Prehealth path to becoming physician’s assistant gives student glimpse into medical specialties

Dressel appreciates applied learning aspect of biochemistry, molecular biology program
Abbey Goers | April 27, 2021

Camrin Dressel knew she wanted to go into the medical profession. But knowing the field is so broad with limitless career paths, she started to research her options in high school. Then, when her grandmother was hospitalized, Dressel saw the care she received from the physician’s assistant.

“I knew that’s what I wanted to be. I fell in love with the profession,” she said.

Dressel chose to attend UW-Stout because of its polytechnic advantage, which would give her hands-on experience. The applied biochemistry and molecular biology program’s prehealth pathway would help prepare her for physician’s assistant school. UW-Stout is also her dad’s alma mater. He graduated in applied math in 1989.

“I chose ABMB because I wanted to be in a challenging and stimulating major. It also is the major that includes the most prerequisites for PA school. The polytechnic emphasis helps me because of the applications of each class to the real world,” Dressel said.

Discovering a variety of health care specialties

Dressel, of San Clemente, Calif., graduates on Saturday, May 8. She has a minor in human physiology. Dressel will celebrate her graduation virtually. An in-person commencement for graduates only will also be held.

ABMB graduate Camrin Dressel with her dad, Mark, near the Bowman Hall Clocktower.
ABMB inspiring graduate Camrin Dressel with her dad, Mark, near the Bowman Hall Clocktower. / Camrin Dressel

Dressel thinks her classes have been interesting and stimulating and that her professors and the applied learning aspect has prepared her for physician’s assistant school.

“The professors are extremely helpful and truly want you to succeed,” she said. “They help you to understand the material, work with you to determine the best courses for you to take and help you achieve your professional goals.”

The number of courses Dressel took in her prehealth path showed her the wide variety of specialties available as a physician’s assistant.

“The courses and labs provoke thought, and the scientific topics discussed can be applied to the physiology of the human body or medications used in health care,” she said. “I don’t really know yet what specialty I’d like to go into. I’m leaning toward orthopedics or behavioral health. But every time I see something new or try a new thing – I don’t know yet. I keep an open mind.”

Photo of James Burritt
ABMB Program Director Jim Burritt / UW-Stout

During one of her labs, a veterinarian visited and showed students samples of tumors that had been removed from pets. The students practiced identifying cancer cells. 

Dressel’s favorite course was Molecular Cellular Biology II with Program Director Jim Burritt, where she learned about cellular and molecular biology and how they apply to the human body’s cellular pathways.

“Camrin is remarkable in the way she engages topics because of her fascination with human biology. She learns because she cares, and not because her lessons are part of a course requirement. She knows she will be able to apply her education in her future,” said Burritt.  

Dressel is a certified nursing assistant. She earned her certification from Chippewa Valley Technical College during her sophomore year at UW-Stout. Earning her CNA was a natural step to becoming a physician’s assistant, as she needed clinical hours in a health care setting in order to apply to physician’s assistant school.

She completed her co-op experiences as a CNA at the Neighbors of Dunn County, where she worked mainly in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia home, and at Mayo Clinic Health System in Menomonie.

Dressel has overcome different challenges in her college career, including having appendicitis and needing surgery a few days before finals in her junior year. Although her doctor recommended she postpone taking her exams and having approval from the Dean of Students office to do so, Dressel decided to take her finals anyway.

“In retrospect, it would have been better to have taken time to heal and study instead of rushing to get it done. I learned from the experience to have patience – to take a step back,” she said. “It’s OK to give yourself time.”

Onto her master’s in physician assistant studies

 

Brian Teague, an assistant professor of biology, is videotaped while giving a lecture using Learning Glass, a university teaching aid.
Assistant professor, Brian Teague / UW-Stout

Dressel is most proud that she maintained good grades and was on the Dean’s list most semesters.

Her adviser, assistant professor Brian Teague, recognized Dressel’s ambition from the get-go. “From an advisers’ perspective, Camrin has always been extremely on top of things. She has needed very little advice,” he said.

Dressel has been accepted into the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies at Carroll University in Waukesha. In her search for graduate schools, Dressel was most interested in Carroll because of its partnership with the local free clinic. The partnership offers first-year graduate students clinical experience opportunities, which is unique for master’s programs, she said.

“Through my hands-on lab experiences and co-ops as a CNA, I learned so much about myself and have grown as a caregiver. I have learned critical thinking skills, empathy, and have become much more patient. This will all help me in my master’s studies,” Dressel said.

 

ABMB graduate Camrin Dressel with friends. Photo taken pre-COVID.
Camrin Dressel with friends. Photo taken pre-COVID. / Camrin Dressel

“My whole Stout experience has meant to so much. I’ve grown and gained independence being away from home and my parents. I’ve learned about myself and my interests. Stout made that possible. It was stressful, but life doesn’t stop. I never thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ The professors are so supportive and cultivate that experience for you,” she added.

The prehealth pathways in ABMB can lead to careers and graduate studies in many medical fields, including dentistry, optometry, pharmacology, physical therapy and veterinary medicine. Faculty and staff advisers help students make curriculum and career decisions and can help with graduate school applications.


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