Alumni Q&A: Partner in Patient Care

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A physician assistant alumnus describes how Feinberg equipped him for a fulfilling career.

When the patient came to the clinic complaining of shoulder pain, Sincer Jacob, ’13 PA-C, ordered a routine shoulder X-ray to look for osteoarthritis or rotator cuff disease. Instead, Jacob found something far more sinister: a small lung nodule, peeking through the patient’s right lung. When Jacob brought the X-ray to his attending physician, the doctor was surprised — but gave Jacob free rein to order the appropriate tests.

Scrutinizing the patient’s chart revealed she was a former smoker, and a CT scan confirmed the presence of the lung nodule. Within two weeks she was wheeled into an operating room for a lung resection; she’s since made a full recovery. In fact, Jacob still sees her as a patient.

Experiences like this are why Jacob attended Feinberg’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program. Here, he tells Northwestern Medicine magazine about how his Feinberg education shaped his professional life.

What attracted you to the role of PA?

I always knew I wanted to get into healthcare. I wanted to care for patients from initial diagnosis to treatment, but I didn’t want to spend the next 13 years of my life studying. I love medicine but my faith and family come first. I wanted to find a healthy medium.

Has being a PA lived up to your expectations?

I’ve been really satisfied with the career choice. At my job, I perform a lot of the care a patient receives — the involvement I have with patients is incredible.

“PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING really helps you think independently: You spend less time in lecture-style format and more time conducting research and being an independent thinker. It helps you form the clinical mindset you’ll need when working with a patient to solve a specific problem. It’s much more realistic — I felt like my transition to the workplace was seamless.”

For example, a woman could come in and say, “I can’t move my shoulder past my head. I can’t reach for anything overhead.” I can work through the diagnostic process, find she has severe osteoarthritis, determine she needs a shoulder replaced, be with her during the surgery, be the first person she wakes up to in the recovery room, start her in physical therapy, see her at follow-up appointments, and finally see her off when she’s done with therapy and can actually give her grandchildren a hug again.

How has Feinberg prepared you for your career?

I owe everything to God and the Northwestern program. The problem-based learning format is different than any other school — I had offers to interview at other prestigious universities, but I committed to Northwestern because of the style of the program. Problem-based learning really helps you think independently: You spend less time in lecture-style format and more time conducting research and being an independent thinker. It helps you form the clinical mindset you’ll need when working with a patient to solve a specific problem. It’s much more realistic — I felt like my transition to the workplace was seamless.

The dedication of the faculty was another reason I chose Northwestern. It didn’t feel like the faculty were just lecturers; they were people who were interested in having a relationship with me. I always had anxiety about taking the boards, but the reassurance I received from faculty was tremendous: They prepared me for the test, reminded me to not over-think it, and I was able to become a better test-taker.

They also were always encouraging the PA students to get involved in the City of Chicago. When I was a student, we networked with a variety of organizations, and it’s been tremendous to see the program grow and get more involved.

Sincer Jacob, ’13 PA-C, works as a PA for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago.