• Elise Sinnwell, Physician Assistant

    "My coursework in biology at Luther helped prepare me and make me successful during graduate school...I learned how to think and work through complex problems, which is an invaluable skill in medicine."

Elise Sinnwell '11

Graduate Program and Experience Shape Career

After graduating from Luther, Elise began the physician assistant (PA) program at the University of Iowa and graduated in 2013. “After completing the program, I worked at an urgent care clinic for about two years,” she says, “In urgent care, every day was completely different. My patients might vary from a child with an ear infection to a man with a finger laceration needing repair to a college student with influenza.”

After her experience in urgent care, Elise moved to her current position at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Allergy/Immunology. “I see adult patients with a variety of allergic and immunologic diseases including allergic rhinitis, chronic hives, and immunodeficiency,” she says. “I’m fortunate to be a part of an excellent team of physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and a pharmacist.”

Well-Prepared for Her First Steps

Elise feels that Luther prepared her well for graduate school. “I found the PA program at University of Iowa to be an incredibly rigorous program,” she says. “My coursework in biology at Luther helped prepare me and make me successful during graduate school,” she says. “Luther provided me with a great level of knowledge in biology. I also learned how to think and work through complex problems, which is an invaluable skill in medicine.”

Elise recalls the human anatomy and dissection course she took at Luther. “The subject was particularly applicable to my coursework in PA school and career in medicine,” she says. “This experience allowed me to understand anatomy in a way that’s incomparable to studying a textbook. I’m extremely grateful to have had the experience as an undergraduate.”

Looking back, she knows that Luther’s Career Center was helpful in crafting her application and personal statement for PA programs. She also appreciates that Luther provided her with a broad range of experiences and exposure to different ideas and viewpoints. “It’s helped me in my career and as a member of my community.”

Spanish for Medical Professionals

Elise studied abroad in Ecuador during a January Term. “The focus of the class was Spanish for medical professionals,” she says. “We studied medical terminology in Spanish and shadowed Ecuadorian doctors in several medical settings.”

She found that staying with host families during the course was a great way to be immersed in the culture and language. “This class integrated my interest in medicine with my knowledge of Spanish,” she says. “It gave me the opportunity to apply what I had learned in the classroom in a practical way.”

Valuable Work-Study Experiences

While at Luther, Elise worked as a lab assistant in several biology courses, a tutor for General Biology, and a tour guide in the Admissions Office. “As a tour guide, I really enjoyed talking with prospective students and families about my experience at Luther,” she says. “I can also appreciate my experience as a tutor and lab assistant because it helped solidify my knowledge of biology as I was required to understand the material in depth so I could help other students.” She also worked at a nursing home in the community as a certified nursing assistant, which helped her gain direct patient care experience.

Why She Chose Luther

Luther offered everything I was looking for. I wanted to go to a school that had a distinguished biology program, opportunities to get involved in co-curriculars and athletics, and a place that felt like a community. I also loved the town of Decorah.”

—Elise Sinnwell