1) Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Farah and I’m a British-born Algerian, currently about to finish my final year as a physician associate student. I am interested in travel, my friends and family, and my four fur babies!
"Reflection as a skill is a very underrated quality to possess, as it allows you to stay humble and be okay with making mistakes - because they’ll teach you how to be right in future."
2) What led you to this profession? Tell us about your journey to this field
I knew before I graduated with a degree in biomedical science that I wanted to work in a patient-facing clinical setting. I found out about PAs in late 2017, while I was searching for roles in healthcare. I knew about physician assistants in the US, but I had no idea they existed in the UK. I was drawn to the flexibility of working in both hospitals and general practice, as well as the excellent work-life balance this role offers. Prior to this, I was half-heartedly applying to medical school and clinical scientist training programmes, just because they were the only options I knew of at the time.
Admittedly, my first PA school interview was not well prepared for, and as a result I didn’t receive an offer. I was actually on holiday when I got the email and I had never been so heartbroken. It was massively humbling and the extra time before the next cycle gave me the opportunity to mentally prepare for the steep learning curve that comes with being a PA. I made so much dua for the opportunity, and now I'm finally here and close to qualifying (Insha’Allah), I couldn’t be more pleased with picking a role that fits my personality and life goals perfectly.
3) What’s a common myth about the medical field or physician associates - and can you debunk it?
One thing that people think is that PAs are mini-doctors or worse, stealing the jobs of doctors. The truth is, physician associates practice general team medicine — a collaborative effort with the rest of the multidisciplinary team to better the health of patients. The reason the PA role is needed is to actually ease physician burnout, not steal opportunities. As PAs are permanently based in the specialty they work in and don’t rotate, they are not under the same time constraints to learn skills like doctors in specialty training. This means that we can maintain continuity of care, giving doctors the much-needed time to attend training.
The main difference between a PA and a doctor is that we are eternal generalists, which is an appealing factor drawing people towards the PA role. With generalist medical knowledge, we maintain a good work-life balance and can be extremely flexible in where we work, with the ability to change specialties with minimal to no re-training.
"I feel like modesty is a state of being, rather than an action and is, therefore, difficult to quantify. To me, it means it is one of the few aspects of my life I can control. By that I mean modesty of all things — not just clothing. Being able to control what access others have to my body and energy is peaceful."
4) What’s your proudest achievement to date?
Recently I passed my master’s dissertation with a merit, which I initially thought would be impossible — which goes to show that our own enemies of progress can sometimes be ourselves. Overall though, I’m proud I’ve made it this far into such a difficult, fast-paced degree; no matter what happens from here, I’ll always be proud of that.
5) What’s a great habit you’ve picked up over the years that’s really helped you, both professionally and personally?
Before starting PA school, I never formally reflected on things I saw or experienced. As clinicians, it’s so important to be able to look back at an event and draw learning points from them, in order to improve and grow. Reflection as a skill is a very underrated quality to possess, as it allows you to stay humble and be okay with making mistakes - because they’ll teach you how to be right in future.
6) What’s one thing that’s helped you manage your time effectively?
I’ve learned from years of studying that if I don't want to do something, I shouldn’t force myself. It’s better to step back and take a break to do something you enjoy, rather than persist and create resentment and other negative emotions associated with a task. Of course, there’s a balance in everything and I aim to have my breaks early on so that when things get close to deadline, I am well-rested and able to focus on the task at hand
7) The biggest motivator in your life?
It has to be my parents. They’ve supported me endlessly and given me the space to grow into my own person. I’ll never be able to repay them for their hard work and sacrifices so that I could have a life I chose for myself.
8) What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a physician associate or contemplating this career path?
Taking the road less travelled is hard. There is a lot of time spent justifying your role and that you do in fact deserve to take up space. But to be a pioneer of a career which is helping the healthcare system, as well as its workers, is a reward that is very worth it.
Let’s talk fashion.
In your own words, what does modesty mean to you?
I feel like modesty is a state of being, rather than an action and is, therefore, difficult to quantify. To me, it means it is one of the few aspects of my life I can control. By that I mean modesty of all things — not just clothing. Being able to control what access others have to my body and energy is peaceful.
What’s your favourite piece from the Aab collection?
The Dolmen top in berry has that flowy, loose fitting silhouette I love wearing. It would look really cute with the matching trousers on a beach somewhere warm.
Where can people find you online?
I’m active on: Twitter, @thehijabiPA where I discuss the topics surrounding the PA profession and medicine in general; Instagram @thehijabiphysicianassociate, where I post tips on how I manage PA school and show an insight into my life as a student; and finally Youtube (the hijabi physician associate) where I post videos about PA life!