Meet the PAEA Board of Directors’ New Student Member At Large
The word for Alison Streeter, the newest student member at large on the PAEA Board of Directors, is “non-traditional.”
Streeter, MEd, who is a member of the Class of 2025 at the Yale Physician Assistant Online Program, is a non-traditional student in her program, having spent years in the working world and volunteering with nonprofits in the arts field. She also had a non-traditional path into healthcare, entering college with a double major in vocal performance, with an outside field of theater, and chemistry and already has a master’s degree in school counseling.
Recently, Streeter met virtually with Cassidy McCandless, MS, MPAS, PA-C, Missouri State University PA Program, who became student member at large in 2021, to discuss being a PA student, service to the Board and, of course, what the future may hold.
McCandless, who conducted the interview with Streeter, which was the basis for this story, provided an introduction:
Reflecting on my tenure as the Student Member at Large on the PAEA Board of Directors, a myriad of words come to mind. Gratitude, fulfillment, and purpose are just a few that encapsulate my experience. Over the last two years, I have had the privilege of representing the voices of PA students nationwide, a responsibility I approached with utmost diligence. I also had the opportunity to engage with a diverse and inspiring community, including pre-PA students, fellow PA students, and seasoned educators. These interactions profoundly broadened my perspective and equipped me with the skills necessary for my future as a PA educator. Coming off the 2023 PAEA Education Forum, it was heartwarming how many familiar faces I saw. This was my third Forum, and as I have grown into a professional, being welcomed with open arms by educators from programs all over the country has been profoundly meaningful in my life. The work of PAEA is so impactful because of the staff, the volunteers, and of course because of the members.
I’m pleased to announce that, after a rigorous national selection process, a new Student Member at Large has been appointed to continue the important work of representing the student community. I have no doubt she will thrive in this role and continue to advance the PAEA mission. I was invited to interview her for a story introducing her to the PAEA community.
Streeter was a school counselor at a residential program for adolescents for about a dozen years before moving to Atlanta where she worked in nonprofits related to the arts. She said her role included a lot of fundraising and grant-writing until the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Streeter said she noticed a lot of friends had to make career changes. Streeter said she had a longtime interest in the PA field and decided this was the time to make her move into trying something new.
“It was something that was in the back of my mind for, gosh, maybe 12 or so years. I thought, ‘You know, maybe now is the time to give it a shot.’ I hated seeing what was going on around my city of Atlanta. We had a lot going on with Covid, and racial unrest, and lack of access to medical care. I thought, ‘I think I can do something about this. I can’t fix the world, but maybe I can help a little bit,’” she said.
During the time when many were quarantining to slow the spread of Covid, Streeter started taking pre-requisite classes while also working as a medical scribe in the emergency department. While she admitted to having some apprehension about returning to school, she said she loved the classes, applied to PA school, and got accepted.
Streeter told McCandless she was currently in her didactic year, with one more semester of didactic and 16 months of clinical rotations. As a PAO (PA online) student, she’s involved with the James Van Rhee Student Society and she’s an AAPA Student Academy representative alternate.
“That’s really about it. My life is studying and volunteering when I can. I’m very excited for this (PAEA Board) opportunity,” she said.
McCandless added with a laugh, “I love that you said, ‘That’s it,’ as if PA school isn’t already like 10 jobs.”
While her Yale Online program is hybrid, Streeter said there have been events, like one in March, where members of the class came together in New Haven, Connecticut, in what she described as a “family reunion” atmosphere. Another in-person event is planned for December.
McCandless noted that Streeter was in an unusual position in her training as a PA. She already had experience working in education. McCandless asked if that had influenced Streeter in looking to a future as a PA educator.
“Education is this thing that follows me that I try to run away from, to be honest, and then I keep coming back,” Streeter said, laughing. “My parents are all educators in public high schools. I saw what they went through and swore I would never go into education … and then I found my way to education through counselling.”
Streeter said she expected she would transition into a more medical framework, but after getting to know her own professors and watching how they balanced being in clinical practice with teaching, she “caught the bug again.”
“I didn’t ever think those two things (clinical practice and teaching) could co-exist. It was an ‘either/or’ but once I saw that it can happen and meeting you (McCandless) and I was able to go to the AAPA conference and meet so many amazing PAs who are – I don’t know – the family I never knew I needed. Everyone is multi-tasking and has their hands in so many different pots. It was completely re-invigorating. I was just like, ‘Okay, this is what I want to do,’” she said.
McCandless added that one of the beautiful things about the PA profession was that there was a path for everyone, no matter what their interests.
“It makes it exciting. It never gets boring,” McCandless said.
Streeter said her current goal is to be the “best clinician I can be” but she expects a future as a preceptor or a PA educator.
Another standout in Streeter’s history, that McCandless noted, was her experience as a board member. Streeter’s earlier education was centered around the performing arts, mostly musical theater and piano, and after getting what she called her first “real job,” after her first graduate program, she volunteered with a local community theater to put those performing arts skills to good use.
Streeter said she joined the board there and eventually, she was asked to run for president of the board. Streeter continued to serve on boards until she entered PA school, a commitment which forced her to resign from any of the volunteer boards on which she had served.
Streeter told McCandless that those experiences had shown her how fulfilling it can be to serve on a board but also demanding and, at times, challenging.
“It was incredible to meet so many great people and to have this one common goal that we’re trying to reach and to try to figure out how we’re going to do that with so many people who have different ideas about how to get there,” she said.
McCandless said she was impressed that Streeter had so many experiences and interests that went beyond medicine. Based on Streeter’s wide-ranging background, McCandless asked her if she had any advice for PA students on ways they could get involved and make a difference, whether it was in an area related to medicine or not.
Streeter said there are a variety of ways to give back. She said a PA student was likely to find a volunteer opportunity if she looked around within her special interest whether it was performing arts, athletics, or charitable organizations.
“I would also say, don’t be overwhelmed by time commitments. You can pick and choose the
right opportunity – as long as you go into it knowing what’s expected of you, you won’t over- commit. I have learned the hard way as I used to commit to every single opportunity which caused some stress later. I have gotten much better at managing time, which is part of growth so I would say, do your research on the front end to determine where you can make the biggest impact,” she said.
Streeter added that PA students can “just try something.”
“For me, it helps me stay balanced and not get bored. I like a little bit of spontaneity and just a change in my routine,” she said.
McCandless wrapped up her conversation with her successor by asking her what she most looks forward to about her time on the PAEA Board of Directors.
“I think just learning more about PAEA. I know a little bit about what they do but I look forward to meeting like-minded individuals and educators. I want to absorb everything around me and learn as much as I can as well as volunteer and give and share whatever I can share,” she said.
McCandless assured Streeter that she would have an amazing and very fun two years on the Board. She said the experience would benefit Streeter.
“I’m confident for you that you’re going to have amazing contributions,” she said. “Your voice will also be heard. I promise that. The student member position, we’re just as influential as the other 11 seats.”
After Streeter was asked if she wanted to add anything that McCandless hadn’t asked about, she said she thought their conversation had “hit it all.”
“I’ve gone from the arts to science to education and now, hopefully, putting it all together and we’ll see what happens next,” she said.
McCandless’ term on the board ends on December 31. Streeter’s term begins January 1.