PRIDE MONTH 2023: PA Student’s Goal? ‘Make Bridges’

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Pris Garcia wants to make bridges.

But she’s not in engineering or architecture. Pris (which rhymes with ‘kiss’) is in the College of Health Sciences Physician Assistant program, and her goal is to develop connections with all her patients, and especially the ones who share her characteristics — her ethnicity, her race and her sexuality.

“I identify as part of the queer community,” says Pris, a 26-year-old native of Mexico who will graduate next year. “And I always knew that I wanted to work with people. I feel like a lot of my life experience and a lot of the skills I’ve gained are associated with, like, interpersonal skills. So, I wanted to have more direct work with patients and people in general. And it has really opened my eyes to the need for bridges.”

As in, diversity bridges.

“Cultural bridges, language bridges,” she says. “Just being the person in the middle that’s connecting different groups.”

June is Pride Month, which is dedicated to the celebration and commemoration of the LGBTQ+ community, and Pris is proud of her diversity.

“I am openly queer — I have a wife,” she says. “I am also Latina, and I can represent people of both populations. This is what I want to do. I want to be a bridge, or make a bridge, in healthcare.”

Here’s 5 questions with … PA student Pris Garcia:


1. Why PA?

I wanted to do a profession that allowed me to move around and create more bridges.

I looked at different things that I could do, and PA school — the PA profession, really — stood out to me because you can do that, you know? You can work in the ER for 10 years and then decide you want to go into primary care and work there for five years — then decide you want to do something else.

And I think there is so much beauty and so much need for connection — connecting different departments, connecting different knowledge.


2. Why UK?

I had just gotten married, and I just liked the stability of being here. You’ve heard from my story, I grew up in Mexico, but my parents were social workers, and we moved a lot — Spain, Morocco — all around the world.

I liked being here in one place. I got married and we bought a house here, and we wanted to stay in this area.

But I really valued this environment. I worked at the hospital to do all my patient care. It’s not super common that a lot of PA schools have such a close net of big hospitals like UK. So, I knew that that's where I wanted to start. That’s why I chose UK.


3. You also just won a major scholarship. Tell us about that.

Yeah, there’s a person in the College, Isaac Joyner, who watches out for you. If he thinks you might qualify for a scholarship, he might send it to you, and I was able to apply for this one.

I was one of 40 students across the country to be awarded the PAs for Latino Health Scholarship, which was given out at a ceremony on May 20. I had to write an essay to tell them why I would be the best candidate for the scholarship, so I told them. I said serving the Latino community here in Kentucky specifically reminds me a lot of my family back in Mexico.

When I serve my Latino community here, there's that special bond that I can see. I’m not in physical proximity to serve my family community in Mexico, but I can mirror it by serving others here.


4. What does the future look like?

I think I'm really open to see what happens next. This was the dream, to complete PA school, and so once I accomplish that, I need to see what doors can be opened. I'll knock on as many doors as I can like I have in the past, and then see which one’s open.

I would really like to work in something fast-paced, maybe an ER. But I also enjoy things like dermatology surgery. So, I’m open to anything. We’re starting rotations in five weeks, so I’ll probably have a more clear idea of what I want to do then.

Eventually, the biggest dream of them all would be to start the PA profession in one of my countries, whether that be Mexico or Morocco or Spain. I think it’s such an important field to be in, and I think it’s a role in health care that is not being filled in my countries.

Another reason why I chose UK is Professor David Fahringer — he is well-known for opening rotations and creating PA opportunities in different countries.


5. What do you tell someone who wants to follow in your footsteps and go into PA at UK?

It's funny you ask that actually, because I was just talking to some students from my undergraduate alma mater — Berea College. A lot of the students do reach out because there are a lot of international students.

I tell them why it is such a good program for me. The size is small enough that you can get to know your faculty really well. There's a clear communication that you can have with professors. If you need extra help for any reason, you can contact them, and they’re willing to help you.

But it's also big enough that you are well-known in the state, and honestly, in the country. It's the best of both worlds. I know for a fact that they care about diversity, and they are consistently working on improving it within the College.  

Overall, the faculty really do care about you. They'll listen to you, if you have any issues. And they're really trying.

Like, just knowing about this scholarship. One of the faculty sent it to me — they're looking out for us. It’s a great place to be.