Building a Successful PA Career

Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program graduate Meagan Barry finds joy, satisfaction in orthopedics

From a young age, Meagan Barry was drawn to medicine. Her father was an orthopedic surgeon and that type of care resonated with her. But it was during her undergraduate studies at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) when Meagan found a slight twist in her medical aspirations.

“I realized that becoming a physician assistant matched my goals for professional practice, as well as my desires for overall lifestyle,” Meagan recalls. “I shadowed PAs and was attracted to their intelligence, professional practice and relationships with their patients. Now as an orthopedic PA, I am profoundly happy with my career selection and satisfied with my professional practice each day.”

Today, you’ll find Meagan practicing both in a clinical setting and in the operating room at Texas Bone and Joint at Medical City Arlington (just outside of Dallas). While working in the outpatient clinic, she is the solo provider, assessing new patients and post-op clients. On the daily, Meagan performs physical exams and interprets objective data—such as results from labs and imaging—that form the basis of next steps, which would be surgical intervention or other treatment options.

“I also prescribe medications and therapies, as well as complete all joint injections, joint aspirations and casting/splinting,” Meagan adds of her work. “I highly enjoy talking to patients and coming to a shared decision-making on their treatment course.

“In the operating room, I am the first-assist for all orthopedic procedures with my physician,” she continues. “I assist him in performing total joint arthroplasty, fracture reduction/fixation and sports-medicine procedures such as arthroscopy. I also perform all surgical wound closure on our patients. We function as a well-oiled machine to carry out complex surgeries. I value having this hands-on aspect of my job and the responsibility of being looked to for decision-making in the OR.

“My job is incredibly fulfilling and I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of the medical field each day.”

But the road to this professional satisfaction took a lot of hard work and an investment in her education. To become a successful PA meant that Meagan needed to be a competitive applicant to a prestigious physician assistant program. To get her there, Meagan sought out a world-class post-baccalaureate program that would make her stand out.

Why did you choose the Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program as opposed to enrolling in upper-division science courses that you needed?

Coming out of college, I had a few classes in which I needed to improve my grade, as well as complete classes that I had not taken at UCSB that would make me a more competitive PA program candidate. I wanted high-quality instruction that worked with my busy schedule.

The UC Berkeley Extension program allowed me to accomplish both with the added benefit of academic counseling, application preparation and interview coaching. The support that the program offered was so much more than what could be achieved by simply completing classes and preparing to apply on my own.

It also prepared me to be academically competitive and groomed to be selected for interviews, communicate with PA school faculty and gain admission to a high-level program on my first application cycle.



Headshot of Meagan Barry

Meagan's Course Roster

Spanish for Medical Professionals


General Chemistry I

General Chemistry II

Health Careers Seminar I

Health Careers Seminar II: The Application Process


You also needed to gain clinical experience before applying, correct?

Yes, a competitive physician assistant applicant needs more than 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical experience. I accrued these hours by working as an emergency department scribe at a level-one trauma center, a scribe at a child-development and behavioral medicine center, and a medical assistant at a private orthopedic surgery practice. I managed to accomplish the bulk of this experience while participating in the post-bacc program.

Beyond the academics, what was your experience like going through the program?

I interacted with motivated and like-minded students, intelligent instructors and inspiring academic counselors. The most beneficial experience for me was the counseling provided by the program director who helped me curtail my application list and sat with me through a mock interview before my first PA school interview.

This helped me immensely and resulted in my offer to my chosen graduate school at the University of Tennessee.

That’s wonderful! How did the post-bacc prepare you for this next step?

My physician assistant program was especially arduous and presented an incredibly hectic schedule of challenging classes. Other than the pure academic prowess I gained in the UC Berkeley Extension program, the focus and commitment that the program demanded—while working two jobs and applying for PA school—conferred a direction and responsibility to achieve that made me successful throughout physician assistant school.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking about our post-bacc program?

Entering the exceedingly competitive medical field requires a compelling academic record and a well-conditioned applicant. The post-bacc program prepared me to succeed as an applicant, a student and a credentialed physician assistant.

The support I received was more than anything I could have encountered taking independent classes and going it alone. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is committed to achieving success in post-graduate life!