Alex Koontz, a graduate student in Valparaiso University’s Physician Assistant (PA) program, has started an Instagram account chronicling her experiences. 

At Valpo, the PA program is five years long and includes three years of undergraduate school and two years of graduate schooling. 

“The first year [of graduate school]  is the didactic year so that is all bookwork and then the fifth year is clinicals. So we do nine rotations of different clinicals. And then after that we take our PANTS exam, which is our national exam. And then after that you can apply for jobs and get jobs,” Koontz said. 

She posts her experiences in the graduate PA program, including what the students do in their labs. 

“We did skin, hair and nail checks and we all gowned up and stuff so I posted a picture of that and said what we did,” Koontz said. “So my goal is to show what we do on a day to day basis, like where am I studying, and how am I studying. I think it will grow as I’m growing and as I go through PA school.”

She also hopes to include other people in her posts. 

“I also want to do different features of each of my roommates. I live with all PAs, so we all study differently. I’ll do a post on how we each study differently and fun things like that,” Koontz said. 

Koontz has started to accumulate a following on Instagram.

“I really was not sure who would follow or if anyone would be interested. At first I thought it would just cater to people that go to Valpo, but I have gotten a good response from other pre-PAs pre-med students,” Koontz said.

She has begun getting direct messages (DMs) with questions about PA school. 

“I get DMs of people asking me questions like how do you apply or what I do wear to school. I’ve had people ask me about blood pressure, which I just learned a couple days ago. It’s really a community of healthcare individuals who want to follow and learn more about what grad school is like,” Koontz said. 

She has also gotten questions about her undergraduate experience which she plans to post about as well. 

“A lot of students were focused on what GPA I got and asked what I did for fun, what extracurriculars I was involved in, and if I had leadership. So I love talking about that. I think it’s really important to make us better healthcare providers,” Koontz said. 

She chose Instagram over other platforms for a variety of reasons. 

“I’m not really a Twitter person. Tik Tok was another platform I thought about. Tik Tok is more time consuming, and honestly making videos every single day and combining them and adding seemed like a lot,” Koontz said. “There’s just a lot more to it and I wasn’t really sure with my schedule this year being so busy that I would be able to handle that. So Instagram seemed to fit into my schedule the most.”

The idea for the page came from Koontz and her friends being curious about what graduate school for PAs would look like. 

“Throughout the duration of my undergrad schooling I was wondering what the graduate students may be doing. My friends and I were wondering what they wear because they have to dress professionally and what labs they were doing as well as how they studied,” Koontz said.

Koontz wanted to provide the answers for other people like her.

“We were so excited about grad school, but we didn’t really know the ins and outs of it. I wanted to help provide that for younger individuals interested in going to PA school or really any graduate school. I wanted to inspire and really excite students to further their education in health care,” Koontz said.

Koontz’s interest in healthcare started at a young age and was further inspired by one of her highschool classes. 

“I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare. Since I was really young, I’ve been passionate about helping others. When I was a senior in high school, we had a class where you could shadow tons of different healthcare providers. I shadowed doctors, PAs, MPs, nurses, physical therapists...the list goes on,” Koontz said. “So I figured that during the class I needed to figure out what I wanted to do. I followed a PA and I realized how independent, knowledgeable, and involved she was.”

Koontz then began doing more research into PA programs and discovered that it was the right fit for her.

“I was thinking...I can get my degree to become a PA two years after my undergrad and it’s a lot faster than going to med school. There’s a lot of versatility, so I can change my specialty throughout life and it can really grow with me. Also, the job outlook of being a PA is absolutely amazing, so with all of those things combined it really called me,” Koontz said. 

She plans to keep posting in the future. 

“I think the goal would be to post two or three times a week,” Koontz said. “I’m really proud of it so far and I’m hoping that people interested in Valpo would follow the account to see what it’s like and to see everything that they’re applying to.”

You can check out Koontz’s posts on Instagram at @the_physician_associate. 


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