International Biology Student Aims For Physician Assistant Program

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The amazing journey of Divya Mistry to Dominican biology major has crossed India and the United States and has included jobs as a dentist and as a medical assistant who recently worked as a front liner for medical screening and testing COVID-19.

“So far the experience at Dominican has been unique before the COVID crisis and more unique after the COVID crisis,” says Divya, who transferred from College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. “Dominican has played a helping role with my current job as a front liner in this pandemic.”

For Divya, the goal now is to apply to Dominican’s Master of Science Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) program in the fall of 2021 after she earns her bachelor’s degree. As she does, she is mindful of the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who famously said you must be the change you wish to see in the world.

“I live by this quote more today than ever, especially being a wife and a mother who is pushing the limit of being a student working to achieving my desired goal and balancing out life,” Divya says. “I am a grit student who does not give up on achieving the desired goals. Getting the proper education and learning the proper skills from Dominican will help me flourish in the healthcare industry. Therefore, my passion to help the lives of people is my ultimate goal, because, simply, it makes me feel good to help mankind."

To get to Dominican, Divya’s journey first started by moving from her hometown of Bilimora in India to enroll in a college 2000 miles away in Bangalore. In Bilimora, she said, if people needed health care treatments, they would have to drive an hour to get to a hospital.

“After graduating high school I had plans to attend medical school, but being a female from a small town, there were limitations based on societal factors and therefore I decided to go to dental school instead,” Divya says. “Going to Bangalore was a turning point for my family and I, knowing that a female is traveling so far from home for studies. I spent some years in Bangalore to fulfill my goal of becoming a dentist.” 

Divya then married her husband and moved to California. She was eager to get back into her field in healthcare, but she didn’t want to train again to be a dentist in the U.S. She sought to become a Physician Assistant instead.

“This gave me the opportunity to study something I am more passionate about, which was medicine,” Divya explains. “The will to accomplish my goal was and is not easy, but well worth it and I am confident that it will pay off in the future. So in 2017, after applying to numerous colleges I had one door that opened, which was the College of Saint Mary in Nebraska.”

However, though she had a confirmed seat in the PA program at College of Saint Mary, Divya was anxious to return to California. Just a few days before beginning classes in Omaha, Divya received a phone call from Maria Gentile, Director of Undergraduate Admission. She told Divya she could come back to California, transfer to Dominican to pursue her ultimate goal of entering its MSPAS program. Dominican had been Divya’s first choice in 2017, but she was missing some pre-requisites to enter the program at that time.

Last spring, Divya transferred as a biological sciences major into the School of Health and Natural Sciences and dove into scientific research. In Dr. Obed Hernandez-Gomez’s lab, she studied specimens from the skin surface of the salamanders and from its collected bacteria created colonies to help develop the violet color colonies, which provides the Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis (BD). In Dr. Robert Barr’s virtual lab, Divya learned the importance of enzymes, catalysts and nitrogen fixation. In Dr. Doreen Gurrola’s lab, Divya understood the importance collecting correct data for the scientific research on elephant seals.

These methodology classes taught Divya the importance of research in exploring causes of disease and discovering new treatments in medicine.

“Those experiences are the building block to the healthcare field by opening the minds to finding new ways to treating patients,” Divya says. “Therefore, coming from a small university in Nebraska to Dominican can be a game changer, not only for me, but also for many others to see and learn things with hands-on experience. With the knowledge instilled by the different professors of methodology, these research classes really help students get ready for the real world of medicine.”

Those experiences helped Divya transition into her job as a medical assistant health screener for Kaiser Permanente in Fremont. She was working as a front line medical assistant health screener who screened employees for COIVD-19 as they entered the building. Now Divya has returned to being a full-time student, focused on finally joining Dominican’s MSPAS program.

“From my research, Dominican is well known for producing amazing Physician Assistants and Nurses, which teaches us one thing that is to save lives no matter what it takes,” Divya says. “This motivates me to work hard to serve those who need help, especially during the COVID crisis. From the education and guidance from the professors at Dominican, I have leveraged my skills and respect towards those working in healthcare. By helping those that need medical treatment gives me the encouragement to work harder so I can help save lives and bring smiles. During this pandemic, the education from Dominican will help my skills to become an excellent healthcare provider.”





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