Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Amber Kromah. I graduated with my bachelors degree in cell and molecular biology from Towson University in 2012. After graduation, I took some time off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. During that time I worked as a Server and ER scribe. That’s where I met a PA who was a single mother of 2, she had one child prior to and one child while in PA school. She told me about her struggle while in school but how thankful she was that she did it. Most of the ER physicians I spoke to say that if they could go back and do it all over again, they would choose PA school. It is a route that makes more sense with the work-life balance they would like to have.
I’ve always wanted to work in medicine and I’m good at it. I don’t like history, I’m ok in math, but science and the human body are my passions. Studying the human body, how it works and heals itself has always been of interest to me.
In 2015 I began Howard University’s PA program in D.C. I graduated in May 2018, so I’m still a baby in the PA game. I’m a physical medicine and rehabilitation PA-C working in sub-acute rehab with geriatric patients who just had a stroke or hip/knee replacements that aren’t well enough to go home yet
Talk about your experience as a mom in PA school
I started school while my oldest was only a year old. Her first day of daycare was also my first day of school … and it was Rough. My aunt normally watched her for me while I was at work, but now she was being dropped off at a stranger’s house around other kids she didn’t know while I was gone all day. When I picked her up later that evening, her shirt was soaking wet with tears from crying all day. I wanted to quit school right then and there. I thought- Clearly this wasn’t meant to be, I’ll just go back home with my baby and crochet blankets. This continued for 2wks straight. But we toughed it out and eventually found our rhythm.
I created a schedule and stuck to it. After school I would dedicate all of my attention to her until she fell asleep then study. My husband would take over parenting duties once he got home from work. This would be the routine every day. I remember being so frustrated because so many of my classmates were able to stay on campus late and study in the library with each other, but I didn’t have those same opportunities.
I found out I was pregnant one week before the 2nd semester started. That was devastating. I just knew that there was NO WAY I could go to school with a toddler and a newborn. JUST NO WAY! I remember going to my advisor the 2nd day of school to find out if it would be better for me to drop out now or later (LOL). She encouraged me not to drop out and reassured me that I wasn’t the first student this has happened to. That I should just stay in the current semester since financial aid had already been dispersed and see how it goes. I later spoke to the department chair and told her that my advisor was crazy to think I could do this. Her response was, “you do what you can and let God do the rest.” That stuck with me. I stayed and delivered via C-section on the 1st day of the last didactic semester.
My ob/gyn was a Howard medical school graduate who cleared me to go back to school after 3wks. But I couldn’t drive and if it felt like school was too much for me then I had to stop immediately. During those 3wks I listened to lectures, caught up on assignments and reviewed notes from classmates. There was a pharmacology exam my 1st day back to school. I prayed saying “God you know I’ve been up all night studying and I HATE pharm, if I fail this exam then that is confirmation that I am not supposed to be doing this but should be at home with my babies instead.” I Ended up getting an 80% on that test.
Thankfully my husband worked from home at that time and was able to drive me to school and stay with the newborn while the then-2yr-old went to daycare. It was not perfect but we made it work. I was up at 4am every morning studying while breast-feeding. On graduation day I Boo-Hoo cried, I just couldn’t believe that I actually did it!
Why did you work while in PA School? How did you manage it? Advice to others?
Because we needed the money. We had bills to pay, car notes, kids to raise, $200 a week for daycare plus the cost of a newborn baby.
I continued to serve at the same restaurant and my manager was very accommodating. He understood that school was the priority. My first semester of school I didn’t work. By the 2nd semester I worked maybe 1-2 nights a week, usually Fridays after school. The commute from school to work took about an hour, (D.C to Baltimore) so I would change into my uniform in the car on the way to work.
During Spring and Summer breaks of didactic year – Howard University is a 3yr PA program so we had a full Summer break – I worked the entire time. During clinical rotations I was only able to work occasionally, depending on the schedule.
I was the only mom in my program. We had one other student who worked nearly everyday after school, but unfortunately, she didn’t finish the program. If you do decide to work make sure it is a job that is super flexible with a who boss understands that school is the priority.
Do you recommend that others work or plan a family while in PA School?
Hell No! I DO NOT recommend working or getting pregnant while in PA School. There were many days I woke up wanting to quit everything and just runaway. But we did it.
If you have to work and have enough motivation to do it with school, then do what you have to do. But I DO NOT recommend it though.
Being married or having a family while in school is rough. It tests you! If pregnancy happens then it happens. But don’t plan it. I was on birth control with both of my girls so each of them were pleasant surprises. Both of my pregnancies, thankfully, were very smooth, but that’s not everyone’s story. There are many high risk pregnancies and anything could go wrong at any moment.
Challenges faced as a Pre-PA & PA-C? How did you overcome them?
Pre-PA – I applied late in the cycle. (Don’t do it! Huge no-no). Normally I’m a planner but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The only school in my area still accepting applications was Howard University and moving wasn’t an option. I felt unprepared financially and that I didn’t have adequate PCE.
PA-C – As a black woman with a few tattoos, patients and their families automatically assume that I am a nurse or social worker when I walk into the room, even if I’m wearing my long white coat. Its annoying but not necessarily a challenge. I work with geriatric patients so I am not what they are used to.
Balancing motherhood with being a medical provider. I had to realize I can’t do it all, I need backup options. When the kids are sick, my husband and I alternate taking time off. I have an aunt who picks them up from school if we can’t take off. My schedule working at the nursing home is very flexible but there’s a level of mom guilt and employee guilt. I don’t want my supervising physician to think that I am incompetent or taking time off of work too often. Thankfully he is a father of a 3-year-old and a newborn so he gets it.
How do you suggest finding a supportive work environment?
Just Ask. Be upfront at the interview. Talk about PTO and how scheduling would work when the kids are sick. Ask to shadow for a few weeks so that you can get a feel for the work environment.
Who were the members of your Support System and why were they important?
My parents constantly spoke life into me. My mom would babysit if I needed to study and was there every Sunday to cook family dinner and spend time with the kids.
My father was in jail for 6yrs during my childhood. He is now a specialized electrician making more than me as a PA-C. He constantly tells me that if he could come from nothing and build a life for himself then so can I.
My Mother-in-law prays over me, Friends from work would always be there to cheer me up, Classmates were super supportive-we all held each other down.
I couldn’t imagine doing this without them. You need a support system. You cannot do anything in this world alone. You will need to be uplifted and encouraged when you can’t do it for yourself.
How did you become interested in fitness?
After having my 2nd baby, I wasn’t comfortable with my body. I went to a doctor’s appointment and found out I had high cholesterol and was prehypertensive. I decided to change that. Almost everyone in my family has DM2, I wanted to change this generation so I began meal prepping and doing cross fit.
Cross fit is absolutely amazing. You go in there and die for about an hour but come out feeling amazing. Just like PA School.
The weight just melted off, I lost 45lbs in just 6m (I gained 50lbs during pregnancy). All of my labs are now normal. I am no longer anemic, glucose, cholesterol and BP are all within normal range. I cheat every weekend but 80% of the time I eat clean. It’s all about lifestyle modifications, not dieting. I can still have fun but a smaller percentage of the time.
I wanted to just meal prep for a couple of my friends but my husband said, “no ma’am, we don’t do anything small in this house.” We started a meal prep delivery service called KromahFit with 5 different meals rotating every week. The meals are healthier alternatives to dining out. We are just trying to help people change their lives.
Cumulative – 3.53
Science – 3.4
HCE – 1000 (scribing full time for 9m)
PCE – 0
Shadowing – 0
Volunteering – 40hrs (required for admissions)
CASPA admissions – 1
What does a typical day look like for you as a PA-S? PA-C?
Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself?
Its gonna be harder than you think. You’re usually good at everything, things just came easy to you but PA school will not come easy to you. Get your mind prepared for it.
Keep your compassion, your patients will love that you are one of the few providers that listens to them.
Advice to the mom that is hesitating?
It’s going to suck. But if your alternative is staying in a place that is unhappy then just do it. God will create a path for you. With support and a village you can do it. Ask yourself 2yrs from now am I gonna be a PA or still a server (or whatever your current occupation)? If it’s PA then get up and do what you have to do. You got to stay in that struggle if you really want to see a difference.
Words of motivation to moms currently in PA school?
Girl you got this! I know you are tired, stressed and the kids and/or husband are working your last nerve! But you can do it! I wanted to quit and people close to me asked me if I really wanted to continue with school or have my 2nd baby. But here I am today.
Keep pushing! If you can see it in your mind, then you can achieve it. Speak it into existence and encourage yourself constantly. Everyone won’t understand, but everyone isn’t meant to do this!