Expert Insights from Program Leaders
December 20, 2021
Episode 25: USC PA Program

We speak with Claire Norman, MSJ and Sara Diosdado-Ortiz, MBA about the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine for the University of Southern California. We talk about their focus on diversity, leadership, and technology ...


We speak with Claire Norman, MSJ and Sara Diosdado-Ortiz, MBA about the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine for the University of Southern California. We talk about their focus on diversity, leadership, and technology in their curriculum and Claire shares some stories about the program while Sara shares tips for applicants.

The purpose of this podcast is to provide news and information on the PA profession and is for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the University of Arizona.

Transcript

Episode 25: USC PA Program

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

students, program, pa, applicants, community, faculty, admissions, prospective applicants, volunteering, graduate, learn, years, podcast, classroom, role, opportunity, health, usc, resources, teach

 

00:08

Welcome to this episode of the PA path podcast. I'm your host, Kevin Lohenry. We are glad you could join us as we seek to better understand the PA profession. Well, hello, and Happy Holidays to all of you and welcome to the 25th episode of season one. This is our second to last episode of this year. And next week, Steph and I will reflect on the first season and share some insights for season two. Today we speak with my colleagues from the Keck School of Medicine's primary care physician assistant program at the University of Southern California in the Los Angeles region. This is the program I've had the privilege and honor to lead over the last 11 years. And I'm excited to introduce you to two of my colleagues who play important roles in the program. Claire Norman is our chief storyteller. And Sarah Diosdado-Ortiz is our Director of Admissions. Both share their time and insights into what makes our program stand out. As always, you can learn more about the program on our updated website at pa path podcast.com. In addition, our show notes have moved to the bios for our guests, so please be sure to click on the BIOS to learn more about our guests. And to read our show notes. He may also read the transcript in that section of each episode as well. And finally, we want to thank you for listening and let you know that season two will be launching in mid February after a short break from our productions. Now on to our 25th episode.

 

01:41

Well, thank you both for joining us. Today. I'm really excited to highlight our PA program, we have been remiss in not highlighting USC but there are so many other programs out there that we wanted to highlight. And I knew that we could end this podcast season with highlighting our school. And let's start first by talking a little bit about your own paths to becoming part of this PA programs. So Claire, you have a unique role in the program. Not every program has the fortune of having a communication specialist involved in the program. How did you end up coming out of journalism school with Northwestern and choosing to work with a PA program,

 

02:16

um, by a lot of weird twists and turns of fate. My mom is an NP and I my grandma was a nurse, I have a lot of healthcare in my own family, and never wanted to work in healthcare after watching them. But when I graduated, I moved back to Los Angeles and was looking for the right opportunity. And I came for my interview at the PA program and instantly was enchanted by what I in charge, which feels a little funny to say now because I never grew up with USC as part of the Trojan family. But truly feel it every day. And that really attracted me. The other part that really attracted me to this position was the option to kind of create from scratch and really tell stories that we're not. So talk to students and faculty and our community partners and find out why they chose this path that they're on their own and recognized for that. So that's been kind of what kept me here and inspired this entire time.

 

03:19

So you're kind of the chief storyteller for the program.

 

03:21

Yeah, I love that title. That's, that's really the fun part is I'm not just going out and seeing things happen in real life and reporting back on it. The stories are out there, they're just not always be.

 

03:32

Yeah. Any stories that really stand out for you in the past that are kind of your favorites.

 

03:38

Um, you know, I really love the alumni, I think, to see how much the PA profession has changed and they were even in school or how much impact they've made to the perfected. So maybe one of my favorite is our alumni, Dawn Fishback, and she had an incredible story where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor while she was in peacefull. And she was operated on and move the tumor by Dr. Giancotta, and now she's actually his PA. And he says, Director, the chair of neurosurgery here, and she's one of the first PAs here at Keck Medicine. So she's taken on quite a leadership role. And she's an amazing human and the nicest person.

 

04:19

And he is a huge fan of the PA profession because of her. So that's always nice when our alums go out in win over people, and they become huge advocates for us as well.

 

04:28

Yeah, that's just one of the many examples of alumni and preceptors and student stories that

 

04:34

I have the privilege to. Alright, we're gonna circle back and talk about some more but for now, Sara, how about you? How did you end up becoming the director of admissions and what has led you to choose this path?

 

04:45

First, thank you so much for inviting us to speak on this episode and giving us the opportunity to give some insight into our program today. I have been with the program for a little over 10 years, and around that time I had I just graduated with my undergrad at Cal State Fullerton in psychology, I was really looking for an opportunity to mentor and counsel students. And so I decided to try my chance at higher education and landed into a role here at the PA program as a receptionist, specific to admissions. And over the years, I continue to climb the ladder as an admissions counselor, senior counselor, and then was given the opportunity to become the director of admissions. And I have been in this role for almost three years. But what I really love about my job is having the ability to counsel applicants see them matriculate into the program, graduate and then see them explore their passion. And knowing that I was a piece of that puzzle for an applicant is truly gratifying and inspires me to continue to innovate and develop opportunities for our prospective applicants.

 

05:54

And we talked about the ripple effect sometimes with applicants and how important that is to all of us that come to work. So what you're describing is kind of the the impact you have from the first moment you start counseling an applicant who may be 234 years away from applying to the point where they get in the program, then you get to see them as part of their program experience, or a 33 month long program. So you certainly get to know them quite well as they volunteer for admissions activities over the course of those three years. And then you see him again, as they come back as volunteers for admissions days as a lump. So you get a chance to see the work that they're doing in the community after they leave.

 

06:28

Yes, it is definitely full circle. As a first gen student, it was difficult for me to navigate higher education, I didn't have any supports, you know, my parents didn't go to college. So being able to provide services to others. And to have our admissions team give that personal touch to every applicant that is interested is really what I want for all of us to continue to do. So I love the ability to counsel prospective applicants, give them some tips to strengthen their application. But what is most rewarding being in this role, or even as a counselor is the thank yous that I get around graduation time, knowing that I helped someone reach their career goal, and I made an impact is is truly rewarding. And it continues to make us to want to innovate and connect with our applicants in a more personal way.

 

07:26

Yeah, that's awesome. And and one of the things that did a couple years ago, graduation was I asked on the exit survey, we interview every graduate before they leave about their experience here. I asked them how long it was from the moment that chose to become a PA to the moment they graduated, just to get a sense of how much time is it taking them. And the average for that class, I think this is a class of 2019 or 20 might have been 2018 was seven years. So you're a big part of that seven years because you know, 33 months are here with us. But the other roughly three to four years are kind of navigating this application process which this podcast is kind of based upon.

 

08:03

Yes, I'm thankful for this podcast because it gives applicants insight into all PA programs. When our admissions team counsels applicants, we hope to see those students matriculate into the program one day, but I also know that many good at different programs and that's okay. I think our main focus is giving applicants the ability to decide which program is fitted best for them and giving them the resources that may they may need along the way.

 

08:32

So Sara, what are the aspects of our program that come up the most one applicants call to ask about prereqs? Or to ask about what what makes our program stand apart.

 

08:41

So a lot of applicants will want to know if GPA is the sole factor of getting into our program. And the answer is no. As so we really want to know your why why is it personal to you? Why does the mission connect with you? And what lived experiences have you come across throughout your journey? And so if you haven't lived it, what experiences brought you here? We want to know how did you get to want to be a PA or to apply to our program. So we look for community involvement and those that wants to serve others. So some examples would be Habitat for Humanity, maybe Big Brother Big Sister, working or volunteering in emergency shelters and underserved communities and really just giving back and so one of those things that we really highlight is that community involvement. It's not just about maybe you were in a sorority or fraternity and you're attending meetings and stuff, which is great. You know, you're maybe developing some leadership experiences and opportunities, but we really want to see you working in the community or you volunteering in the community. And so what that is one of the things that we look for, and then of course we also look for success. GPA, overall GPA, our minimum prerequisite is going to be a 3.0 for science this upcoming year, and then also a 3.0 for our overall GPA. And so while we see some 4.0 applicants that are coming into the program or that are applying to our program, it's not solely based off of the GPA, they you have maybe a 3.2, but you have a passion for working in the community and for volunteering and for giving your time. And so those factors are really going to help solidify your application and wanting to come into the RPA RPA. School. In addition, we also look for clinical experiences. So those are both hands on patient care and volunteer opportunities that you have. So all of these different things, in addition to your personal statements, you know, which is the way you'll be able to connect your why, in addition to your letters of recommendation. So those people who are going to be writing references, they're going to have the opportunity to speak on your behalf. And so everything in your application that is given to you is and that we're going to be viewing on our ends is really going to show who you are as an individual or as a person and how you got to be here.

 

11:27

So, so passion for our mission. You talked about passion and community service is one of that, how do you differentiate somebody who's really passionate about our mission? And about that kind of level of service? What does their application look like when you can tell they really, really walk the walk when it comes to our mission?

 

11:45

Yeah, so a lot of the times we will see longevity. I mean, maybe within high school, they were volunteering at emergency shelters, or maybe there are tutoring in underserved communities. And it continued, it continued throughout your entire undergrad experience and on to even after undergrad and so we look for the longevity, we look for someone who is really involved in their community. And,

 

12:15

and yeah, yeah, so and then there, some would argue that there is a certain level of privilege involved with being able to spend a lot of time volunteering while you're going to school full time. And for our students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who may be contributing to their families. Bottom line, how would they be able to do that? How do we try to coach them through that when they are struggling just to keep food on the table for their family?

 

12:39

Yeah, so we will look at Community Service. Like I said, it is one of our, our factors within our selection process. But we also know the other side of things. And so if you are an applicant that doesn't have the capacity, or the ability to volunteer in the community, maybe because you are the sole provider of your family, or maybe you're helping support your family. And so you also need to work to contribute, those are different things that are going to be looked at. But the thing is, is you would need to share. So if you share it in your application, then we would be able to look at it and say okay, well, you know, this is the reason why maybe this applicant couldn't volunteer for, you know, 500 hours or whatever amount of hours because they had to go to school full time, and they had to, you know, work, and there was no additional time to be able to utilize it to help and volunteer. And so the selections committee would look at it, our co chairs for admissions would look at that when selecting on who would be coming into interview and stuff. So all of that is really taken into consideration. We don't want a cookie cutter student or someone that checks all those categories that the program is looking for. So we want someone to come in that has different life experiences, and that we could add that they can add value to the classroom setting and the PA profession. So whether you're a first gen student navigating your way in graduate education, career changer or even someone that has a passion to serve the medically underserved communities, this would be a great program.

 

14:27

Thank you. So clear as the chief storyteller, you're trying to paint a picture of the program for somebody in the application process. What are the things that you like to highlight about the program?

 

14:38

Very similar to Sara, a lot of the mission, I have four pillars that we live by here at the program leadership, diversity service and quality education. So we're in my role, I always tried to prove that we're not the thing we're doing. So the stories out there that support those pillars or maybe multiple Have those pillars. So thinking about some of the things that we have in the program, I was the other day I was thinking about our pipeline program. And that doesn't just support one of those pillars, it really supports all pillars, and some effect. And so it's a great place for storytelling and to show prospective applicants, what they're coming here is really the mission. And we're really doing it, just putting it on the fancy brochure that they pick up. In fact,

 

15:26

one of the things about the program that I've always really appreciated is our success in terms of recruiting students that qualify for the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program. And I wonder if you could talk about your own perspectives of that and how that has kind of played out over the years. Yes, so

 

15:43

we love NHSC. And so since 2011, we have had 55 scholarships, and 14 more awarded this year, which in the 10 years that I've been here was the largest amount of students that were able to receive this scholarship. So it was really exciting. And so students apply usually during their first year are coming in before they matriculate into the program. And then they would be given notification during that fall semester as to whether or not they received that scholarship.

 

16:16

Yeah, I mean, our program is definitely one of the more expensive ones across the nation. But that's, you know, 14 students have a full ride, plus a monthly stipend plus all of their legitimate expenses for the program are covered as well. So that is a nice deal. And then in return, they pay that back through working in a medically underserved community in primary care for a couple two to three years, depending on how many years they received the scholarship. That seems like a pretty good deal when we are a program that prepares people to do primary care in medically underserved communities. Exactly. Yeah. Super cool. Okay. And you also are a co investigator this year, this past couple years for the scholarship for disadvantaged students from the Health Resources and Services Administration. So can you talk about that scholarship and what that has meant for our students as well? Yeah, so

 

17:02

our program was awarded a $3.25 million grant in 2020. And this was to help support fellowship for disadvantaged students. So this was actually a continuation of a previous grant. But the ultimate goal was to help continue to grow diversity in the PA profession, and help students enter the medical profession with less debt. So for the past few years, we have been able to award 20 scholarships to 15 of our first year matriculated students, and then five to our third year students who are wanting to go into primary care. And this would help reduce the cost of tuition by half of one year of their education.

 

17:41

That's fantastic. So that's been a very popular part of our program as well for applicants.

 

17:45

Yeah, it was really nice this year was to actually see the STS scholarship, in addition to NHSC scholar ship recipients for first year students, which almost equated to half of our incoming class getting a scholarship award. So you know, to have pulsars, 60 matriculated students coming in with a decrease in their cost of tuition, I think has been really helpful to them.

 

18:12

So as to members of our team that are kind of focused on supporting the educational process for students and also amplifying or highlighting that process. What are your observations about the program in terms of the faculty and the curriculum, any anything you can share that would help applicants understand what's what's expected here, once they get here. And either of you can take this first, if you want.

 

18:34

I mean, I can talk about some of the creative things we get to do. So I again, like I'm involved directly, so I'll say that at the top. But through our BSC course, our students do more than just learn basics of medicine, but get to kind of practice it in a community health and public health lens. And I think that's a really exciting way to kind of show off what you've learned in other classes and pull it all together in a practical sense. So there's a couple different projects that we get to work with students in this area. We start off the first semester we do a generations one where you get a patient a make a patient from a different generation, and you create a medium to teach them something about their care through that lens. And that's a really fun way to see students kind of create really interesting videos or flyers be a little more creative with the things that they've learned in class. And the second semester they get to do, we've been documentary slash podcasts. And there they go on and do their own storytelling about what well health and wellness looks like in some of our local areas in Los Angeles. And then at the end of their time here at the program, they really truly bring everything together in their advanced topics and education course, where they really do a health intervention. They come back after all their clinical rotations and all their coursework and make an impact in the community. So I think that that is something really unique about our program, we're students, you know, you can you can plow through grad school, you can go to a shorter program, a less costly program, maybe in a different place. That's not as expensive to live in. But I think what makes it unique is you really have this whole experience and being here, I get more time to really fine tune yourself as a PA in the clinical world as a leader once you leave and having the tools to really advocate for patients in the community.

 

20:30

So it sounds like you would advocate to the students who enter the program to try to take advantage of every one of those opportunities.

 

20:37

Yeah, I you know, I went to grad program, it was very quick, it was a year that was the idea is like, Do it quickly and graduate. And I know the pressure of taking longer time and the cost of that. And I think since you have this longer time really take advantage of that. I think it's exciting when you graduate, like I do the job board as well, there are there are opportunities out there for PA, especially once I graduate from our program in LA. But I think what will make you a really outstanding candidate and have a very successful career is to kind of try and find all the different ways you can do advocacy beyond the clinic. Yeah,

 

21:19

there are, there are many stories of alums who have come back and said to me, I really didn't understand why we were doing these things. This, you know, this documentary, this Community Based Assessment needs assessment. But I was able to use that language in my job interviews, and it totally locked me in because they understood that I get more than just being a provider, but I get my role of community in in health and in health outcomes, which I think is really special given that we're not really a public health program that that is our nod to the importance of public health.

 

21:52

And I think that's thanks to a lot of our faculty, several our faculty have MPH is and are very passionate about that side of healthcare and have done it in their own clinical practice. Yeah. Another tip to why we have outstanding faculty.

 

22:05

Yeah. Now so one of the one of the other pillars that we have is our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. So how well does the program do in that light.

 

22:14

I really enjoy working for a program that is really diverse, not only with staff and faculty, but also for students as well, um, just being able to learn more about their culture and just enhancing the student experience. So for this first year, students are class of 2024 47% were underrepresented minorities. 60%, were educationally disadvantaged. So that would be defined as maybe you're a first gen student, maybe you attended a high school with free or reduced lunches, or maybe the graduation rate was low. So there's a lot of different ways to meet that educational disadvantage criteria. 23% were economically disadvantaged. And then 62% came in knowing more than one language, which I think is really phenomenal, because then you're going to be able to learn those different experiences and stuff within the classroom setting. And then in terms of equity, I would say so our program, I believe it was in 2020 hosted their first ever Trojan pa Bridge Program. And it's basically a program that's hosted over the summer to help our matriculated students that are coming in. And so it's a voluntary experience. It's open to all incoming students and all participants will be exposed to resources, and classwork as a new store as a new student. So they will have early access to workshops on student wellness and study skills and additional educational resources at the university. And then they would also experience sessions that mimic what their first semester would look like. So the anatomy and physiology component clinical medicine and pharmacology and pharma therapeutics. And so, during that first half, they would be given resources and lectures, and then they would be taking assessments so they would be tested on what they learned during that time. And what this ultimately will help with is that once you get your assessments complete, then they will give you a score. And then from that score based off of the percentage that you may have received would either determine whether or not you would go into phase two. And so Phase two would be maybe for those that didn't pass their the threshold of that exam and so they would meet with maybe an advisor from the Faculty side, and then they would be given a continued resources. So basically, it's to help them get all the resources that they need in order to be able to have a successful, you know, first semester of the program or you know, get some help before the program even starts. And then in terms of, of students that are not able to attend, all of the sessions were recorded, and then they're also sent out. So even though you can attend, because maybe you're working over the summer, before you come in, all of it is still provided to you. So you could have those resources even before you start coming into the program.

 

25:42

Claire, from your perspective, because you're in the classroom as a as a faculty member, you know, in your role as chief storyteller, you teach a lot in the program with our colleagues on the faculty, what's your observation about how diversity impacts the classroom experience, diversity, equity and inclusion.

 

25:59

I mean, I consider myself kind of a, like a lifelong learner. And I have had some really incredible experiences being taught by our students, and I really enjoy it. And I'm, I'm really glad to have it. They come from all types of backgrounds, and I've had all types of experiences, and they've taught me to be better, and they've taught each other to be better. And you know, even in these creative projects that I mentioned, before we get someone who's a who's previously done, worked in a media environment, and come in they like rock the documentary and it they do an incredible job. I think I tell them at the beginning, like no one's gonna get an Oscar and then sometimes I watch them back. And I'm just like, so full of joy. Because they they've impressed me beyond my expectation. We have, you know, even if they haven't come from media background, they are really creative and come up with some incredible end products.

 

26:52

So these these documentaries and podcasts, some What are you listening, perhaps that that seems a little bit far off of the beaten path for PA education. So what what's the correlation between that and what they're learning as clinicians,

 

27:06

I'm no, Corrine Feldman, but she has pointed out that there are APA standards that align with this project. Specifically, we look at social determinants of health. And this is one way for us to really know what that's like. So this used to be a 40 page paper that got written and stuck in a desk. And now it is a much more creative team project, where we do a film or listening at the end, and everyone gets to learn about all the different community. But I think it also teaches us the process of learning about a community by actually talking people. I know that in LA, we have some sort of infamous areas that have been portrayed a certain way in movies or in other media. And when our students go to these places, they're amazed by the sense of community and the available resources. And they learn a lot about how people are so impressed by they feel proud of their community, they love their communities, they feel safe. And what we would not normally think is a safe community. That reminds me of like an alumni we have that works at South Central Family Health Center, who was seeing a lot of patients that she was recommending the exercise. And when really investigating that and talking to people found that there wasn't really a safe place for them to do that. And so she ended up creating her own exercise class after hours at Central, central Family Health Center. And I think that's the kind of innovation we really want to see in our students. They really think about the patient. They're the center of their care and their own wellness, and they don't just tell them what to do.

 

28:36

That's a great example of person centered care. I love that. So essentially, this needs assessment that they do, as part of their course, either through the documentary that we had prior to the pandemic or the podcast, during the pandemic, just to keep everybody a little bit safer, essentially, exposes them to the things like food deserts, where they go into grocery stores, and they see exactly what are offered in the grocery stores in those communities that these students generally are not normally a part of, and in some instances, the ability for fresh fruits and vegetables, it's just not financially possible, given the costs. And in fact, when they walked in the store, I remember one of the videos talked about how these high sugar fruit drinks were right up in front and were dirt cheap. And so it's no wonder that families who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds struggle with health related to choices, they have to make some really difficult choices.

 

29:29

Yeah, I think we teach medical Spanish but we also teach cultural competence and understanding of that things might be a little different in certain communities, and we need to be mindful of that.

 

29:40

They're one of the things that the program has taken great pride in is we have we have several faculty who have been recognized by national organizations for their success in teaching with the digital classroom, which came in really handy during the pandemic, but that wasn't the premise of it. Initially. It was really about focusing on how to use iPads and note taking and active learning in the classroom. And these faculty have actually taught this to other pfft around the country over the years. Can you talk a little bit more about what that integrative learning has meant for our students?

 

30:12

Yeah, it's the classrooms have changed since even I was in school, we are, you know, students are thrown so much information. Out here, we, we compare it to the fire hose analogy of like, it just comes rushing at you right away. And we want to set our students up to be successful, we want to make sure that they really achieve what they need to do when they're here so that they go out and serve the communities, we want them to work. And part of what we've done is made that easier by giving them the right digital tools, and not just giving them the tools, but training them how to use the tools. So we work with their three faculty and myself on our committee. And we do summer workshops with our students to give them a couple apps and digital tools that will help them see success in the classroom. And often what we see is some students who matriculate into the program are used to maybe more the pen and paper but they just can't keep up as quickly. Or it's not as easy to sort of navigate where they wrote that in their notebook. So we we use notability, which is an incredible app that, you know, you can connect everything, you you come back from clinic, and you're like, Wait, what did so and so teach me about diabetes, you can look at diabetes and find all of that information. And you can find it being recorded in lecture, you can find it written out, you can find your diagrams where you've connected the pharmacy piece, and B, the actual anatomy and physiology of it. And so it's all there together in a single place for you forever. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital tools we've reconstructed our classroom spaces to so that they're more collaborative, they're not sitting in that traditional like row by row, which we still kind of have some of that. But we're trying to break up some of the habits that might have formed in undergrad or in high school that are no longer serving you at this level of education. And we encourage even our selves and our faculty to, you know, sort of break some of the boundaries of what a traditional class looks like. Because we find it when we learn information, it's much better to retain when we're actively working with it. That's where we really use those digital tools.

 

32:18

Yeah, I think just a nod to Emily Whitehorse and her impact related brain based learning and teaching, I think we've really become Jedi warriors at shifting gears in the classroom. And when we develop a lecture, we are very mindful of kind of making those shifts, which I think really helps as well. So Sarah, how about you any last minute 10 of what we should ask about this? I want to share about that.

 

32:42

I just want to say it again, I want to encourage all applicants who are looking into the PA profession to really reach out to the programs that are that you are interested in, see whether or not they really connect with you and what you want to do. And do you fit the mission of that program. You know, for us, again, it's primary care working in underserved communities. And so really find that program that aligns with what you want to do. And once you become a PA, and if you're a second or third time re applicants, reach out to counselors see if there's any way they could look over your application. And, and kind of give you some guidance, but really just don't give up. You know, PA programs are extremely competitive, and just try to use the resources that are available to you. And so I encourage you all to check out our website. We do have a mailing list, so if you are interested in it, and you want to know the most up to date information regarding our information sessions, please email us at USC pa@usc.edu. And then follow us on social media. Our handle is USC Trojan PA and you could also find us on Facebook.

 

34:12

Well, I want to thank my colleagues, Claire and Sara for joining me today to talk about USC and about the PA program and what makes it stand out. It is such a privilege to work with both of them as well as all the other colleagues that helped make this program run. And I know that Claire and Sara skillfully represented all of us in the work that we do to try to provide a great educational experience for our students. Tune in next week. As Steph and I reflect on the first season of this podcast, we'll talk about the themes that rose out of the conversations that we had. We'll talk about the various programs that were represented thus far. We'll speak about the leaders and the incredible backgrounds of these individuals that have joined us. And we'll talk about their credentials as experts in our field and just all the amazing things they have contributed All with a purpose of helping level the playing field for applicants around the world. Until next time, we wish you success with whatever path you are walking in life. And thank you for joining us. The purpose of this podcast is to provide news and information on the PA profession and is for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the University of Southern California.

Claire Norman, MSJ Profile Photo

Claire Norman, MSJ

Chief Story Teller

Devoted to the art of storytelling, Claire Norman has dedicated her career to exploration, learning and innovation. She received her bachelor’s from the University of California, Santa Barbara in political science with an emphasis on international relations. After receiving her Masters in the Science of Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Claire joined the Family Medicine Department at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, where she has developed new publications and established a brand voice for the dedicated health care professionals in the department.

Leading up to her career as a brand journalist, Claire focused on developing her video, audio, reporting and writing skills. She also has experience in social media and web design with fluency in the language of HTML and CSS.

Claire is devoted to linking audiences with content that inspires and on occasion helps students do the same through their own creative process. She finds it elemental to her professional growth that she continues to tell stimulating stories and help others highlight their achievements through thought-provoking journalism.

Sara Diosdado-Ortiz, MBA Profile Photo

Sara Diosdado-Ortiz, MBA

Director of Admissions

Sara Diosdado-Ortiz, MBA is the Director of Admissions at the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC. She completed her Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources Management at the University of La Verne in 2015. She has been with the program for over 10 years and has a passion for recruiting students that want to serve medically underserved communities.

In 2020, Ms. Diosdado-Ortiz was a key part of the team to help fund students scholarship for disadvantaged students from a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. She has expanded the admissions team bringing in innovative strategies for recruitment through leveraging social media, video storytelling and through virtual events.

She is passionate about mentoring and supporting pre-PA students in their pursuit of their career goals. She enjoys seeing students matriculate, their success in the program and watching them come back as alumni.