CHARLESTON, S.C. – Ashley Black cherished her time as a student-athlete at Charleston Southern. The former team captain of the Buccaneers' volleyball program graduated in 2016 with a degree in biology. Black enjoyed her CSU experience so much that she decided to return to Charleston Southern for her postgraduate degree as part of the inaugural class of the Physician Assistant program.
The CSU Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies program began this spring on campus. It is intended to be a fast paced 24-month program to train PAs to be a part of transforming healthcare through a patient-centered and team-based approach.
Black is thrilled to return to her alma mater and continue her education. She has a goal of working in family medicine and knows that CSU's PA program is the perfect fit for highly motivated individuals like herself who excel in a Christian environment.
"As part of the inaugural class of the PA program, I really take pride in how much CSU has grown since my time of starting at the University," Black said. "Being a part of that cutting-edge first wave of students in the PA program is an incredible feeling."
The former volleyball standout said that being a student-athlete at Charleston Southern helped her learn the essentials that were necessary to succeed in her future career.
"CSU is a really good environment for me to strive for excellence as both an athlete and a student," Black said. "The PA programs across the country are super rigorous. I think the fact that I was able to learn to balance my time and my goals and actually be able to meet them as a student-athlete here really gave me the confidence to feel that I could go to a high level program and be successful in a PA program."
CSU head volleyball coach Christy Mooberry had nothing but praise to say about her former libero who ranks among the top defensive players in CSU history.
"Ashley is the picture of what a lot of our recruits want to be," Mooberry said. "She is someone who stood out in the classroom and on the court. She has an extremely high expectation for herself and for others."
The Physician Assistant program at Charleston Southern is incredibly competitive as only 25 students were accepted into the inaugural class. Black said that she could hardly contain her excitement when she found out that she was granted admission into the program.
"I was so excited. It was overwhelming," Black commented. "I would compare it to my offer to come here and my verbal commitment. It was something that I had set a goal for and worked for. I took classes, worked 60 hours a week and shadowed people. I didn't sleep and I sacrificed a lot to try and make myself competitive. For that to come to fruition, I was very thankful to get in the program the first year."
Black was confident that the PA program at CSU would be a great learning environment. She was highly complementary of the faculty and staff and their ability to connect with students.
"The faculty and staff genuinely care about us," Black said. "I can see how much hard work they have put into building the facilities and designing the curriculum. I can tell they have really geared that for us to be successful and they genuinely care about us being successful both in our careers and our personal lives."
She continued: "They have all been very honest about their Christian beliefs and their drive for excellence," Black said. "It's really easy to step into that as students and want to be the best kind of PAs that we can be both as providers and in organizations."
The university just opened a state of the art Health Science Building, which houses the PA program. This building includes a cadaver lab, a simulation lab, a dry skills lab, debriefing rooms, exam rooms, lecture space and a computer lab for the program. The building also houses three high fidelity simulators, a 3D cadaver table, and all of the latest medical technology for training.
"The technology and resources that are a part of this building are incredible," Founding Program Director Gabrielle Poole said. "Students will have a unique opportunity to learn the medical knowledge and skills necessary to become a PA through a variety of teaching methods, which I believe will set us apart from other programs."
As a part of the inaugural class, Black hopes that she can help pave the way for other student-athletes at CSU who might be interested in a similar career path. She had specific advice for others on how to get the most out of their college experience.
"I would really encourage people to try and go above and beyond off the court and in the classroom to figure out what you like to do," Black said. "Shadow as many people as you can and try to use what free time you have to go and make those connections. Use your professors as resources because they know people in the community who you can get hooked up with. So, you can be in patient rooms and figure out what you want to do."
Black continues to inspire others today as part of the Physician Assistant program. The future is certainly bright for her and what she can accomplish in the healthcare field.