Meet Sonia Hussain, a Physician Assistant at Campus Health.
Hussain grew up in Queens, New York, feasting on city food and Broadway plays. But in that hustle and bustle, she found peace with nature at Central Park. “I went there to listen,” she said. “I would close my eyes and reflect on my path in life and my purpose.” She concluded that her mission was to care for people, and from there she turned toward medicine. Her love of nature sent her seeking a location to practice outside the city – attempting Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas before finding her way to North Carolina.
In those various locations, Hussain gathered many experiences – from women’s health to primary care – and many included working with students. “University students are so awesome,” she raved. “They’re incredibly intelligent and expose me to so many different cultures and ideas.”
When Hussain moved here, there was no job opening at Campus Health at the time. She started having conversations with folks who worked at Campus Health, and soon landed a part time job working only on Sundays. From there, she continued to build her position until reaching her current full time status. “Taking care of students is something I love to do,” she said. “My other role is to help my colleagues out in any way that I can.” Hussain spoke highly of the work environment at Campus Health, noting how supportive everyone is of each other, despite the variety of backgrounds and experiences. She called her colleagues her “family away from home whom she respects, trusts, and admires.”
The training of a Physician Assistant
A Physician Assistant’s training closely models that of medical school. The prerequisites are the same as medical schools require including at least 1000 clinical hours in a medical facility. After a bachelor’s degree with a focus in Pre-Med studies, where Hussain earned Summa Cum Laude honors, she entered the two year intensive PA training program. She continued her academic achievement, earning a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor of Science degree with honors in Medicine. During that program, Hussain took classes 12 hours per day during her first year. In the second year, she rotated through multiple medical subspecialties – each one for 6 weeks – giving her and other PAs the foundation of medical practice. Hussain and her peers then took the grueling national certification exam to become a Certified Physician Assistant, an exam all PAs are required to re-take at regular intervals throughout their professional career. PAs can then specialize as desired in clinical practice.
Hussain spoke highly of her profession and training, noting the flexibility and variety in her work. “Because I have such a broad training, I’m not limited in my profession by specialty area,” she said. “I can choose to apply to positions in any field of medicine.” Though she denied having a specialty, her experiences have made her an expert in the variety of issues experienced by students who come to a primary care medical professional like herself. She particularly enjoys patient education regarding disease prevention and healthy lifestyles. “This is the age where education is critical,” she reminded. “Students use these behaviors to build their life.”
Advice on balance and resource utilization
When asked to elaborate on what students can do to live a healthy lifestyle, Hussain went to the fundamentals. “Don’t compromise on the basic necessities of life,” she said. “Eat balanced meals. Sleep 7-8 hours per night. Do something relaxing each day.” She advocates for balance. “You can’t work all the time because there is a breaking point.”
Hussain’s advice then turned to taking advantage of the resources on the campus, including Campus Health. Many students she sees feel guilty about asking for help. “A lot of students come in and say, ‘I’m sorry! I don’t mean to bother you,' – but that is why we are here, to serve them.” She continued, “Use your resources without feeling like your problem is too simple or you should be able to handle it on your own.” One reason Hussain feels so strongly about this is that when she went to college, her campus did not have a health service.
A typical Pisces
Hussain described herself as spiritual and self-sacrificing. She is very clear that her purpose in life is to serve others. “If you type in Pisces and show me the results, I think ‘oh my gosh, that is so me,” she laughed. Astrology.com listed a Pisces as fluid, easy-going, and spiritual. It went on to say that a Pisces will tend to put others’ needs ahead of their own. Hussain was right; reading the entry for Pisces did bring up a variety of themes that arose in her interview.
Finding her spot
Hussain craves natural spots where she can listen to the birds and flowing water, and she is still discovering this area’s natural areas. Her best recommendations have come from her patients who talk about spots in the mountains and at the beach. “Hopefully I’ll find the time to get away,” she said. Chapel Hill itself feels natural to Hussain. As she says, “there actually is fresh air here. That’s different from Times Square for sure.”
Come see for yourself
Hussain works in Primary Care, on the main floor of Campus Health.