By Kate Hunger
When Samantha Gonzalez thinks about her future profession as a physician assistant, she is reminded of her past.
“You are getting advice from your supervising physician, you are working with the nurses, respiratory therapists, with the lab,” Gonzalez said of a typical day as a PA. “I played volleyball — I’ve always been a part of a team. It’s nice that I’m going to have that again.”
Gonzalez attended Texas A&M International University in her hometown of Laredo on a full volleyball scholarship. She earned a bachelor’s in biology in 2017 and a master’s in medical laboratory sciences from UT Health San Antonio in 2019. Now in her first year of the School of Health Professions’ Master of Physician Assistant Studies program , she is one of eight students based at The University of Texas Education and Research Center at Laredo.
Science has always interested Gonzalez, who thought she’d eventually go to medical school. But when her cousin, a PA, told her about what physician assistants do, she was intrigued by the collaboration and versatility of the profession.
“I like the flexibility of it,” she said. “As a PA, you can choose from a wide variety of specialties to work in and even switch down the line if that’s something you want to do.”
As she looks to the future, Gonzalez envisions working in emergency or family medicine. She wants to provide compassionate care to help patients feel comfortable with their health care providers.
Growing up, Gonzalez witnessed friends and family who were not accessing health care on a regular basis. “It’s hard seeing a lot of people who can’t get the health care they need,” she said. “I feel like I cannot only take the care into my hands but also be an advocate.”
Another area she hopes to advocate for is the lab. Her experience working as a medical laboratory scientist at a hospital in Laredo will enable her to emphasize the importance of specimen collection and testing, she said.
The opportunity to attend PA school in her hometown, where her grandmother lives one mile from campus, has made all the difference.
“I am really loving it,” she said. “We’re a close bunch down here.”