Growing Up Baylor: Alexandria Sarenski
Imagine studying, training and eventually working at the same institution during the span of your career. A special group of physicians, faculty members, researchers and staff at Baylor College of Medicine have had this unique experience.
Alexandria Sarenski, physician assistant and instructor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, tells us how training and working at Baylor has impacted her life and career.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to study medicine/science?
A; I did not always know I wanted to go into medicine. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian; I loved animals. As I got into middle school, I became passionate about art and writing. In high school, I fell in love with broadcast journalism. Even going into my first year of college, I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I started as a communications major but later switched to a human biology major, found the classes interesting and kept moving forward.
Q: Where and when did your journey with Baylor College of Medicine start?
A: My journey with Baylor College of Medicine started with the U.S. News and World Report “Best Physician Assistant Programs” list. I was tough on myself when applying to PA schools and only applied to the top 20 programs. At the time, Baylor College of Medicine was ranked 12th in the nation. I also had a friend from high school who went to the BCM PA program. She raved about it, and due to its prestige, I applied.
Q: What inspired you to continue working at Baylor after graduation?
A: I never thought I’d have the opportunity to rejoin Baylor College of Medicine. I graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic so the job market was scarce. To make money in between waiting for my PA license to process and my first job, I applied to be a temporary medical assistant at Baylor Clinic administering COVID vaccinations. I got close with the team I worked with and one of the nurse managers at the clinic was kind enough to think I’d make a good addition to Baylor Medicine as a PA. I was again inspired by Baylor’s reputation. All of the program’s faculty are extremely well-versed, incredible physician assistants. I consider myself lucky to be working for the same institution as them.
Q: Professionally, what are you doing now?
A: I work three days a week in the plastic surgery clinic at the outpatient Jamail Specialty Care Center and I work two days a week in the operating room at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. While working in the clinic, I help manage patients’ post-operative care, new patient consults and established care visits. I assist in minor procedures such as lipoma removals or Moh’s surgery repairs. I am certified to give Botox and filler injectables as well as nipple areola complex (NAC) tattoos after skin-sparing mastectomies. Finally, I help manage the medical assistants in the clinic. While in the OR, I assist the surgeon alongside the residents.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what you would you tell your younger self?
A: I would tell myself to not work so hard. This sounds counter-intuitive because I got to where I am now by working hard. I would encourage my younger self to only do what I truly enjoyed, and know that it was ok to take the regular course in something as opposed to honors, AP or college-level credit. I can say now that I’m older that I definitely appreciate more things out of my day-to-day life. I’ve learned to let more things go and do only things that I enjoy. I wish my younger self would have taken more time to do things like that
Q: What do you think makes the PA program at Baylor unique?
A: The small class size. Each class size is 40 students, which is small compared to many PA schools around the country. For over 40 hours a week, you are in the same small room with these 40 individuals. You do everything together and become a tight-knit family. Our program was so rigorous that I truly believe every one of my classmates will do amazing things in the field of medicine. I could not have asked for a better class. Plus, you know, being part of the No. 1 medical center in the world is pretty amazing.
Q: Do you have advice for current trainees?
A: – If you do well in a rotation, ask the provider for a future reference or letter of recommendation before the rotation is over. If they agree, send them an e-mail summarizing your conversation. When it comes time that you need those references, reply to the original e-mail so they remember you.
Be confident in your knowledge. Coming out of school, you know more book knowledge than you probably will for the rest of your career. Trust in your knowledge base, and learn from experience.
Don’t settle for your first job offer. Find a job you truly do enjoy. I turned down two positions before obtaining this one. There are always situations that can happen, but turning down those first two jobs was the best decision for me. I ended up in a specialty I love that fits my personality, artistic endeavors and love for medicine.
Q: How has sticking with Baylor programs and ultimately becoming a faculty member impacted your life/career?
A: Landing a solid job as a physician assistant with Baylor Medicine has definitely impacted my future. It has given me a strong career base that makes it worth staying in Houston. If it weren’t for this job opportunity, I might have returned closer to family or the Northeast. It has also influenced my desire to teach. The classic Baylor mantra of “see one, do one, teach one” sticks with you even past your academic years. I enjoy helping medical students or new onboarding residents. I think this altruistic nature comes from having a base education at Baylor College of Medicine.
Q: Do you have a mantra? If so, what is it?
A: “Nana korobi ya oki” is a Japanese proverb that means fall seven times, stand up eight. There have been many instances in my personal life where the odds were against me. Had it not been for my resilience and dedication, I would have never made it to where I am today.