Physician Assistant Student Plans to Work With Children
Maleena Reid realized her purpose while her sister and her brother-in-law were having their first child. “I instantly felt like I needed to be in medicine,” Maleena said. From that encounter, Maleena never looked back to second-guess if she was on the right path—a medical degree was, and is, the only goal.
Maleena hails from Gastonia, North Carolina, and attended North Gaston High School in Dallas, N.C. She ran track and field as well as club track during the summer. It was during that club track experience that the coach suggested she pursue a scholarship to run track in college. Maleena attended UNC Wilmington, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sport leadership. With the goal of becoming an athletic director, Maleena had the opportunity to go to graduate school. She worked at Lynchburg College, where she learned first-hand what to expect from her future aspiration of becoming an athletic director.
Between working to support an athletic department, and the birth of her sister’s first child, Maleena knew that while she would be able to successfully perform all the functions of becoming an athletic director, and that she was passionate about that work, her heart would never fully be in it. Fortunate to have a strong family network, Maleena began researching colleges that had physician assistant programs. Having an aunt and an uncle, as well as cousins, who reside in Clarks Summit, Pa., but who also work in medicine, Maleena moved to Pennsylvania, looked into a few of the local higher education institutions, and committed to Marywood.
Maleena said, “The job of working in athletics came naturally for me. I wanted to pursue a field where the work I did would be meaningful to others for the long term. Becoming a physician assistant is what I want out of my life. And, while the thoughts of quitting have crossed my mind, I stuck it out, and continue to strive for my goal.”
Having to complete two years of pre-requisite work prior to being accepted into the physician assistant program was one of a few challenges that presented itself. Struggling with anatomy and biology, she questioned if she would get into Marywood’s PA program. She decided that those struggles would be a non-issue, as she was determined to become a physician assistant at Marywood or another school if need be.
“I concentrated all my efforts on digging deep and making that decision to pursue a physician assistant degree. Being at Marywood is a good decision. It wasn’t easy, but that wasn’t specific to Marywood,” Maleena said.
Maleena determined she would prioritize things better and resolved to work attentively on her interview questions and essay. During a conversation with a patient at a chiropractic office she was working with, the patient suggested that she reach out to Dr. Lia Palmiter, director of student equity and inclusion.
When asked if she felt supported at Marywood, Maleena said, “That’s funny, prior to meeting Dr. Palmiter, I didn’t see the need to be supported elsewhere, as I had good relationships with my professors and with other students. Now, I can’t imagine getting through this pursuit without Dr. Palmiter’s guidance. I’m glad to have her as a resource.”
One of Maleena’s favorite memories is that of switching advisors and having a scheduled meeting with her new advisor, Marie Bonavolglia, Ph.D., associate professor of practice in Marywood University’s Physician Assistant program.
Maleena said, “I made an appointment, and Dr. Bonavolglia was running late. I was getting nervous, as I needed to get to work, but I also didn’t want to miss my appointment. The office assistant helped me track Dr. Bonavolglia down—she was running late, because she was meeting with a pharmaceutical representative and was having difficulty ending that meeting. When we returned to her office, Dr. Bonavolglia opened my file, but she didn’t even look at it—she knew everything about me before our face-to-face meeting. She did her research. That personal and professional touch made all the difference in the world to me. It no longer mattered that she’d gotten held up, because she’d taken the time and cared enough to know everything she needed to know about me for our meeting.”
Asked what advice she would give to future or prospective students, Maleena said, “Do what makes you happy. I have personal relationships with people who made decisions about their lives based on advice they receive from parents, grandparents, or friends. Pursue those things that you are passionate about and that you know you will be happy with in your career and life.”
Maleena is set to graduate as a physician assistant in 2023. Currently, her plans are to work with children, as she feels drawn to them. She hopes to pursue neonatal intensive care or pediatrics, but fully admits that this pursuit can change once she’s able to do her clinicals.