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From Teacher to Physician Assistant: Roxanne Schmiesing’s Journey

Published in Medical Professionals Author: Roxanne Schmiesing,PA-C

The journey to becoming a physician assistant for Roxanne Schmiesing was different from many others in her field. Beginning her career as a high school science teacher, Roxanne decided to take a new path, combining her passion for science, education and the well-being of others into a career in healthcare.

As a child, Roxanne loved science and knew she liked helping others. In college, Roxanne studied pre-med but had decided to also earn her teaching licensure as a back-up plan. Just prior to the start of the school year, she was informed a biology teacher at New London-Spicer took a different position. She was asked if she would student teach in the position and complete the year as a part-time instructor. “I completed the school year and then they offered for me to come back full-time the next year,” Roxanne explained. She then continued her education by earning a Master’s of Educational Leadership from Southwest State University in 2002.

After teaching in the science department at New London-Spicer High School for several years, Roxanne decided it was time to explore other careers. In 2010, during a conversation with her father, Roxanne asked what he considered his greatest regret. He admitted to Roxanne that he had wanted to go to veterinary school but never applied. He explained that he didn’t necessarily regret not becoming a veterinarian but wished he had tried when he had the chance.

That same year, Roxanne’s oldest son had graduated from high school and was heading off to the Marines. That was the motivation Roxanne needed to apply to Physician Assistant (P.A.) school. She was also teaching full-time and raising her three children. But Roxanne wasn’t going to allow the opportunity to advance her career slip away.
She was accepted into P.A. school at UW Madison where she lived for the summer to take classes and attended lectures online when she returned home. She would then commute back to Madison, for testing and clinical experiences during the school year in order to fulfill her requirements. “It was crazy for a few years,” Roxanne recalled. “I think every ounce of my free time was spent studying.”

Roxanne’s hard work and long hours studying paid off. She received her P.A. degree and was hired soon after as a physician assistant in New London/Spicer. She works in Family Medicine and sees patients in an urgent care style practice. “Every day is different in the clinic,” Roxanne said. “You see so many different things that you can’t specialize in one specific area. That’s the beauty of family medicine, you are always researching treatments to provide the best possible care for your patients.”

While working full-time at the clinic, Roxanne still remains actively involved in the New London-Spicer High School, teaching Advanced Placement Biology and advising the Letterwomen’s Club, National Honor Society, and the senior class. “It is fun to be connected with the community and I think that is important to do,” Roxanne said. “Caring for patients is much more than the 20 minutes you see them at a visit. I think it is important to show that you care about the whole person not just their cough or cold.”

Although vastly different, Roxanne says that she has elements she greatly enjoys in both of her careers. “I miss the excitement of students and the challenges that come with teaching teenagers,” Roxanne explained. “But I enjoy the one on one I get with patients and the diversity I see working in the clinic.”

She also believes that her dual career has strengthened her ability to provide quality care to the patients she sees in the clinic. “I think my teaching skills provide me with different ways to look at situations and has taught me how to communicate with people of different learning styles and diverse backgrounds,” Roxanne said.

As Roxanne embarks on her new path in medicine, she is already looking to the future and what’s the next step in building her career. “This is the first time since kindergarten that I haven’t been taking classes so I am already antsy thinking what I am going to do next,” Roxanne said. “If you aren’t learning new things than you are stagnant and although new experiences can be painful, there is something to learn every step of the way. Knowledge is a powerful tool!”