Q & A with Penn State University PA Student Kaylan Mayo

Kaylan Mayo is graduating in 2024 from Pennsylvania State University’s Physician Assistant Program, and was awarded the National Health Service Corps Scholarship. She earned her B.S. in Public Health Science from UMD in May of 2020. 

Why PA?

Kaylan Mayo
Kaylan Mayo

I was always interested in medicine and healthcare. During every clinical volunteer opportunity, I would ask nurses and other team members how to prepare for a career in medicine. The more I learned, the more I became captivated by the potential to switch fields. I love an adventure, and liked the idea of not being confined to one specific specialty for the duration of my career. I was drawn to the flexibility and work-life balance of being a PA. The shorter educational commitment was also better for me and my family. 


What activities do you think best prepared you for PA school? 

Being a ULA for BSCI170 helped me build my confidence in science knowledge and in teaching others. I was a peer educator at the University Health Center, where I hosted small events about alcohol safety and safe sexual practices. This has helped me better interact with and counsel my patients today. Being a campus tour guide also built confidence for things like talking to attending physicians and welcoming incoming students.


What are the challenges you face in PA school?

My biggest challenge at first was becoming adaptable. Some of my study habits from UMD didn’t transfer well to graduate school, and it took me a while to figure out which techniques would work for each subject. I realized that I had to be adaptable to figure out what would help me learn best. I also had to learn to give myself grace during the process. 


What hobbies do you have outside of PA school and how do you maintain balance?

I used to live in the library. Over time I developed new habits, like working out and meal prepping so that I don’t end up eating ramen every day. I also do weekly trivia with friends, and frequently go to Hershey Park. Sometimes I also just take a Saturday to rest, watch a good movie, and decompress. 


What advice would you give your younger self?

Stay true to your goals, but give yourself grace to enjoy life. Thinking back to my time at UMD, there were many instances where I didn’t go to a game or spend time with people because I was studying so much. Friends have helped me understand that I need to leave my bubble in the library and go out, take a walk, etc. A good support system is so important.


What drew you to your particular PA program? 

One of the biggest draws for me was the faculty. PSU is a large system, but during the application process they really treated me as a unique human being and as though they really wanted me. They made it clear that they thought I would be an asset to their program. They knew my application and I felt seen and heard by them during the interview process. The faculty have been very helpful and supportive during the entire time I have been here. The quality of the program and the affiliated medical facilities are wonderful and have truly prepared me to be a PA. 


Can you talk about your decision to apply for the National Health Service Corps Scholarship? How does the scholarship impact your next steps?

I always knew I wanted to give back to my community. The scholarship pays for my tuition and provides both a monthly stipend and extra money for additional costs in a lump sum once a year. In exchange, I have to dedicate two years post-graduation to an underserved community as a family practice PA. This lines up with my motivation and goals as a practitioner. I can go anywhere in the states, as long as it has been dedicated as underserved. I will probably stay on the East Coast, but I feel like the world is my oyster!


Is there anything else you would like to share with us? 

Sometimes things felt very cut-throat at UMD. But one day we will all be colleagues–it’s better to help one another, to share opportunities and resources with one another. I had a wonderful friend who was one year older than I was who went out of her way to help me find opportunities instead of gate-keeping and being competitive.