Roxie Heart is a 35-year-old single mom of one child. They currently live at home with her mother while she is completing PA School. The journey to healthcare has been filled with many twists, turns and unexpected surprises. But nevertheless, her commitment and perseverance for a better life would not allow her to quit. Fast forward 11 years and a bachelors degree later, today she is a 2nd year PA Student.
To know her is to love her. A woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and you never know what’s going to fly out of that mouth of hers. But it’s that raw edge that makes her journey so relatable. An authentic account that so many women can draw inspiration from. Life has knocked her down on numerous occasions and yet, she somehow finds the courage to get back up and fight another day. All the while remaining true to who she is. Completing her bachelors degree just two weeks prior to PA school, her story is a living testimony to the statement, “It’s never too late.”
Take our readers through your Pre-PA Journey
I started undergrad in 2001 after I technically dropped out of high school to complete an online diploma. From there I went to Broward College where my focus was personal training. While in undergrad, my father’s condition worsened so the decision was made for me to leave school and care for him until he died in 2006. I Went back to pursue my degree and met my now ex-husband. We got married after knowing each other for only 3 months. We moved up north where we each worked 3 jobs in order to stay afloat.
Some of the positions that I held throughout my teenage and adult years included waitress, cashier, personal trainer, exotic dance instructor, physical therapy assistant and exotic animal trainer.
At 9 months Pregnant, I discovered that my husband was cheating on me. My world crumbled but I wanted our marriage to work so I gave him a 2nd chance. After giving birth to my daughter, I hoped that it would change things, but it didn’t. He told me he never loved me and decided to continue sleeping with other women. With my 6-month-old daughter, no family or support up north, we separated and agreed that it would be best for me to move back to Florida to live with my mom. It was a dark time with a lot of dark days. I went through a deep depression and seriously contemplated suicide. But because of my daughter, I didn’t do it. I guess you could say that she saved my life. Once my divorce was finalized a year and a half later; I went back to school to finish my degree.
There was a horrible custody battle during this time and since it was my first time back in college, I only 1 class at a time. My focus was in physical therapy but my anatomy and physiology professor, who is a doctor, recommended that I look into becoming a PA instead. At that time, I had never heard of a PA but as I looked more into the profession I knew she was right. It was everything that I wanted to do and challenged me the way that I needed to be challenged. I transferred to NSU to complete my bachelors because I wanted to go to their PA program. I met alumni and students from this PA program as well as potential future employers, they all said that their best PAs were from NSU. Every professor I had in undergrad at NSU were both knowledgeable and life-changing which made me want to continue the Nova route.
I will graduate in 2019 so it will have taken me 18 years to “live my life”
Why did you decide to become a PA?
I felt like I was too old to become an MD and as a single mom, I needed something that wouldn’t take 8-12 years to complete. Also, through my experience shadowing and caring for my sick father – I felt that doctors didn’t see the patients as much as PAs. I wanted to get to know my patients, their stories, and build a connection; not just see them as a list of signs and symptoms. Who knows, maybe my parents wouldn’t have had the health issues that they had if someone had taken the time to listen to them. As a PA, I would have that ability.
What obstacles did you face as a mom on the pre-PA journey?
I was always told that I’m not good enough so I always believed that I wasn’t enough. That was the key issue, the social aspect of it all. Am I smart enough to do this? Will I be accepted by my peers?
Through suffering from my own depression I thought, “I can barely take care of myself who am I to tell someone else how to take care of themselves” I felt like a hypocrite telling someone to live a better life when I didn’t.
Other obstacles, of course, were the custody battle and finances. There’s this constant guilt and wondering, “Am I being selfish financially?” or “What kind of mother am I to be going to school full time and not being home seeing my baby grow up?” I felt like I’m missing her life to pursue this.
How did you overcome these obstacles?
The biggest push was my mom. She has given me so much. This career is fulfilling in so many ways, I knew I had to do this or else, what’s going to happen to my family? There is no way that I can logically take care of her and my daughter unless I do this.
At some point, you have say to yourself, “maybe I am good enough.” And that thought, although fleeting, was enough to put in my application. Despite the fears, I realized that the love for my daughter was stronger than my fears and insecurities.
Tell me about your PA Application and Interview process?
I applied to PA school once and only one school, NSU. I thought my application and interview were terrible but here I am. Sometimes, other people see in you what you don’t see in yourself.
During my interview I thought that I was a complete mess: (1) I cried after being asked the first question which was – “we see it’s taken you 15 years to apply to the PA program, was it because of your father?” Of course, that made me emotional (2) I compared being a PA to the sorting hat in Harry Potter – here I am, supposed to be this super intelligent person going into medicine, and I’m talking about Harry Potter (3) I refused to answer questions about what I saw while shadowing, but I was honest about how ugly and political medicine can be and that I was not afraid of it.
How do you manage PA school being a single parent?
My mom. She is my rock. If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be able to do this.
What is the importance of a support system?
If I were 20 something, single, with no responsibilities, then no problem. But because of my age, circumstances and having a kid, without help this is impossible. There’s nothing like a close family member who listens to you, understands you and doesn’t think that you are crazy when you’re crying because of a failed exam. They listen, are supportive and give positive affirmations. My mother is someone who understands me, provides comfort and I know she will never steer me wrong. As a single parent, you don’t know who to trust so being able to not have to worry about my kid or myself because I know everything is ok, brings a peace mind.
How do you find the energy to study after 8 hours of a lecture?
I wake up at 5am to do my studying in the morning. I can’t study throughout the week because I spend the time with my daughter. We have dinner together then I decompress by talking to my mom or watching T.V.
I make it a point to pay attention in class and use our lunch hour to get work done. On my drive home, I listen to Osmosis videos. But during the weekends is when I really pound it out. My daughter watches a lot of tv on weekends which I feel really guilty about.
What does a “typical” day for you look like?
Specific day of the week off limits?
Friday nights are movie nights with my kid. Just me and her, no one else.
Has PA School had a negative or positive effect on your daughter?
I think PA school is having both a negative and positive effect on her. Due to her seeing me study so much, she is now reading more and realizing that hard work pays off. I don’t have to fight with her to do her homework or for her to read. She is very inquisitive and wants to learn what I am learning at school so she can be “smart like mommy.” I have also seen this experience having a negative effect on her, especially behavior-wise. From being rude, talking back, and being disrespectful at school (to teachers!) is where the guilt of what I am doing starts to breed its ugly head. She is not getting the attention she wants from me so she acts up because she misses mommy. It especially gets worse around finals or when we have hell-weeks. All my time and attention is then devoted to school and studying where I don’t have dinner so I can study more. That is when she really acts out and then my emotions and energy are torn between having to discipline her and studying.
What do you wish you knew before starting PA School?
What makes it difficult is the time-frame not the material.
The academic portion isn’t hard. What makes it hard is there isn’t enough time to really learn the information the way you want to. I don’t pick things up very quickly. I have to draw and work things out in my head. I have to know the ins and outs to really understand it. So PA school has been a struggle. I am not a naturally smart person, I have to go through things a few times to get it.
If you knew this beforehand, How would it have changed your preparation for the program?
If I knew this before, I would have studied anatomy and physiology the semester before starting PA school. I had taken the course 4 years before applying so nothing was fresh and I had to re-learn everything. Due to my foundation in anatomy and physiology was not strong, I struggled a lot. With every class and topic, A&P is a must especially as I am someone who needs to understand the material in order to learn it. I really wished my A&P game was stronger prior to starting PA school.
What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time when you first decided to become a PA?
Stop caring what other people think of you. It’s not going to add anything to your life, it will only take away from it.
Cumulative GPA 3.98
Science GPA 4.0
GRE 20th percentile
Shadowing hours 400+
Undergrad: Bachelors in Biology and Psychology (Nova Southeastern University)
Any advice to the mom who is hesitating?
Sometimes you have to face your demons and be brave enough to tackle them. Some days you will win and some days you will lose and the demons will take over. Either way you will have to face them or else who are you going to be to your own kid? My drive is to be someone that my kid looks up to.
Anything you want to add?
You should never be afraid to grow. Despite my age, I’m still growing as a person. I don’t know everything, and I never will, it’s not possible. I have these huge expectations and ideals of what kind of mother I’m going to be but ill never reach those goals because it’s impossible. I want perfection. But if I ever achieved perfection than my daughter will never see the struggle. And I feel that you need struggle in order to grow. You grow from your challenges. If I didn’t have all these things happen in my life, I would not be who I am today. I’m praying that when my daughter is older she will understand why I did this. Kids don’t come with handbooks, as much as I wish they did. You just have to wing it. Same thing in life. You Just have to jump. If you have a background in faith, I think it’s very helpful. Without it, a lot of times you feel like you are spiraling out of control.