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ATSU-CHC student’s personal experience in underserved community sparks desire for change

ATSU-CHC student Jaquinta Graves

A.T. Still University-College for Healthy Communities (ATSU-CHC) Central Coast Physician Assistant (CCPA) program student Jaquinta Graves, PA, ’24, experienced what it was like to live in an underserved community before she could possibly have understood what that meant. 

Graves was 6 years old when her mother went into labor with her sister. Still 25 minutes away from the hospital, her sister was finished waiting, and from the passenger seat of a parked car, Graves witnessed her birth. 

It was a moment that stuck with Graves all her life, and as she got older she began to understand why things happened the way they did that day. Her hometown in rural Louisiana did not have a bevy of healthcare providers or options, and when someone needed emergency care the options involved travel to a larger community. 

In ATSU, Graves found a University seeking to change that.

“Once I solidified my desired profession in undergrad, I had the privilege of shadowing at an ATSU-affiliated community health center in Louisiana,” Graves said. “From there, I experienced the purpose of ATSU’s mission, values, and goals. 

“I chose ATSU because of its emphasis on recognizing the impact of social determinants of health, the mission to develop culturally humble providers, and the value of diversity and inclusion. It was inspiring to see a program mature their students into providers who bring a great amount of value to their patients.” 

Graves is quickly approaching her second year at ATSU-CHC, and has found a family on the University’s California campus.

“As a student, I appreciate that my views and opinions are widely heard and accepted. Faculty is very supportive and engaged to ensure student success. As a CCPA student, you can know for certain when you walk into student affairs you will leave feeling encouraged and uplifted,” Graves said. “Once I graduate, I hope to take what I’ve learned from ATSU and apply it in the way I practice. I really hope to increase the awareness of health prevention and education in minority and underserved communities.”

Graves did not find much diversity in her healthcare providers as she grew up, and that inspired her to run for chair of ATSU-CHC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion organization, to celebrate the cultural diversity of her cohort and emphasize that diversity is more than just hue at ATSU. The DEI committee coordinates monthly events to encourage open discussions and prepare students for future patient interactions within the communities during clinical rotations.

Graves is also a Hometown Scholar and recipient of the University’s Graduate Health Professions Scholarship (GPS).

“I truly enjoy the privilege of being a GPS scholar and learning the importance of social determinants of health. GPS scholars are given the opportunity to attend a pre-matriculation leadership course, collaborate with fellow GPS scholars on case studies, and attend ATSU events and conferences. Being a GPS scholar challenges me to learn more about the various dimensions of diversity and how to better serve my patients,” Graves said.

Graves also serves as a student ambassador, a resource to pre-PAs and accepted incoming students. 

“It was just last year that I was a pre-PA trying to solidify my decision in choosing the right program, so it’s nice to help guide students in making their decision,” Graves said. “But additionally, as a female minority it’s important that I share my experience to increase representation in healthcare.”

In her free time, Graves enjoys podcasts, trivia, and cooking TV shows. Since being on the California Central Coast, she enjoys scenic drives, hiking, and taking walks on the beach. 

“After graduation I look forward to continuing traveling internationally with my significant other,” she said.

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