Victoria Strand, Class of 2017, grew up in a healthcare provider family and knew from a young age she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, a nurse. She began her healthcare journey when she became a Medical Assistant her senior year of high school. Her journey continued when her mother asked her supervisor if she could provide Victoria with a list of local resources to obtain a healthcare education. After reviewing the list and researching her options, Victoria decided she wanted to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant (PA)—and knew that first completing the Nursing Assistant diploma program at UMA and becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) could help her reach her goal.
"UMA played a role in my ultimate goal of becoming a physician assistant because applying to physician assistant programs has become very competitive," Victoria said, "I figured that becoming a CNA would be the best fit for me to accomplish receiving the direct patient care hours [that physician assistant programs are looking for], and that's why I pursued a [diploma] at Ultimate Medical Academy."
While attending UMA's Clearwater Campus, Victoria took a mix of online and on-campus classes at the University of South Florida to earn her bachelor's degree in Health Sciences. She also completed a 45-hour externship at a local nursing home as part of earning her diploma from UMA. This inspired her to work with UMA's Career Services and secure a post-graduation job as a CNA at FirstLight Home Care based in Clearwater, Florida.
"[My advisor] sat down with me and helped explore some different home healthcare companies that I would like to work for. He sent me on an interview the same day that I spoke with him, and I actually got the job that same day." She continued, "It was a very wonderful experience and I was very surprised by how it all went."
Victoria uses her experience in her part-time job to get the competitive edge she needs to apply for physician assistant programs.
"UMA provided hands-on training that helps me in my career right now," she says.
Victoria spends her free-time volunteering with multiple healthcare organizations. She began actively volunteering in 2011 at a local hospital and has continued to support them, along with several other organizations in the Tampa Bay area. Victoria has also excelled on her journey by being elected the President of the Pre-Physician Assistant Society USF Chapter. She works closely with the other officers in the chapter to share information, hold workshops, host guest speakers, and help members be successful on their healthcare journey.
Victoria faced struggles in her life, and those struggles pushed her to excel. Her parents divorced at a young age, leaving her and her mother temporarily homeless. She watched her mother find the strength to get their family back on their feet, which Victoria says gave her the passion to be the best she can be.
She shares this advice with students and alumni: "Never give up. You can do anything you set your mind to, no matter how hard it may seem."
We're incredibly proud of Victoria's passion for the healthcare field, her dedication to her education, and her commitment to volunteering in her community. We wish Victoria the best of luck as she begins to apply to PA programs in the Spring of 2019.