Meet our alumni: Christian Jennette '19

Class of 2019

Major: Biology 

Minor: Sports Studies and Exercise Science

Activities at SLU: Pre-Health Club, Campus Kitchens, Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley, Division III Golf Team, Research student, Potsdam Humane Society, St. Lawrence NYSARC, Student Athletic Trainer, Festival of Health Co-Organizer


Why did you choose SLU to start your pursuit of a health career?

The liberal arts curriculum at SLU provides a broad spectrum of content including literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences. Professors teach their students to think laterally and to examine truth through the prism of different lenses. With time a student understands how humanities, art and the sciences inform, enrich, and influence one another. This foundation of knowledge covering multiple subjects gives students the tools to think unconventionally and problem solve. Additionally, the smaller school size offers a great student-to-faculty ratio which allows more one on one learning and development of close relationships with classmates and professors. There is nothing like fall in the north country. The colors on the trees are as if they were painted with style pencils. The layout of SLU’s campus is strategically spaced so that it feels much larger than in actuality providing locations for activities and hangout spots. SLU is a place that is inviting not just because of the pure beauty and history, but because the people are genuine. A conversation or smile is common whether or not you know the person, you feel like you are united. Whether it’s playing a division III sport, holding leadership roles in clubs, volunteering or donating in the community SLU provides endless opportunities for students to become well-rounded individuals ready for success and to tackle obstacles after graduation. 


What SLU experience has helped you be successful in your professional program and/or current job?

As a health coach, I was assigned to provide health coaching to a chronically ill patient. Educating the patient about chronic disease management and designing holistic interventions to keep the patient out of the hospital were performed. Using motivational interviewing techniques, I helped the patient establish and achieve health goals. I attended clinical conferences with the patient’s healthcare team to discuss the patient’s challenges, current goals, share ideas, and offer support. I discovered that celebrating small achievements gave my patient the motivation to regain control of her health. I learned that the better course is to avoid the tendency to impose my will on my patient, but rather to listen and offer guidance consistent with their limitations and expectations. 


What course(s) did you find most helpful in preparation for professional school academics?

  • Anatomy and Physiology I and II
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Cellular Biology
  • Health Coaches I and II
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Genetics
  • Medical Terminology


What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in your particular field?

  • Begin the applications (on CASPA) well in advance of the year you are applying and pay close attention to each school’s requirements
  • Accumulate volunteer experience to understand what it may be like to serve an underserved population
  • Find direct patient care experiences that allow you to work with a variety of patient populations and gain certain skills that are highly recommended by physician assistant schools
  • Arrange shadowing opportunities in multiple specialties with a physician assistant to understand job responsibilities and communication among a healthcare team
  • Schedule prerequisite classes that meet the requirements for most schools
  • Make the application diverse with extracurriculars like research, participant of a sports team, member of clubs (pre-health club), teaching experience (tutoring other students), leadership experience, and an advocate for the physician assistant profession
  • Develop relationships with professors in undergrad as well as a physician assistant in order to receive recommendation letters
  • Become a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants to stay up to date with current and previous clinical research, health policy, and professional issues by reading the Journal of the American Academy of PAs. The membership allows one to gain assistive resources for the CASPA application, personal statement, shadowing opportunities, and interviews.


Any unique experiences so far?

Working in the Emergency Department during Covid-19 Pandemic:

I was working as a patient care technician in an emergency department (ED) when the pandemic emerged. It seemed like everything changed overnight. New protocols on how to triage and test suspected cases were established daily. Personal protective equipment quickly became scarce and we had to adopt methods to ration cleaning supplies and to sterilize and reuse masks, shields and goggles. 

For me, the biggest adjustment was to find ways to build a personal connection with the patients suspected of having Covid-19. When I approached them, I was often greeted with a look of despair and concern as they waited for information. Then there was me, draped in an opaque gown, gloves, goggles, scrubs, cap and mask. With my face covered, it was difficult to use facial expressions and smiles as a means to put the patient at ease. Our identity was limited to a mere photo ID attached to our scrubs. The hurried pace and increased demands of the ED have left little time for bed-side conversation. And even then, the added stress and exhausting 12 to 13 hour shifts have made it difficult to keep positive.  

Times of adversity often bring out the best in people, and the pandemic is no exception. The unity and appreciation of the Rochester, NY community honoring the hard work, perseverance, and bravery of “frontline workers” has been remarkable. We received food donations from local restaurants. We received messages of encouragement and support posted on front yard signs and drawn with chalk on the sidewalks leading to the hospital. We received a hero's parade from local police agencies, where sirens blared, and lights flashed. The officers clapped and waved for minutes showing their admiration and support. We even had a flyover by the Whiskey 7 WWII gunship. I also have been inspired by the teamwork and determination of my coworkers who have risen to the occasion without complaint or hesitation.  

These experiences have made me feel appreciated. They have given me the fuel to persevere. I have never been prouder to be a healthcare worker. I have never been more committed to become a physician assistant.