Jennifer: from the Falcons’ football field to the medical field.

Jennifer NFL Atlanta Falcons Science CheerleaderJennifer, you cheered for the Atlanta Falcons. Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I cheered for the Falcons in 2009. I had danced since the age of 3, so my love for performing combined with my passion for community outreach is what led me to audition.

What got you into science?
I believe my love for science as well as health care really began in high school. I enrolled in a health occupations class not really knowing what to expect…the course mission was to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and to enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people. Each class was something new; autoclaving, CPR, wrapping splints, working health fairs, you name it. I was hooked! Throughout my college years I volunteered at multiple inpatient and outpatient health care facilities as well as shadowed various health care providers which solidified my decision to becoming a physician assistant (PA). I appreciated their autonomy, flexibility, and passion for what they do.

Jennifer NFL Atlanta Falcons Science Cheerleader at Work What is Physician Assistant?
We are educated in a broad-based medical curriculum, allowing our role to be adaptable. This gives us the opportunity to practice in any specialty while working under the supervision of a physician. PAs perform physical examinations, develop diagnoses and treatment regimens, order and interpret laboratory findings, perform procedures, assist in surgeries, counsel and educate patients, as well as round in hospitals.

Best part of your studies?
I just began my clinical clerkships and love it! Every 5 weeks I rotate sites in different areas of medicine. Each rotation is an intense, supervised, hands-on learning experience. Classroom knowledge is now used to make clinical decisions based on real patient presentations. It is incredible! 

Do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in science?
Absolutely! Sometimes I would get to practice early to study and certain girls would offer to quiz me on the material! 🙂

Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies?
Stereotypes unfortunately exist, however pushing those aside, not letting them affect you is key. I have found many people are unaware that an interview counts for 50% of your total score when auditioning, in part because we are ambassadors to the Falcons organization through our community involvement. We were required to have a full-time job or be in school. Amongst my fellow cheerleaders were chemists, school counselors, registered nurses, an attorney, teachers, financial analysts, mothers, dance studio owners, the list goes on! My friends, classmates and colleagues were always supportive with cheerleading.

Best cheerleading experience?
My most memorable experience was at my first game cheering for the Atlanta Falcons. It was getting to run through what we call “Player Tunnel.” The music is extremely loud, fans screaming, the energy was just so amazing! 

Best science-related experience?
Best experience was probably completing my first FULL history and physical examination on a REAL patient (not my fellow classmates) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
DO BOTH! With hard work comes success, so follow your heart and stay true to yourself.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I was on America’s Got Talent!

What are your plans for the future?
Currently to continue community outreach in addition to growing as a health care provider.  Eventually I would like to practice medicine abroad.

Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Because medicine is such an important part of my life, I want to encourage youth to consider careers in science! It is challenging yet rewarding and anyone can do it!