Pathway to PA: An Interview with Travis Sherer, PA-C, AAHIVS

This week our Pathway to PA series continues as we interview Travis Sherer, PA-C, AAHIVS.  We met Travis on Twitter where we were immediately drawn to his outgoing personality (yes, you can see that even through Twitter). Here is his story:

Pathway to PA Travis Shere

Introducing Travis Sherer, PA-C, AAHIVS

I grew up in a small Iowa farm town. After high school, I attended Arizona State University and then later finished at New York University where I received a B.A in Psychology. During that time, I volunteered at an HIV/AIDS clinic in West Africa which had a big impact on me. I saw people suffer needlessly, either due to a lack of medications or care, or due to discrimination and stigma in their communities. I realized that I wanted to do something that helped others, especially the underserved and marginalized. Today I’m the Program Manager at the Lenox Hill Hospital Retroviral Disease Center, and I have also served on the board of directors of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association for the past 5 years. I can be found on twitter @PAtravis and on LinkedIn.

 What was your education route and how did you decide on what schools to attend?

The physician at the HIV clinic in West Africa where I volunteered had some experience with PAs and suggested I look into it. As soon as I found out about the profession, I knew it was a perfect match. I literally stepped off a plane from Africa and interviewed for PA school at Pace University in New York City. I chose Pace because their program is incredibly well rounded, which was important to me. I also knew that global health would be an important driver for me in the future, and I loved that Pace encouraged an international elective.  During school, I did an infectious disease rotation in Mumbai, India.

How long have you been a PA?

I have been a PA for 6 years. I’m currently working in HIV medicine at the Lenox Hill Hospital Retroviral Disease Center.

Did you ever consider becoming an MD or another career in medicine?

I did briefly, but I felt that becoming a PA would be a better match for me in terms of time, money, etc. I also thought about NP school, and was accepted to a program, but ultimately the PA program at Pace, and the profession itself, won me over.

Did you have a mentor? If so, please provide some details.

I had many mentors!  I was so fortunate to be surrounded by talented and incredibly smart faculty, PAs, classmates and colleagues that I don’t know what I would have done without them. Two people in particular, Susan Cappelmann and Kathleen Roche, took me under their wing and nurtured me all throughout school, and they continue to inspire and motivate me today. My supervising physician, Dr. Ladan Ahmadi, is also a daily mentor for me. From the moment I met her at my graduation, I was determined to work with her.  Her passion for patients is infectious and I am in awe of the amount of knowledge she has. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t learn something new from her. Ironically, I met Dr. Ahmadi at my graduation and I got up the courage to walk over to her and ask her about job opportunities. She didn’t brush me off, but she made it clear that I needed to get some experience first. Having had another career before becoming a PA, I wasn’t used to being told I needed experience! But I buckled down, did just that, and today I am working for her!

What are your biggest professional challenges?

Professionally, it can be challenging at times to explain what a PA is or to gain the respect of others if they are apprehensive about mid-level providers. I have learned that if you do great work, the work will speak for itself and the respect will come. From a patient perspective, the biggest challenges I face are getting my patients the care and services they need, particularly if they are uninsured or underinsured, and the ever increasing amount of paperwork that goes along with it.

If you could change any decisions you made along the way what would they be?

I honestly don’t think I would change a thing.

What advice would you give a Pre Med student or anyone trying to choose between being a PA and another medical profession?

Many people will tell you to have some fun before you start med school or PA school, because once you start, your life will be pretty much devoted to your studies.  While there is a lot of truth to that, do take time to have a bit of fun here and there and get to know your fellow students, faculty, and preceptors. Just as importantly, be open and let them get to know you.  That small bit of effort to develop solid relationships will pay many dividends in the future.