Kara Bowman: inspired to care for others

Kara Bowman, a senior in the biomedical science program at Radford University Carilion (RUC), has aspired to be a physician assistant (PA) since she was in seventh grade. It all started during a conversation with her mother.

“I was talking to my mom one day about my future,” Bowman recalled, “and she said if she could go back and do her schooling all over, she would be a PA. From then on, that's all that I've wanted to be.”

Bowman isn’t sure why her mother chose PA as the profession she would have pursued if she had a do-over, but she suspects that it was mostly based on solid career opportunities, job security and excellent salaries. Bowman made her choice based on one very obvious factor.

“After talking to my mom, my decision was mostly made because I look up to her so much,” she said.


Kara Bowman


Over the next several years, Bowman explored the profession and what it takes to become a PA. This included shadowing a PA in the emergency department a handful of times in high school. She says after that experience, she “knew that I didn't want to do anything else.”

The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) describes PAs as “medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.”

Most PA programs at colleges and universities across the nation are now offered on the graduate level, with students entering the program after earning a four-year bachelor’s degree. This is due to the requisite knowledge and experience necessary to be a physician assistant. Many students also enter programs with significant amounts research participation and practical healthcare experience.

Bowman knew she needed to choose an undergraduate program that would provide her with a solid foundation for what would be a rigorous post-graduate experience. She explored several in the Commonwealth but found her perfect fit with biomedical science at RUC.

RUC is just such a special place. I’ll miss it when I leave, but I have enjoyed every second of my time in Roanoke.”

Kara Bowman

“When I first read about the biomedical science program at RUC,” Bowman said, “I knew that it would be the perfect stepping stone to get me to my future career as a PA. I really liked that there were smaller class sizes, and I also thought the research opportunities offered through the program were amazing. I couldn’t wait to get started.”

Bowman was already familiar with Roanoke, where RUC is located, and that helped seal the deal for her.

“I am from a small town called Maurertown, Virginia, which is about two and a half hours north of Roanoke,” she said. “I originally fell in love with the area when I came down one weekend in high school, and I knew that I would love to get to explore it more. It is so beautiful here, and I'm so glad to call Roanoke my second home.”

Bowman said she loves the downtown area in Roanoke, where she and her roommates often walk to explore all there is to offer. They also often visit the Roanoke Star, grabbing some ice cream at the Blue Cow Ice Cream Shop on the way there. Bowman is also an avid hiker and finds Roanoke to be an ideal location for that hobby.

“I've hiked McAfee’s Knob twice while I've been here,” Bowman said. “It is a long hike, but so worth it once you get to the top and see the view.”


A little over three years into her education at RUC, Bowman says that her time at the school has been exactly what she wanted and needed it to be.

“The small class sizes have allowed me to form relationships with my professors,” Bowman said. “I'm always able to get help when I need it and know that I can ask questions without being overwhelmed or lost in a large class of students. RUC is the perfect size for me.”

Bowman says that everyone at RUC has helped her shine and accomplish her goals in one way or another. She specifically notes that her professors have been key to her success, always willing to work with her and help her scale new heights in learning.

“The faculty in the biomedical science program have been so influential, helpful and supportive for me,” Bowman said. She noted that faculty have provided her with countless opportunities to explore areas of interesting research that will help her prepare for the intense research she will have to do as a PA student.

“I have worked with Dr. Hanson on his research for the past two, going on three, years,” Bowman said. “It focuses on finding a role for the CLPTM1 protein. I've gotten to work with cell culture, perform different tests, such as a pulse chase test, and then present my findings or give progress reports to the other students and faculty involved in research and in our program.”


Bowman says that her professors have also been a huge help in preparing for PA school, encouraging her to apply to certain schools and making sure she has everything lined up for applications and interviews.

“I'm not sure where I will go to PA school yet, although I have a few favorites picked out,” Bowman said. “It all depends on where I get an interview and offered a spot.”

Bowman completed sending out applications to PA schools in mid-June and is now waiting to hear back. She has had two interviews so far, though she is keeping the schools where those interviews took place close to the vest for now.

“Usually, once you have an interview, they will contact you within a short period of time to either offer you a spot, put you on a waiting list or decline your application,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, I will have everything set as to where I am going by the end of the year.”

Bowman beams when she talks about her future, noting that after earning her PA degree, she plans to work in either pediatrics or emergency care, specifically in medically underserved rural areas.

“The PA profession is so exciting because you get to work so closely with other healthcare professionals while being able to build relationships with your patients,” Bowman said, “and you have the ability to change specialties if you want.”

Until she has her plans for the next steps set in stone, Bowman plans to continue enjoying her final year at RUC.

“It’s just such a special place,” Bowman said. “I’ll miss it when I leave, but I have enjoyed every second of my time in Roanoke.”

Sep 10, 2020
Mark Lambert