career choice

You Should Be A Doctor

My daughter Emma made a career choice we weren’t expecting. After two years of a pre-med academic path, she didn’t change her major, but she did change her mind. She decided to be a physician assistant instead. Emma graduated from PA school via Zoom last month.

Emma went to Rhodes College to study neuroscience and prepare for medical school. I loved telling people she was “pre-med” and a neuroscience major. I usually started with neuroscience. If someone seemed too impressed, I added an oh-shucks-comment like, “It’s not that big a deal. It’s just like majoring in biology.” If I got a moderate response, I added that she was pre-med for the full effect. Then I continued to chit chat while my plumped feathers settle.

Generally, I am not a competitive person. I could care less if you win the tennis match or jog in front of me. However, motherhood has been my singular pursuit. I’ve developed the habit of embellishing Emma’s accomplishments in highly competitive company, which is pretty much everyone where we live. I remember telling my uncle that Emma finished in the top twenty in her second half marathon after he asked me if she finished first. I had no idea where she finished but felt compelled to put her in the running. He wasn’t impressed.

Emma is a thoughtful person and a careful decision maker. She rarely waivers once she’s made up her mind. When she told me sophomore year that she decided to be a Physician Assistant instead of a doctor, I said, “Great idea,” because it seemed like a good career choice, and I didn’t want to mess with her by probing. My doctor cousin and the doctor she worked with pressed her to apply to medical school over and over. After her graduation from Rhodes, I queried to make sure that her decision was based purely on desire. Not fear or insecurity. She was solid. Off to PA school she went.

A little part of me used to wish I could say my daughter’s going to be a doctor so I could bask in her light. Back then, I worked  pre-med into the conversation whenever people ask me about Emma. I made her decision to be a PA sound extra thoughtful and noble. People still coo and tell me how much they love their physician assistant and that they think she made the smarter career choice.

The truth of the truth is that I am incredibly proud of Emma for deciding to be a Physician Assistant. She began her education at the Atlanta Speech School and worked really hard to overcome learning disabilities. By the eighth grade, she was excelling in school. Junior year, she sheepishly approached the stage at an Atlanta Girls’ School assembly to receive award after award. Emma’s also matured from an A focused student to someone who doesn’t have to be a doctor to feel smart.

I am going to do my best to follow her example. The next time someone asks what Emma’s up to, I’ll say she just started her first job as a PA. I can never remember the name of the clinic where she works. That is either progress or what I like to call Covid memory loss.