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Elliot Backer

July 17, 2018
Tell us about your work.

I currently work in Dermatology as a PA. I care for patient's in Alexandria, MN. My work involves seeing patients throughout the day for acute and chronic skin complaints or annual skin exams. I detect, diagnose, prescribe medications, and medically treat a wide variety of skin cancers and rashes. I also perform various procedures such as cryotherapy, skin biopsy, skin excisions, and wound suturing.

What led you to this profession?

As a freshman at the U of M, I knew I wanted to do something in the health science. I began shadowing various areas and realized I would be a good fit for the PA profession. I also worked at ACR homes as a personal care provider with autistic men and realized I thrived in the patient care realm of work. I ran with it and never looked back!

What is your advice for current CLA students interested in a healthcare career?

Shadow shadow shadow. Did I say shadow? For real, you may think you are interested in being a "pediatrician" or "physical therapist" or "physician assistant". Your concept of what that job would be like in your head is typically not really what it is actually like in real life. Use the U of M career center and any other campus resource you can to try to connect with healthcare professionals in the areas you are interested in and shadow to see if you are really willing to take the big step of dedicating a big part of your life to long days of classes, studying, and lifelong learning. Healthcare professions take a passionate and dedicated person that wants to make an impact. If that's not you. You may be making a bad decision to embark on a long road if your heart is not in it.

Describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during your undergraduate years that helped you prepare for your current role.

Patient care experience - ACR Homes Program Counselor for 2 years
Shadowing experience - Urgent Care Physician Assistant 250 hours
Study Abroad - Buenos Aires, Argentina 6 weeks, 10 credits Spanish
Welcome Week Leader

What experiences did you have that confirmed your choice of profession?

Seeing a patient that has a rash or other skin concern and being able to do some detective work in order to diagnose and successfully treat that condition. The process of trying to sort out the correct diagnoses is mentally challenging and rewarding. I would say even better yet is being able to build relationships with patients while making a meaningful impact on their life.

What kinds of obstacles have you encountered in pursuing your goals, and how did you overcome them?

Number one obstacle for me was the academic challenges. Grades are important to get into many healthcare professional programs. Many of my friends were in business majors in undergrad and could care less about their grades and focused more on internship experiences and had a lot more fun than I did on weekends. I was forced to be disciplined on weekends and study to make sure I could secure a spot in a graduate PA program. Staying in on most weekends takes a lot of discipline. However, it is worth it long term. Make sure you surround yourself with like-minded health science-oriented people that are taking school seriously and are mature in their studies.

What makes your story unique?

I was a Journalism major! Many health science graduate programs are growing more fond of a more well-rounded student. The idea that a biology degree is the only way is just not true.

Did anyone encourage or discourage you from pursuing your goals? How did you overcome that obstacle?

Most people encouraged me. Family and friends supported me the whole way.

Is there anything else you would like to share with CLA students interested in health professions?

Feel free to reach out to me if I can be of any help or assistance. I would love to help in any way I can. Remember, health professions degrees require lots of commitment and hard work. Choosing to pursue medical school or another health profession solely for financial reasons is a terrible decision. I have met and interacted with so many providers that decided on their career path for money. These providers are some of the saddest and most unhappy people I have ever met. They have worked so hard and dedicated so much of their life to a career where their heart was never in it to start. Make sure your heart is in whatever you decide to do. If you are truly passionate about a specific area of medicine GO FOR IT. You will absolutely love it. The profession is so rewarding and mentally stimulating. I am truly happy to be where I am today.