The Oakland Press

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ Tamara Ostin is among Eastern Michigan University’s first Physician Assistant Studies class of 20 members selected from 600 applicants.

Eastern’s program prepares its graduates to be certified and licensed to practice medicine, making independent decisions under the supervision of a physician.

More than three years ago, Ostin’s historical Milford home was demolished by fire and, without homeowners insurance, she and her two sons moved back in with her parents.

But neither the fire nor a divorce has stopped the former Cinco Lagos waitress from her determination to become a physician’s assistant.

The program that started in May is designed to address the increase in demand for physician assistants as the shortage of primary care doctors continues to grow, The Oakland Press (Women take on challenge to help care for patients during physician shortage) reported.

By 2020, more than 40 percent of current primary care doctors are expected to retire, the Association of American Medical Colleges stated.

According to a news release on behalf of EMU, the U.S. Department of Labor is estimating a 38 percent increase in physician assistant employment between 2010 and 2020.

Under the EMU program, Ostin can earn a master’s degree in a 24-month, full-time, year-round graduate professional program. Members of the class come from a wide range of career paths, ages and degrees.

For example, Krystal Martin, 32, who is married to her Southfield-Lathrup High School sweetheart, Michael Martin, and has a doctorate in physical therapy, also is a member of the class.

Now a mother of two, Martin has been practicing physical therapy for more than six years. But she has been drawn to the PA program out of desire to help people with their broader health issues.

“It is very challenging,” said Martin, who has a 3-year old and a 6-year old. She notes her husband, a chemical engineer with a busy career of his own, is very supportive of her efforts.

“I am excited about this program. I am learning so much,” she said, noting that labs are done at St. Joseph Mercy hospital in Ann Arbor. Martin is temperance and health director at her church and has been trying to help members with health issues in that capacity.

“I am really interested in African American women and their health,” and working with at-risk communities in primary care, Martin said. So many don’t really know how serious hypertension, diabetes and other health issues are, she said.

Ostin, 40, who grew up in Sterling Heights, said after the fire that destroyed her home, the Milford community, friends and family rallied and raised money to help her find housing and to replace everything she had lost. She spent two years taking classes to meet the prerequisite requirements.

“Getting the call from EMU that I got into the school was one of the best days of my life,” Ostin said. “It is a second chance for me. It was a long-awaited dream and to think I am one out of 20. It was awesome.”

Ostin had earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, but got married and started a family right out of college, so she never fully used her degree. So after Ostin went through a divorce, she said she wasn’t prepared to start a new career that could support her family. Her sister is a physician’s assistant at a hospital in Detroit and Ostin said she had been more and more drawn to the field of medicine.

She is so determined to meet requirements for the PA program that the day after the fire, Ostin went back to the house and rescued a textbook, along with some valuables, and went to class.

“I didn’t want to miss class and mess up getting into the PA,” she said. “I wore my mom’s sweatpants,” she said. “When I get a job, I will feel like I am doing something worthwhile,” while at the same time having an increased income to better support her family.

Since starting the program in May, Ostin spends time at EMU in Ypsilanti and gets home in time to be with her sons when they come home from school. Evenings find them studying together, she said.

EMU’s is one of only six accredited programs in Michigan, and it received 800 applications for 30 spots in the second PA class. The other universities offering a PA program are Central Michigan, Grand Valley State, Wayne State, Western Michigan and the University of Detroit Mercy.


Information from: The Oakland Press,