PHHP Pathways: How a B.H.S. propelled Emily Rumisek into the physician assistant profession

Emily Rumisek

By Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow

When Emily Rumisek arrived at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions for her undergraduate degree, she imagined pursuing a career in health care. The question was: which field? Over the next year, Rumisek explored different disciplines in health care. It wasn’t until she attended the UF health career showcase and chose the physician assistant (P.A.) group that she found her answer.

During her time at PHHP, Rumisek, who received her Bachelor of Health Science in 2022, participated in a multitude of service, work, shadowing, extracurricular and mentorship experiences that furthered her passion for the physician assistant profession. She obtained patient care experience in multiple specialties ranging from pediatrics to orthopedics. She shadowed various health care professionals to better understand the interdisciplinary collaboration involved in health care. As an undergraduate student, Rumisek volunteered with HOPE Horses Helping People in Gainesville, where she assisted in equine therapy for children with disabilities. She was also an active member of organizations within PHHP. During her sophomore year, she joined the LEAP organization as a mentee. The next year she joined as a mentor and during her senior year, Rumisek served as the LEAP program’s director of mentors.

Now a first-year P.A. student at the UF College of Medicine, Rumisek shares how being a PHHP student helped her in her journey to become a practicing physician assistant.

WHy Physician Assisting?

Question: What inspired you to pursue a career as a physician assistant? What are some of your long-term career goals?

Answer: During my first year as an undergraduate student, I found it difficult to imagine myself in a specific career. I remember looking at the catalog of all the courses I could take and feeling overwhelmed. I did not understand how I was supposed to know who I wanted to be in four years. Then, I chose the health science route and decided that I was going to pursue a career as a physical therapist. Halfway through the fall semester, I injured my knee and was referred to physical therapy. After completing my sessions, I wasn’t sure if PT was what I wanted to do. I was scared to change my major when it felt like everyone else around me already had it figured out.

A few months later, my floormate invited me to the UF health career showcase. At the showcase you have the opportunity to pick from different informational sessions from the dental, medical, or physician assistant programs. Before the showcase, I knew nothing about the P.A. profession. To this day, I don’t know why I picked the physician assistant group, but that decision changed my life. From that moment on, I put everything into educating myself about the profession and learning about the requirements to apply to P.A. school. I was discovering more about who I wanted to be and what I wanted my role in medicine to be. My pre-P.A. journey started in 2019 at the health career showcase in the Harrell Medication Education Building. In July 2023, it came to a close as I entered the same building, but this time a first-year P.A. student. 

In my future career, I see myself acting as a resource for pre-P.A. and pre-health students. I am the first person in my family to go into medicine, and my brother was the first person in my family to go to college. I understand the struggle it takes to even get into undergraduate school and then apply to graduate school. I understand how overwhelming it can be to not know what you are supposed to be doing and not knowing how you are supposed to feel. Besides academics, there are many scary things like applications and finances. It is terrifying having to take out large amounts of money in loans to fund your education. I believe that it is important to share your knowledge with others. I want to be able to assist pre-P.A. and pre-health students in navigating their journey with medicine and higher education. This is an important goal for me.

The Application Process

Q: What is the process like to apply for physician assistant school?

A:  Applying to P.A. school can feel like a hurricane because there are so many moving parts. With your bachelor’s degree, you can choose anything as you’re taking the courses that are required for most schools, such as general chemistries, biology, microbiology, statistics, biochemistry and organic chemistry; the requirements vary by program. Major in whatever you find interesting as long as you get those science classes in.

Outside of academics, patient care experience is very important. For most schools, the minimum is between 500-1000 hours; for UF, the minimum is 1,000 hours at the time of application and 2,000 hours once you matriculate in the program. Knowing what schools you want to apply to and how many hours they require is important. Everyone’s journey getting these hours is going to look different, and I think it is important to trust and focus on your journey. Volunteering and shadowing hours are also required for many schools. I think that it is important to volunteer with an organization that is meaningful to you.

The CASPA application is the standard P.A. school centralized application system. You will write all of your experiences, add your grades, letters of recommendation, personal statements, secondaries — which are essays specific to each school — and record your GRE or PA-CAT results. Another test you have to complete is the CASPer which is a situational judgement test. The application takes a long time to fill out, but it will be worth it in the end!

From PHHP TO PA School

Q: Would you recommend the College of Public Health and Health Professions to pre-P.A. students?

A: Definitely. I feel like the college gives you the opportunity to connect with your peers. In class you are surrounded by peers interested in different pre-health professions, future P.A.s, M.D.s, occupational therapists, and dentists — you’re essentially working in an interdisciplinary team without even realizing it. The perspective and knowledge I gained from students within my class was so important and powerful.

The college also offers unique courses that I believe prepared me for certain aspects of P.A. school. My favorite course that I took within the college was the Survey of Disease and Disability 1 and 2 with Dr. Stephanie Hanson. During this course, I learned about different diseases and their treatment options. I remember falling in love with that course, and now it makes sense, because it was an introduction to what I will ultimately do in my career as a P.A.

From the ethics course to therapeutic communication skills with Dr. Jamie Pomeranz, I learned so much. In P.A. school we do practice patient encounters and sometimes they require us to have conversations about difficult topics. You don’t realize how hard it is until you are the one doing it. I think back to the therapeutic communication class during these practice encounters and ask myself: ‘What is my body language like? How am I speaking and presenting myself? Am I creating an open and welcoming space?’ All of these classes are unique to PHHP and I don’t think many students have the opportunity to take classes similar to those. Seeing the benefits of those classes now, I think every future P.A. student should take courses like the ones offered at PHHP.

Tips for future Physician assistants

Q: What advice do you have for current PHHP students who are thinking about or planning to apply to physician assistant school?


  • It’s ok to be different. I think it’s really scary being a student. You want to do everything that everybody else is doing. It can be scary to stray away from the path that everyone else is taking. Some of my experiences were untraditional. For example, I shadowed an acupuncturist and an occupational therapist for many of my hours. I held many jobs in a wide range of specialties. I knew that I wanted to do things that made me, me. Sometimes being different is so scary because you think: ‘what if being different is not going to get me where I want to be?’ Embrace your own story and journey and have the courage to be different.
  • Get as many patient care hours as you can! I always tell people the more hours the better, not just for your application, but to give you a better sense of health care in general and the different settings and specialties you might want to work in as a P.A. Ultimately, these hours are showing you what your career might be like.
  • Trust your path. My biggest piece of advice is to follow your journey and let that guide you. The one thing I regret is being so caught up in everything and worrying if one opportunity didn’t work out, then that was it. In the end, everything works the way that is should. What comes to you will come to you for a reason, and what won’t, won’t. Remain true to yourself and your passion and everything will work the way that it should.
  • Be proud of yourself. I always ask people, does what you are doing mean something to you? And if it does, then pursue it. The process of applying to school can become mentally overwhelming. It is easy to get caught up in comparing your GPA or number of patient care hours. At the end of the day, are you proud of the application you have put forward? Are you proud of how you have represented yourself? That is what matters.
  • Remember your why. When practicing for my interviews, I remember how nervous I was about answering questions about myself. It was so easy to get caught up with everything that I wanted to talk about that I would forget my ‘why.’ I ended up writing it on an index card that still hangs up in my room. When I am doubting myself or struggling, I read my why. Find your why and remember it when you are lost or things start to get tough.


For information regarding the path to becoming a physician assistant and applying to P.A. school, please check out these resources: