Throughout middle and high school, Amber Beserra struggled with a prolonged illness that, with fewer than 200 documented cases at the time, could not be explained. Her symptoms eventually subsided, but the experience stuck with her—and ultimately inspired her to pursue a career as an advanced practice provider.
Beserra’s physician was David Kaplan, MD (MED ‘70), head of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colorado. In treating her over the years, he became Beserra’s mentor and encouraged her to consider his alma mater, Case Western Reserve University, for her undergraduate studies.
Here, she found an approach to education that she says still influences her work today.
“Case Western Reserve looks at students holistically,” said Beserra (CWR ‘15, MED ‘18). “You see that reflected in a curriculum that pushes you to explore other disciplines.”
While she majored in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism, some of the courses that left the biggest impression on Beserra integrated art and culture with medicine and healthcare. She studied abroad in India to examine public health and Ayurveda—an ancient Indian medical system that emphasizes the interconnectedness of the mind, body and soul.
She carried that experience with her as an inaugural member of CWRU School of Medicine’s physician assistant (PA) program.
“The PA program exposed us to providers from many different specialties,” she said, “but it also allowed us to work with a wide variety of patients.”
Beserra recalls one rotation in particular that had her doing wound care for elderly patients. In visiting long-term living facilities and making house calls, she saw the importance of environment and resources in a person’s recovery.
“I would wonder why someone had missed their follow-up appointments,” she recalled, “then I would find out they use a wheelchair but live in a home with stairs and can’t afford to move. Being out in the community helped me to see the whole picture, and it really changed how I approach patient care.”
Beserra is now a certified physician assistant at Stanford Medicine, where she oversees a team of 15 advanced practice providers in the Medical Intensive Care Unit.
“In the same way I was trained to look holistically at my patients,” she said, “I am able to look holistically at management, and how I can best support my team. It’s a foundation and approach that can be applied in many different ways.”