A lot of students arrive at their undergraduate institution unsure what career path they're most passionate about. Some change majors multiple times. Some even graduate unsure if they made the right choice. When Jonathan Sheroff graduated with a political science degree at UMass Amherst and took a job in the financial industry at State Street, he never would have imagined he'd be enrolling in a physician assistant program.
A man of many interests
Sheroff describes science and history as his favorite subjects growing up, making political science a good choice for undergraduate study. What he found the most satisfaction in however, was solving difficult math problems. That led him to jobs at money management companies State Street and McAdam Financial, and later recruiting employees to accounting and finance positions. Already an interesting path for a political science major, Sheroff then chose to join a startup company called UPRIGHT, and move to Tel Aviv, Israel, working as a customer service and special projects research intern.
Change in plans
What inspired you to change career plans?
"After working abroad, I realized that I wanted to work in the healthcare industry. At the time, I didn't know whether I'd be interested in being a Physician, Physician Assistant, or Nurse Practitioner, but I knew that I wanted to help patients with their recoveries. In my previous professional experiences, I was always helping people make big life decisions, but I wanted to elevate my responsibilities to where I could make the biggest impact on people's lives as an advanced medical care provider."
Pre-Health at UMassD
While already having the 120 credits that suffice for a bachelor's degree, Sheroff lacked health science-specific curricula required for further degree programs in health sciences. When evaluating his options, he found UMassD's Postbaccalaureate Certificate (PBC) in Pre-Health Professions would give him just that.
What stood out about UMassD's Pre-Health PBC?
"It provided all of the courses that I needed at an affordable price, and the small number of enrolled students allowed more opportunity to get extra help from my professors and at the STEM Learning Lab. I knew these courses would be challenging for me, and that I’d benefit from meeting with professors during office hours."
What was your favorite thing about UMassD?
"The professors and my academic advisor. I always felt that I had people in my corner who cared about my academic and professional success. Being a PBC student meant relearning how to learn! I was given guidance, and the ability to discuss my coursework with people who were absolutely invested in me. There was also a great opportunity to work as a tutor which helped me make extra money and reinforce class material that I will use for the rest of my life. This is not only a consequence of being a small institution, but because the faculty care strongly about their students."
Why should someone enroll in UMassD's PBC program?
"The well-thought-out curriculum. In addition, being able to set up office hours with professors who care about teaching the next generation of a strong workforce allows for future success of the student. However, it is up to the student to take advantage of their situation and put in the work in order to achieve this success too! This program only works if the student is invested and has confidence in themselves to succeed."
Did you have a favorite class?
"My favorite class was the Clinical Biochemistry course that I took in my last semester. This class really connected the clinical applications of biochemistry, while teaching introductory and advanced knowledge of human biology systems. This course took most of my time as there was an immense amount of information, but it provided a strong foundation that I will use in PA school. I was also given the opportunity to write a research paper on the gut microbiome's role in food digestion which is one of my favorite topics of biochemistry to this day."
After the first year of his PBC program, Sheroff spent the summer of 2018 gaining real-world humanistic and leadership lessons in medicine and healthcare as a camp counselor at Flying Horse Farms, a camp located in Mount Gilead, Ohio that provides young children and teenagers who are unable to attend most summer camps due to the challenges of having a chronic illness.
"My role was to create a fun, inclusive and safe environment for campers so that they could forget about being patients and be kids for a week. I was able to see a person struggling with health issues as a person and not defined by their illness, which was among the most important lessons I’ve learned upon this journey."
Studying health in a pandemic
Another factor Sheroff never could have predicted was graduating and entering the health science field during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as additional challenges arrived, he saw his responsibilities increase, helping to build a skill set he's now thankful for.
As the pandemic began, were you questioning your decision to change career paths?
"The opposite. COVID-19 was a strong reinforcement as to why I wanted to join the medical field. I knew the burdens of healthcare before entering, and my journey through the pandemic showed me that I do have what it takes to overcome many obstacles simultaneously. I found a job quickly as a Technologist Aide at Shields MRI, where I interviewed patients regarding their medical histories, set up MRI's for patients, and learned clinical knowledge from Radiologists and MRI Technologists.
"Eventually I became in charge of my site's health and safety inspections, and ordering medical and office supplies. Although the pandemic was a difficult time for everyone, I gained invaluable knowledge and experience during one of the most difficult times in modern history. I also completed two semesters of courses at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences to complete my PA admissions requirements."
This spring semester of 2023, Sheroff began PA school at Touro University in Middletown, New York, where he'll study full time for the next 28 months.
How prepared do you feel for PA school
"I feel very prepared because of my STEM courses at UMass Dartmouth. I'm extremely excited to learn how to be a well-prepared PA and carry out my dream of helping people in this capacity."
Do you feel you made the right choice coming to UMassD?
"Yes. This university allowed me to explore many STEM subjects of interest and provided guidance to me to be in the position that I am today. I do believe UMassD provided me with the tools and skill set as a strong student that will help me achieve my goals in PA school."
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career change?
"Make sure that the field of interest is one that will provide you happiness and fulfillment. It is a tremendous time commitment to change your field, so make sure that you know enough about your new field before making the change. Seek out trustworthy mentorship to help guide you and keep your eyes on the prize. Make strong connections and bonds within the new field, these people will teach you what you cannot learn in a classroom and provide more clarity about your new field."
What are you most proud of in this journey?
"I am very proud of my successes as a student while working part-time jobs. There was nothing easy about being a PBC student, but I would not have it any other way. The obstacles that I had to overcome made the experience more special because I learned that I am a stronger person than I originally thought. The difficult process allowed me to see my real potential and I will keep raising the bar of my successes as I embark on new and more difficult challenges in my life."