July 21, 2021
By Elizabeth Prevou, PA-C
Aug. 18, 2015
In a very emotional Long White Coat ceremony on May 15th, I said a few words to my graduating class, fully feeling the weight of the past and the hope of the future. I’d now like to share my story with students across the nation, in hopes that they too will follow their hearts in this journey toward a PA life.
I feel very honored to be standing up here, chosen by my classmates to share a few words with you. I asked around, trying to sort out what everyone might want to hear, trying to capture why it is that my classmates got into this whole PA thing in the first place, and what it is that they’re hoping to do with it. I have this feeling that I can’t shake, this feeling that it has something to do with love.
You see, I started flirting with the PA profession after my boss at my first job out of undergrad agreed to give me a raise – a 7 cent raise! I’d been working there over a year and knew I was worth more than that. And as my grandmother always likes to say, “honey, there are more fish in the sea!” I had heard a little here and there about PAs, but I had never really looked into it. But this business with the 7 cent raise really woke me up. On a whim, I took my lunch break and just walked over to the GW PA admissions office. It was then that a lovely woman named Angela more clearly introduced me to what the PA profession was all about and how I could be part of it. Let me tell you – it was one of those “Love at first sight” things. I just knew that the PA profession was for me.
It was a whirlwind romance, as I learned all about being a PA, its history, its quirks, its flexibility and potential. I really fell hard. I remember introducing it to my parents – Mom, Dad, I’d like you to meet my future profession! They were very excited, because I was very excited, and they asked all the typical parental questions: “Are you sure? Don’t you just want to be a doctor? How much is this gonna cost us? Where is this thing going?” But even they could see that we really seemed like a good fit. So they really got behind me, encouraging me as I signed up for the GREs and prerequisites, filled out CASPA and finally applied to GW – only to get rejected the first time.
But you know what, when you really love something, you’ll go to the ends of the earth. I worked past the disappointment, gained more hands-on experience, took more science classes, learned more about PAs and applied again. This time, I was so hopeful – I remember feeling a change coming. It was suddenly interview season and all my friends were getting interviews. I was quietly hoping and praying I would too. And then it happened – on February 7th, 2012, we got engaged! It was so amazing! I got that email – the one that says “Welcome to GW!” and I was so excited! Of course I called my mom and dad, I told my grandparents, I gathered my friends for a celebration. I got totally caught up in this new direction that my life was taking. We started planning: Orientation in May, we’d whisk through MPH year, wrapping up the public health degree nicely before easing into didactic year, where I’d be readied and well-equipped to start a quick succession of clinical rotations and then, from there, we would finally tie the knot!
But as any relationship goes, it’s never quite that simple! This long engagement has been full of ups and downs, with so much stretching, so much growth, so many challenges. All of this learning, all of the studying, and practicing; the late nights, the early mornings, the quizzes, exams, group projects, TBLs. Then there were the practice patients and the real patients. There were tears over biochemistry notes, tears over exam results, tears in my advisors office, tears over cocktails. But there were also smiles, and laughs. Giddiness and relief and perseverance.
All the while, the PA profession also grew and changed – we’re coming up on the 40th anniversary of the first certification of PAs, there have been PA-positive legislative advances made in 49 states plus DC, there are 196 PA programs now.
And it amazes me that through all of this we got closer, we grew in sync.
What’s so astounding to me is that my love story is not the only one. Each of my classmates have taken a unique journey, a varied path to get to this day. The Day when we slip on our long white coat as a symbol of this union, we say “I do” to the commitment to becoming a PA. I mean, we’re even changing our names! (I’ve been doodling mine, drawing little hearts: Elizabeth Prevou, MPH, PA–C)
And we’re so lucky because look around you at who we have here to bear witness.
In the words of Kahlil Gibran, a 20th-century Lebanese writer:
“All work is empty save when there is love.
Work is love made visible.
If you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.”
We each have a story within us; how we got here, what makes us tick, what we’re living for. I hope that each of yours includes love. Because it doesn’t necessarily get easier from here. And we need this love to continue growing, changing, stretching, to become good PAs; and if we do so with love, then we’ve done it right.
Congratulations, my classmates, my friends. Today we celebrate these beautiful love stories.
By: Elizabeth Prevou, PA-C
George Washington University PA Class of 2015
Student Academy President, 2015-2016