After facing many health challenges in his own family and watching his relatives care for other patients, Christopher Nava (B.I.S. ’23) dreams of becoming a physician assistant.
“My mother and aunts all work in the health care industry, and that is what sparked my curiosity for medicine,” Nava said. “As I grew up, I began researching careers in the health care industry, which eventually led me to choose physician assistant.”
As he graduates from the Biomedical Science and Enterprise bachelor’s program in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences this spring, Nava is applying to physician assistant programs and will continue working as a medical assistant at D2Kare Prenatal & Urgent Care, an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Norcross, Ga.
He’s also seeking opportunities to shadow physician assistants at medical offices that specialize in internal medicine so he can better understand their scope of practice, while pursuing volunteer hours at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Habitat for Humanity.
Born and raised in Georgia, Nava spent a few years in Miami and eventually graduated from high school in Roswell, Ga. Fluent in Spanish and English and with Venezuelan, Colombian and Syrian roots, Nava’s own interactions with medical professionals have also influenced his career choice.
“Through these experiences, I learned I wanted to become a physician assistant because of my ability to understand minority populations, particularly the Latin community, and my love for clinical medicine,” Nava said. “Additionally, I knew that I wanted a career as a physician assistant because of the diagnostic and investigative aspects of medicine, while being able to work as a team with other providers to help underserved minority populations.
“A physician assistant can work in a wide variety of medical areas. They can practice without requiring specialization, providing an unparalleled level of flexibility and lateral mobility,” Nava added.
During the pandemic, Nava’s family experienced a number of serious health issues. His brother, then 3 years old, was diagnosed with leukemia, and his grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Because his mother needed to focus on his immunocompromised brother at the hospital, Nava became a caregiver for his two younger siblings and had to help them adapt to their middle school’s virtual classroom system, while juggling his own virtual classes and working as a medical assistant at D2Kare Prenatal & Urgent Care.
“Despite the obstacles and emotional hardship, this wouldn't stop me from reaching my dreams,” Nava said.
At D2Kare Prenatal & Urgent Care, Nava also worked on research focused on the prevalence of preeclampsia in Latino patients. He evaluated patients’ charts, developed questions for the medical director regarding patient care, and collected data on treatment outcomes and patient history, diet and lifestyle. In addition, he researched current treatments, obtained a larger data pool for study comparison, and was present in the exam room to observe the overall health of pregnant patients.
“I gained insight into preeclampsia and its risk factors to see if there can be additional treatment or management options that patients can follow to increase the likelihood of a safe pregnancy, not only for the mom but also for the child,” Nava said. “The reason I picked hypertension is because of its reputation for being a silent killer. This emphasized the importance of care, especially surrounding pregnant people. Also, by getting to work more hands-on with a provider, I was part of a team that worked with patients and got to understand patients’ needs and build a good foundation in obstetrics medicine.”
Nava chose Georgia State University because he wanted to stay close to his support network, study at one of the state’s leading public research universities and experience campus life in the heart of Atlanta. During a conversation with the medical director of D2Kare Prenatal & Urgent Care about potential majors, he was introduced to the Biomedical Science and Enterprise major.
“I was amazed to see that GSU had this type of program,” Nava said. “The first step to becoming a physician assistant is to obtain a bachelor's degree in a major of your choosing while fulfilling prerequisites. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to expand my knowledge and study something different than other traditional students following the same path.
“I opted to major in Biomedical Science and Enterprise. The advantage of this major is it allows me to explore the intersection between science, business strategies and patient care by combining life sciences, pre-law, entrepreneurship, communication and ethics into a single program. This combination would prepare me to be a well-rounded PA student while obtaining the soft skills necessary for direct patient care as a provider. I quickly saw the benefits when implementing these skills into my direct patient care hours.”
Story by LaTina Emerson
Photo by Meg Buscema