Shana Hayes has made a few sacrifices to stay on her chosen career path. She ditched ballet and traditional high school in order to go to early college, and it's about to pay off as she closes in on a master's degree from Wingate's Physician Assistant Studies program.
Shana Hayes ’18 has always been something of a perfectionist. As a high-schooler attending Wake Early College of Health and Sciences in Raleigh, she would often pull multiple all-nighters in a week. “I could shut myself in my room and work on math problems for six hours,” she says. “I wanted perfect grades all the time, on every assignment.”
Hayes has mellowed somewhat over the years, but the study habits she’s employed since her grade-school days are serving her well as she navigates Wingate’s Physician Assistant Studies program.
Hayes was more focused, driven and mature than your average young teen. Her grandmother, from whom she says she inherited her give-it-your-all attitude, first told Hayes about the early college, after hearing an ad for it on the radio. It seemed like a good fit but would require some sacrifices – Hayes would have to give up ballet, not to mention the stereotypical high-school experience most kids crave.
“No homecoming,” Hayes says. “We don’t have our own sports teams. There’s no art or drama. It’s all business. It’s super-hard.”
She was on a college campus every day at 14, taking a murderer’s row of courses: physics, economics, anatomy and physiology, Spanish, earth science, English. The lineup nearly did her in. Hayes says she considered dropping out to go to her assigned public high school after one semester, but her mother persuaded her to stick it out.
Now she’s glad she did. The rigor of the coursework prepared her to jump right into difficult science courses at Wingate – the beauty of an early college is that you get all your prerequisites out of the way in high school – while maintaining at least a 3.5 GPA so she could stay in the PA Advantage program, which guarantees that qualified participants are granted an interview to get into the University’s PA program.
Hayes’s determination has also served her well in her graduate studies. Now halfway through the 27-month program, Hayes says she chose to become a physician assistant rather than a doctor primarily because it would provide her with an optimum work/life balance without sacrificing much in the way of knowledge and training.
“A PA essentially does what a doctor does,” she says. “We just kind of have a condensed medical-school experience.”
Ten years ago, all she knew was that she wanted to help people. Hayes loved math and liked science OK, but what she really enjoyed was working with others, especially children. “Honestly, before I knew I had a love for science, I knew I had a love for people first,” she says. Hayes babysat a lot and worked as a camp counselor for four years.
In 2013 she went on a week-long mission trip to Nicaragua with her church. While going door-to-door handing out medical supplies, she came to a realization: “I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go into medicine,” she says, “but after that trip I realized that I am at my peak level of happiness or contentment when I am meeting other people’s needs directly.”
She initially was interested in chemistry, she says, and was impressed that, during her Wingate tour back in 2015, she was introduced to Dr. Chris Dahm, chair of the chemistry department.
But although she says she’s naturally better at chemistry, human biology fascinated her more, so she decided to take the PA route, which would give her the human interaction she craved. “I took Dr. (Melissa) Fox’s immunology class and Dr. (Alison) Brown’s reproductive-physiology class,” Hayes says. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I actually really love this.’”
Before that, though, the trip to Nicaragua kept drifting through her mind. “I knew what I wanted to minor in before I knew what I wanted to major in,” says Hayes, who majored in biology and minored in Spanish at Wingate. “I feel like Wingate is the reason why I went from advanced proficiency to fluency in Spanish. I started here in Spanish 3 with Dr. (Mark) Schuhl. He’s fantastic. I took his phonetics and phonology class, which was awesome. And then I took a year-long medical interpreting course.”
That’s where her major and minor begin to intersect. The year-long interpreting course required 20 hours of service work each semester. Hayes would get her service hours in at Community Health Services of Union County, a free clinic with a Wingate University affiliation. There she worked primarily with Spanish-speaking patients. The University now staffs a full-time PA at the clinic.
Once she’s finished with PA school, Hayes knows she wants to continue doing volunteer work. With her Spanish-language background, Central America is “a given,” she says. But she hopes to one day work at a clinic in Kenya and would like to do medical volunteering in Syria, which she describes as “the forgotten nation.”
Don’t bet against her fitting it all in. Hayes tends to figure out a way to make it all work, even if her path is less than conventional. As a junior in high school, determined to have as normal a high-school experience as possible, she organized a prom committee. She replaced her demanding ballet schedule with recreational soccer.
As for the perfectionism part, Hayes says she’s refined what she describes as a “character flaw” over the years. “I worked hard and not smart when I was in high school,” she says. “I took ballet forever. It’s a very perfectionist-type activity. You're constantly looking at yourself in a mirror, and the teacher’s coming around and physically correcting you. I just kind of got used to that mentality. And you perform too. I think all that came together and made this perfectionist, workaholic person.
“Someone told me recently, ‘You’ve been sacrificing since you were 13,’” she says. ‘I have made a lot of sacrifices over the years. I’m finally at a point where I’m starting not to have to sacrifice as much. I go out more now. I’ve gotten so much better at time management over the years, and because now I’m in the destination, to an extent, I’m not as stressed out about, ‘I have to make perfect grades all the time.’ I go out more with my friends. I go home to Raleigh more now to hang out with my family.”
Now she’s less concerned with making a 4.0 and more concerned with how she can best serve her future patients. She keeps an ongoing list of items she knows she needs to revisit before she takes the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam) next year.
“Sometimes when I’m studying, in my brain I’m like, ‘You can never forget that,’” she says. “If I don’t know this, I could kill someone. So the stakes are a little higher.”
So, rest easy. There’s still plenty of the old perfectionist Shana Hayes hanging around, ready to treat you.