In this edition of “Faculty Focus,” we sat down with Tabitha Miller PA-C, Assistant Professor in the Touro University Nevada School of Physician Assistant Studies.
Where are you from, and what was it like growing up?
I was born and raised in Salem, Oregon. The Northwest is obviously much different than Las Vegas. It’s really green and pretty, but it rains a lot. I was ready for a change. Now that I’ve lived in Southern Nevada where it hardly ever rains, I actually love it when it rains here because it reminds me of home.
When did you discover that you wanted to work in health care?
Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a pediatric doctor. However, when I got married during my sophomore year at BYU, my perspective of what I wanted out of life shifted. It was really important to me that I have a career that would also allow me to be a mom and spend time with my family. This caused me to re-evaluate my career goals.
I was actually in my Anatomy class working in the cadaver lab and my friend told me she was applying to PA school. I didn’t know what a PA was, so I went home and researched the profession. That’s when I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Why did you want to attend Touro University Nevada?
Touro was the only school I applied to because my husband was going to dental school at UNLV. I said to myself, ‘If I really wanted to be a PA, I needed to do whatever I could to get into Touro.’ So, I went on campus tours and got to know the faculty and staff pretty well. I loved the small, community feel of Touro, because I came from a big institution. Although the PA program was young, I knew it would provide me with a fantastic education that would ultimately prepare me to become a successful and competent physician assistant.
Where did you work after graduation?
After I graduated from Touro, I went to work in pediatric orthopedics at Children’s Bone and Spine in Las Vegas. After about a year-and a-half, I switched to emergency medicine and I’ve been working in emergency rooms ever since.
Why did you want to come back to TUN, and can you explain what it’s like being a faculty member at your alma mater?
I wasn’t really looking for a new position because I wanted to be a provider, but I was already working as an adjunct at Touro. I helped with prospective student interviews and provided guest lectures once in a while, so I was already helping out with the program. Then, they told me they were expanding the PA program, and I applied for the position. Everything worked out and I’ve been on faculty for a little more than a year now.
It took a little getting used to, because parts of the campus had changed since I was a student. The office I have now used to be a study room. Still, it feels great to be back because I remember my time as a student and I use that to help current students when they need it.
As a former student who graduated not too long ago, how do you help the students who may be unsure of themselves?
I can sit down and tell them that I was in their shoes not too long ago, and that everything is going to be ok. As a former student, I can relate to them and give valuable feedback from a student’s perspective. I’ve had students come into my office to ask how they can get a job; or how to work as a woman in medicine; or how they can be a mom and still work in medicine and have a life at home. We have a lot of venting sessions here. It’s a hard program, but Touro has graduated hundreds of PAs and they are doing extremely well.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching here?
I would say being a mentor to our students and watching them mature into phenomenal providers.
If you could give your students a single piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell them to not get discouraged and don’t give up on themselves. Trust in your skills and abilities and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I spend almost all of my free time with my family. I have a 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 4-year-old. We’re a big sports family, and all of my kids play sports. Every Saturday, I’m usually at four-to-six games as well as tournaments, and I also have a cheerleader and a dancer. We love to travel and go to the beach, and we have movie night every Sunday where we have popcorn and candy and turn our living room into a movie theater.
Our lives are so busy and the kids grow up so fast. I want to spend as much time with them as I possibly can.