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Alyssa Fanara


PA Student

Butler University

"Confidence, dedication, persistence, and passion go a very long way. Purdue prepares its students well for the future and equips them to have a great application, whether it's for graduate school or for a job. "

What was your major/minor at Purdue and when did you graduate?

I majored in Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology and Physiology with two minors in psychology and English. I graduated in May of 2017.

What was your most compelling class and why?

BIOL121 was my most compelling class. It was the introductory biology course I took my freshman year. It was the class that pushed me to change my major to biology. I liked the challenge and Dr. Minchella always made it an an enjoyable experience. It provided me with a great foundation and a passion for science that grew throughout my four years at Purdue.

What drove you to pursue your current career path?

I decided to pursue becoming a physician assistant, or PA, so I could to care for patients, diagnose, and treat them. I didn't always know I wanted to be a PA, so when I wasn't sure what career path to pursue I turned to my faculty mentor Dr. Minchella and my advisor Rex Fodrea and they each asked me if I'd ever considered a career as a PA. After exploring the profession more and shadowing PAs, I realized it was a perfect fit. I love interacting with people and the field of medicine is fascinating and a career as a PA will allow me to pursue my passions while providing high quality care to patients who need it.

What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give current Purdue students about how to make the best use of what Purdue offers? 

Purdue has so many incredible opportunities for students to take advantage of. I would strongly encourage everyone to get involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible in order to discover their passions and make the most of college. Look at flyers for call-out meetings, find an exciting job, go to the B-Involved Fair, talk to your professors about opportunities, or find a charity you can volunteer with. Whether it's research, study abroad, volunteering, being a teaching assistant, playing an instrument, or writing, get out and embrace every amazing thing Purdue has to offer. College is about so much more than just a degree. It's about building important relationships, developing qualities within yourself, pursuing the hobbies and talents you enjoy, learning as much as possible in a variety of different facets, and growing as a person.

Did you pursue internships/co-ops, research experiences, volunteer, or join student organizations while you attended Purdue?

During my time at Purdue, I worked for the Purdue Exponent and the Writing Lab. I was involved in research in a neuroanatomy lab, studied abroad in London for a summer semester, and was a mentor for both the Women in Science Program and for the Honors College. I was also a STAR ambassador, a Boiler Out volunteer, a tour guide, and an ambassador the Biology Department. I also piloted an environmental project to reduce plastic use on campus. All of the experiences I had at Purdue helped me come out of my shell and evolve as a person. I was able to connect with so many people and this gave me the interpersonal skills I needed to have a good experience when I first applied for jobs as a nursing aid, which allowed me to get experience before PA school. One interviewer at a PA program looked over my application during the interview and said she was impressed my activities, which made me stand out.

Are there any special accomplishments you've achieved after college that you might not have been able to do without your college experiences?

In 2008-2010, I went back to school (IU) to get an MBA degree.  Upon graduation, I earned an “Academic Excellence Award” for my grades.  I have also earned multiple awards while at Lilly including the LRL President’s Scientific Recognition Award.  I think my undergraduate education at Purdue set me up for these awards by teaching me the technical rigor and the scientific thought processes that need to be applied when trying to complete any scientific endeavor.

Do you still keep in contact with any of your classmates or professors?

There are a lot of former Purdue colleagues currently at Lilly so I see them often.  I have also recently gotten re-involved with Lilly’s recruiting efforts at Purdue so I have had a chance to get back on campus to see either former professors or to meet current professors.

What were you most afraid of when you were about to graduate? What advice would you give students who may have similar fears? 

Not getting into PA school was my main fear. I saw some of the statistics and it seemed overwhelming how many people were applying for so few spots and it worried me that I wouldn't get in. After getting a year of healthcare experience working as a CNA, I finally applied and ended up getting interviews at 15 of the 16 programs I applied to and suddenly my fears felt ridiculous. To students who are applying to other professional programs, I would strongly encourage them to believe in themselves and to not get discouraged by the statistics. Confidence, dedication, persistence, and passion go a very long way. Purdue prepares its students well for the future and equips them to have a great application, whether it's for graduate school or for a job.

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