Mentors Matter: PAs Pay It Forward

Find Your PA Match Today

September 11, 2019

By Kate Maloney

Sara Rynders, PA-C, with Dr. Bobby Chhabra
Sara Rynders, PA-C, with her mentor, Dr. Bobby Chhabra.

Sara Rynders, PA-C, was an undergraduate student in health sciences when she shadowed a PA in emergency medicine. The PA, Rynders remembers, was solving problems, ordering tests, determining diagnoses, formulating treatment plans, and carrying out minor procedures. “I thought the team approach was a brilliant model for healthcare, and being a PA was the right profession for me,” Rynders says. In 2006, she graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, and started working at the University of Virginia in hand surgery immediately after graduating. When she got a request from Kim Ketchersid to shadow her, Rynders agreed immediately.

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A ‘true role model’
Kim Ketchersid attended UVA as an undergrad. She was exposed to the PA profession during a mission trip to Honduras and when she returned to Charlottesville, she wanted to learn more. She used the UVA Health System to find practicing PAs she could shadow. She found Rynders’ name and shadowed her multiple times at the orthopaedic hand clinic. “Sara was a huge influence on my decision to become a PA,” Ketchersid says. “She was a strong clinician, and I respected her rapport with patients and her clinical acumen. She was a true role model for me.”

UVA does not have a PA program and Ketchersid and other pre-PAs were frustrated by the lack of resources for students interested in the profession. They formed the Future PA Society in early 2011 to provide shadowing opportunities, share PA school application resources, and host PAs and PA programs to speak to the society’s members. Ketchersid asked Rynders if she would help the Future PA Society and Rynders immediately said yes. “The entire group was eager and enthusiastic,” Rynders says. “They had a great energy, and their initiative made me feel proud of my career choice.” Rynders and other practicing PAs in the Charlottesville area agreed to be regular preceptors for the pre-PAs and shared their experiences and knowledge about applying for PA school and being a practicing PA.

[Mentor the next generation of PAs.]

Kim Ketchersid
Kim Ketchersid, PA-C

Involved mentors make a difference
Rynders knew Ketchersid would make an excellent PA. “When she was shadowing me, it was clear she was focused on not just becoming a PA, but a great PA,” Rynders says.  “Kim was inquisitive, asked thoughtful questions, and displayed a high level of motivation.”  Rynders was happy to help Ketchersid apply to PA school. Rynders reviewed Ketchersid’s personal statement, provided a reference, and even arranged practice interviews. Ketchersid was accepted into the Emory PA program and immediately reached out to Rynders to thank her for all her help. “She told me to pay it forward,” Ketchersid remembers. “I have never forgotten that and I am still involved with UVA’s Future PA Society today.”

Rynders also credits a mentor with her success as a PA. “PA school prepares you academically, professionally, and socially, but when you actually start practice new PAs can feel overwhelmed,” she says. Her collaborating physician was extremely supportive and incredibly patient. “He never once got frustrated with me, or disparaged me when I made a mistake. He took time to teach me and elevate my level of understanding. He encouraged me to see the importance of everything we were doing.” Rynders’ relationship with her collaborating physician is the reason she remains in the orthopaedic hand surgery field to this day.

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Pay it forward
Both Rynders and Ketchersid have benefited from strong and supportive mentors, and they understand the importance of mentoring the next generation of PAs. “I love what I do and I like sharing it with others,” Rynders says. “Plus, students ask great questions, so it helps me stay sharp and up to date. It is so rewarding to see students follow through on their dreams and become PAs.”

Ketchersid agrees: “Mentoring is a gift that keeps on giving. I enjoy cheering pre-PAs and PA students on and helping them however I can. They will touch the lives of countless patients.”

Are you looking for a mentor to encourage your career growth? Or are you a more experienced practitioner ready to mentor the next generation or PAs? Use AAPA’s Mentor Match to volunteer as a mentor or connect with PAs who can offer you advice and share their experiences. Find your PA match today.

Additional Resources
Mentor Match
Huddle – AAPA’s exclusive member-only community
Pre-PA Resources
Student Society Resources

Kim Ketchersid is a PA in hospital medicine at VCU Health Systems in Richmond, Virginia. Sara Rynders is practicing hand surgery at Hand Surgery Associates in Denver, Colorado.

Kate Maloney is senior manager in AAPA’s Corporate Communications Department. Contact her at [email protected].