New MSPAS Class Dream Come True For Alumni Duo

The potential and promise of the Physician Assistant Studies program inspired Dominican University of California alumnae Jenniffer Andes ’12 and Phyllis Sumibcay ’18 to change course and return to campus to earn their master’s degrees.

For Jenniffer, the path to becoming a certified PA means leaving her job as a medical scribe at San Mateo Medical Center which she has held since 2015. While there, she participated in a public health medical and dental mission to Panama in 2017.

“I had a great experience at Dominican. I was able to get to know many of the faculty, which made my experience as a student more wholesome,” says Jenniffer, who majored in Biology with a minor in Chemistry.

For Phyllis, a mother of two sons who has worked at Kaiser Permanente the past 16 years, the MSPAS program puts her back on track to her goal when she first came to campus.

“While attending Dominican as an undergraduate student I attained a solid educational foundation, developed meaningful relationships with my peers, and had the support from faculty that truly believed in my ability to excel as a student. I knew I would not experience nothing less than excellence if given the opportunity to come back to attend the MSPAS program,” Phyllis says.

Phyllis and Jenniffer are among 32 students in the MSPAS Class of 2022 at Dominican University. The program was launched in August of 2017 to address the need for students prepared to work in the healthcare sector. It came when employment of PAs was projected to increase by 30 percent from 2014 to 2024.

This year, Dominican had more than 700 verified applicants vying for about 30-40 seats in the 28-month program through the School of Health and Natural Sciences (HNS). Included in this year’s class are students from seven countries: Ghana, Taiwan, Vietnam, Chile, China, Cuba, and Bosnia/Germany.

“Everyone appears really interesting, excited, enthusiastic, and charismatic,” Jenniffer says.

Due to the pandemic, the classmates are only able to meet over Zoom and briefly during their orientation.

 “I love the diversity of our cohort,” Phyllis says. “We each have our own life experiences that we will be able share and benefit from. One might think that diversity might push people apart; however, it brings us closer together. I appreciate the admissions committee choosing such a diverse group because it is a true reflection of the world around us. We will be able to represent the different cultures in our communities while building stronger bonds as a future advanced care provider.”

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Phyllis originally transferred to Dominican and the School of Health and Natural Sciences from Solano Community College to major in Health Science and minor in Public Health before seeking her MS degree at Touro University. All while being a mother and working as a phlebotomist at Kaiser.

“My academic career has been unconventional, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Phyllis says. “It was always hard to find time for school between balancing work, raising two kids, and furthering my academic goals. By the time I attended Dominican, I had developed the life and study skills to succeed with a health work/life/school balance.  Encouraged by my progress, I decided to complete a MS degree at Touro to strengthen my PA application as I knew that was my ultimate goal.”

At Dominican, Phyllis met her long-time mentor – Dr. Patti Culross, now director of the Global Public Health program.

“Before I even applied to the PA program, Dr. Culross took the time from her busy schedule to walk with me around campus and introduce me to the cohort that was recently on boarded,” Phyllis says. “As she does with all of her students, I genuinely felt she wanted me to succeed and was always responsive to my emails and communication.”

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Born and raised in San Francisco, Jenniffer was looking for a college closer to home, yet far enough away to allow her to have her independence.

“Dominican is a stunning campus. I really liked the student-faculty ratio as it allowed me to get to know my professors and vice versa,” she says.

In particular Jenniffer developed a great relationship with Dr. Maggie Louie, who was a tenured biochemistry professor and scientist at Dominican from 2005-19.  Jenniffer signed up for several classes with Dr. Louie, who was also her academic advisor.  When Dominican launched the MSPAS program three years ago, it was Dr. Louie who reached out to Jenniffer via LinkedIn to encourage her to apply for the program.

“Dr. Louie impacted and influenced my career path by introducing me to a field that I was not familiar with,” Jenniffer says.

Jenniffer intends to use her PA skills to help others in rural communities, such as the one she experienced in Panama.

“I would like to be an advocate for the profession by educating more people about being a Physician Assistant,” Jenniffer says “At Dominican, I attended many seminars and would have loved to have a PA come and talk with us as undergrads. Hopefully, if that time comes, I can be the one who can speak at such seminars to educate others about the profession I love.”

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