Milligan University prepares professionals to lead and serve at the highest levels.
For physician assistant student Mattie Rogers, of Morristown, a conversation with Heather Justice, assistant professor of physician assistant studies at Milligan, opened the door for her to complete a clinical rotation at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the largest cancer center in the United States.
With previous experience as an x-ray technologist, Rogers entered Milligan’s PA program with an interest in interventional radiology. Justice, a former PA at MD Anderson, wanted Rogers to be exposed to every opportunity in this specialty, so she reached out to her connections in Texas.
MD Anderson boasts one of the largest interventional radiology teams in the world. During her rotation, Rogers has been exposed to a variety of opportunities for PAs and has been allowed to get involved in more than she expected.
“I have been able to jump right in and help with procedures,” she said. “The staff have allowed me to do more than I thought possible as a student. I am a very hands-on learner, so this has been a great learning experience for me.”
So far, she has been allowed to put in intra-peritoneal catheters, perform intra-tumoral TVEC injections and perform ultrasound guided biopsies.
As her clinical rotation comes to an end, Rogers looks forward to her upcoming graduation, but is also reflecting on her journey to becoming a PA.
Having grown up on an Angus cattle farm in Morristown, Tennessee, Rogers knew she wanted to pursue a career that was hands-on and engaging. Combined with a desire to help others, Rogers decided early on to pursue a career in healthcare.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in radiologic sciences from East Tennessee State University, she initially worked as an x-ray technologist. This first job was a valuable experience, but Rogers realized she wanted to provide more for her patients.
“I felt the need to further my career,” she shared. “I wanted to offer more care than scanning patients and sending them back to the ER. This job helped me realize that I wanted to be a part of diagnosing and treating; that is what led me to PA school and Milligan.”
With a desire to remain close to home, Milligan’s PA program was a top choice. Once in the program, Rogers gained a deeper appreciation for the faculty’s ability to balance the academic rigor of the program with sincere kindness and care for students.
“Milligan’s faculty make sure they provide the information you need to get started in your PA career,” said Rogers. “The first 15 months are in the classroom, and when I entered clinicals, it was neat to pull information that I learned in my classes and apply it in clinical practice.”
During a year marked by disruptions and distance, Rogers can attest to how Milligan’s faculty rose to the challenges and prioritized their students’ wellbeing. After being exposed to COVID-19 at a clinic last year, the PA faculty and staff made sure to check in on her and let her know they were praying for her.
“You can’t get that kind of support at just any university,” she acknowledged. “As I look back on how far I have come in this program, especially with graduation right around the corner, I couldn’t have done any of it without the amazing staff. They are always there when you need them, and that has been extremely comforting for me.”
Milligan’s combination of intentional support, academic preparation and connections to world-leading research centers allow students like Rogers to realize their potential and enter their profession with experience.
With her roots in Northeast Tennessee, Rogers hopes to incorporate her valuable experiences from the classroom and from MD Anderson into a PA position in the place she calls home.
“I feel very prepared for my future career because I received a well-rounded education, and I feel that Milligan’s PA program has prepared a great group of future PAs,” shared Rogers. “As I look for a PA position in East Tennessee, I pray to go where the Lord wants me to go, for He knows exactly where I need to be.”