A Wildcat’s Journey: From Biology Undergrad to Physician Assistant Grad

Destini Quinones ’19 ’22 M.S.P.A.S. knew back in high school that she wanted to be a Physician Assistant (PA). At the time, an admissions representative from Johnson & Wales came to talk to Quinones and her classmates about JWU and what it had to offer, mentioning that JWU was about to start up a new biology program — and she was hooked.

headshot of Destini Quinones wearing her JWU physician assistant white coat Destini Quinones ’19 ’22 MSPAS made the most of her time at JWU through the university's Competitive Pathway Program.

Pathway to Healing

“I was immediately interested in Johnson & Wales,” says Quinones. “My favorite class in high school had been biology, and I wanted to expand my knowledge in the field. They also discussed how JWU started a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.P.A.S.) program, so I knew the school would be the right fit.” Now, thanks to a competitive pathway, she can call JWU her alma mater for two degrees.

Destini Quinones from first day of PA school to on the job in PA medical gear

Another part of Quinones’ decision to attend JWU was driven by her family. “I have five younger brothers and I didn’t want to miss out on seeing them grow up for four years, so being close to home was a bonus,” says the North Kingstown, R.I. and Middletown, R.I. native.

As an undergraduate, Quinones knew what path she wanted to follow to her PA degree, so rather than focusing on traditional internships that provide valuable work experience in other fields, she used her time outside of biology labs to pursue and obtain her CNA (certified nursing assistant) license. Then, she worked as many hours as she could as a CNA to obtain the patient care hours that she knew would be necessary for her future PA degree.

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Faculty Beneath Her Wings

Quinones credits her biology professors for being supportive during her undergraduate years at JWU. “They were always encouraging us to follow our dreams,” she says. “I told all of my professors about my interest in becoming a PA, and they always supported me.”

Upclose of a JWU PA white coat

Associate Professor Kristin Rosler, Ph.D., was one of Quinones’ biggest mentors. “She continuously helped me throughout my journey,” she says. “She would instruct me on the best classes to take to get into the program, let me know when it was best to apply, helped me with my personal statement and practiced interviewing with me when the time came. I could never thank her and all of my JWU professors enough for what they all did for me.”

An Inside View of the Physician Assistant Program

Quinones reveals that she has found JWU’s M.S.P.A.S. program challenging. “I feel as though you hear about various students’ journeys, but you never realize what they are talking about until you are immersed in the experience,” she confides. As for her own experience, “I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I have doubted myself and have also felt super confident! But, PA school is worth it. I’m grateful I have had this opportunity to be a part of a profession I truly love.”

I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I have doubted myself and have also felt super confident! But, PA school is worth it.

She typically wakes up at 5am to work out, stating, “I found that making time for yourself is so important. During didactic year all I did was eat, sleep and study. But in clinical year I made it a priority to take care of myself which not only makes me feel better, but now I’m doing even better academically.” After her workout, Quinones typically has a long day at the office from 7:30am–5pm and then she showers, eats dinner and studies. Some nights she’ll take a rare break by watching Netflix or TikTok or by reading.

Looking Ahead

Destini Quinones enjoying nature outdoors

Right now, Quinones’ main focus is studying for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). During her clinicals, she loved all of her rotations, but her favorites were in pediatrics, behavioral medicine and family medicine, and she hopes to work as a PA in any of those three fields. She has had a few interviews in pediatrics and primary care and, as of the writing of this article, she is hoping to hear back soon about a permanent job. Due to her strong family ties, she would like to stay local in order to be near her family. “I also just plan on enjoying this time off with family and friends,” she says of her current break after seven intensive years of higher education. “It’s pretty exciting to have some free time!”

When asked what advice she would give anyone looking to follow this career path: “Always remember why you started in the first place.” We have a feeling she’ll be taking her own advice as she forges ahead in her long-term quest to heal others.

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