children to grandparents. I have the honor and privilege of being entrusted with providing their medical care as well as being welcomed into their lives by doing so. I have been a PA preceptor for over 10 years and have enjoyed the interaction with PA students. I enjoy sharing my experiences and clinical pearls which naturally progressed into a shift into academia. As a newbie professor, the best part so far is watching the students develop into skilled clinicians! The most challenging part about balancing my career with family life is time. Early on in my career, I didn’t mind working the long hours and being on call, but that changed when I become a mother. Being a PA is time consuming, it’s important to learn to separate time for what is important for you. I didn’t have children when I was in PA school, so first and for most, let me say how inspirational pre-pa parents are to me! And what an inspiration you must be to those around you! Life is hectic, PA school is arduous, but remember why you chose to continue your education. Take time to recognize your achievements along the way and don’t measure your strengths or weakness by comparing yourself to others. Have grace on yourself when you fall short and enjoy the moments you have with your family.

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Alicia Bolden MPAS, MPH, PA-C
Academic Director NSU-FTL PA Program
Married to an educator & Mother to one boy named Tiger (yes, real name!)
PA School: University of Florida
Undergrad: UCF, Bachelor’s in Science

Like many, I was initially on the track to becoming a doctor. That all changed while working in Labor and Delivery where I came across PAs who would round on patients and participate in GYN surgeries. That peaked my curiosity about the profession. My A-ha! moment was when I went to the student health center on campus and realized the provider was a PA. I asked her a lot of questions about the profession and would later begin shadowing her. Two years later, I was accepted into PA school. I practiced hospital medicine for a while before going into academia 6 years ago. I recall being at a pharmaceutical dinner and sitting next to NSU-FTL’s current PA Program Director, Dr. Calvin Finley. He mentioned that Nova was looking for a faculty member with hospital medicine experience. I did not see myself as an educator because PA school was challenging for me. I assumed all professors excelled in PA school. I quickly declined the suggestion however, it remained in the back of my mind. A year later, after becoming pregnant with my first child, I began to recall our conversation. I logged onto Nova’s website and the position was still open. I knew then, that this was a sign. So I applied and they hired me. Moving into an educational role has made balancing family life less challenging. What I enjoy most about teaching is sharing my own personal challenges experienced throughout PA school in an effort to encourage and motivate other students. Being that person who says “I believe in you”or “You can do this”, fills me with joy. I love my profession and if I can be a guide for others who are newly entering the PA field, then I have done my job. I advise all prospective applicants to never let anyone dissuade you from your goal of becoming a PA-C. A denial does not mean you should give up. That simply means the answer is “not right now” for this institution. We deny tons of amazing applicants. There just are not enough seats in one program. So apply to as many programs as you would like and re-apply if you are rejected – it shows your determination to pursue this amazing profession. PA school has been one of the hardest things I have ever done (yes it beats labor because it lasts much longer) but it’s the best thing I have ever done!

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