Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Anays Lau. I was born and raised in Miami by Cuban parents. My husband is a general surgery resident at the Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center in Houston, TX. I currently reside in Miami, FL with our two boys (ages 5 and 7) while completing PA School.
Why did you decide to become a PA?
I didn’t know what a PA was until about 5yrs ago while working as a scribe in the ER. I saw someone whom I thought was a nurse, entering admission orders and that confused me. When I asked about it, a co-worker explained to me that she wasn’t a nurse but a PA. That’s when I started asking more questions and fell in love with the profession. I liked that the schooling was 2 years as opposed to 4 years of medical school. The PA career would allow me more time with my kids while still practicing medicine.
Tell me about your Pre–PA Journey?
About age 17 years old I completed my AA at Miami Dade College through the bridge program. I took an additional year to complete prerequisites for the bridge program to University of Miami (UM). Prior to beginning UM, there were personal family issues which led to my deferring to a later semester. The deferral was never processed, so I wasn’t able to matriculate and lost all of my scholarships as a result. During that time, I started working at the Florida International University (FIU) admissions office where I learned how to sort out that whole mess. There I completed my degree in the Spring of 2008 and came across a rep who was seeking scribes for Baptist Hospital in Kendall, the rest is history. During this time, I married my husband and decided to have children for medical reasons. In 2014, I retook 60 credit hours of expired prerequisite courses. Sitting next to 18 and 19-year olds talking about their night club experiences was very interesting.
What were the medical reasons that made you decide to have children?
At the age of 2, I was admitted to the hospital for a week where they found a small cyst on my ovary. My mother insisted the doctors order another ultrasound when I began menstruating at the age of 12. They found a cyst on my left ovary the size of a grapefruit that had to be surgically removed along with part of that ovary. Shortly after I was married, another cyst was discovered but this time on my right ovary. I didn’t want to risk the chance of losing part of that ovary as well, so my husband and I decided to start having children before it was too late. Many years later, I was diagnosed with PCOS.
What was the biggest obstacle that made you hesitate applying to PA school?
Myself. I didn’t think it was possible with two kids and a spouse who was a surgical resident. All the schools in Texas denied my application, but the two in Florida (Barry and Nova) accepted me. I took that as a sign.
How did you overcome those obstacles?
Seeing my husband doing what he loved every day was a big motivation. I thought “I’m just sitting here, so what do I have to lose?” There was nothing but time, so I started volunteering and shadowing PAs. The biggest push was from the last PA-C that I shadowed who happened to be a friend of my husbands. He went to my husband and said “she needs to apply yesterday!” The fact that a PA-C would say that about me made it clear that I needed to pursue this career path.
What has your PA school experience been so far?
Books, exams, studying, stress eating then trying to get into the gym to lose the weight… Stress and more stress …. Did I mention stress?
How do you make it work with your husband being in Texas and you in Florida?
We have been together for 13yrs, married for 10yrs. The fact that we’ve been together so long, we know each other very well and the fact that we trust each other allows our marriage to survive the long distance.
We talk on the phone every morning on our way to work/school. We try to limit our conversations about medicine. Oftentimes, clinicians get so wrapped up in their careers and feel that all they are capable of is medicine. It’s partly why Suicide rates amongst clinicians are so high. We forget that we are a people first and have other gifts/talents. Any error is taken personally and internalized.
What affect has PA school had on your children thus far?
It’s had an overall negative affect.
I’m lucky that they are with close family members while I’m at school. But there have been times that they have asked me not to go to School and to stay home with them. They don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. That’s not something they will understand until they are older.
What did a typical day look like for you as a PA-S mom?
Cumulative GPA: 3.6, Science GPA: 3.5
GRE: 314 (159 math)
Tell me about your support system?
I live with my mother-in-law and sister–in–law. It has its ups and downs but they are a big help. Because of them I can leave at 5:30am and not worry about the kids getting to school. Since the kids are a handful, I pay a baby sitter to help my mother-in-law in the evenings.
For emotional support I call my husband because he understands the stress I’m going through with School, but I don’t feel he understands how difficult it is with the kids. While he was in medical school, I took care of the kids and worked full-time, all he had to worry about was school. My situation is different because not only am I in PA school, but I have to care for the boys. But I’ve befriended some other awesome moms that understand and encourage me.
What’s your biggest motivation?
Honestly, the loans. Lol! I’m in too deep to give up now, so might as well keep going.
It’s easy to lose yourself in all the academics and forget why you are there in the first place. But that’s why you need an outlet to boost your self–esteem. I had the opportunity to volunteer at a health fair in Clewiston, a rural area in Florida. It gave students a chance to treat real patients and apply what we have been learning. I was able to get away from all the books and exams – which is important because we’re not doing this just to pass exams, but to heal real people.
If you could fast forward back to the moment you decided to become a PA, what would you have told yourself?
I don’t know. I’m on the fence between telling myself not to do it or if you decide to do it- know that you will sweat blood.
This is so difficult, and everyone tells you that – but in reality, it feels near impossible! This program tests your every limit and challenges you. It doesn’t matter your undergrad GPA or what classes you took, this is 1000x harder.
What would your advice be to the woman out there who is hesitating on applying to PA school?
Make sure it is what you want to do, because this is so difficult and stressful.
As a mom you need a strong support system that understands there may be nights you don’t make it home. Reliable childcare is crucial, people that will step in when the kids get sick.
Don’t let my words deter you. Clearly, it’s possible. If you want it, then you will figure it out but understand the level of difficulty