Former baseball player gears up for new career as HSC physician assistant graduate

By Diane Smith

Sean Jamieson 002

Sean Jamieson has long practiced a strategy that helped him during a critical time – keeping good grades.

Jamieson followed baseball aspirations from his native Canada to New York to Nevada. When he was steps away from the major leagues, a shoulder injury stole his dream. Balancing strong academics with sports helped him draft a new plan.

“I was dead set on making the big leagues,” Jamieson said. “That dream was gone, and I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life.”

Jamieson, a student at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, traded the baseball field for graduate school to study to become a physician assistant. Now, he is gearing up for commencement while looking for jobs.

“It’s a huge weight off of my shoulders,” said Jamieson, who after three years of intense studying is among graduates from the School of Health Professions with a Master of Physician Assistant Studies. “There is a knot in my chest that is slowly going away.”

HSC’s Class of 2020 includes 730 graduates for the 2019-2020 (fall, spring and summer) academic year. Graduates represent fields of study from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, School of Health Professions and UNT System College of Pharmacy.

Graduates are capping their education amid a global pandemic – a predicament experts say will shape their outlook on healthcare practices, research and delivery.

“Graduation in the COVID-19 era means significantly more social recognition for the role of healthcare providers,” said Dr. J. Glenn Forister, PhD, PA-C, DFAAPA, Dean of the School of Health Professions.

The public’s appreciation for frontline health workers may spark more interest in healthcare careers.

“It’s a hero’s journey, and that is captivating for many,” Dr. Forister said. “It’s also a time that will forever change the way services are delivered – more virtual care, more attention to wellbeing and more desire for human connection despite the many emerging technology tools.”

Nationwide, universities moved classes online as they implemented social distancing. Because of the pandemic, commencement ceremonies were moved to a virtual platform. HSC commencement ceremonies are planned for June 6 at 9 a.m.

“Our goal is to celebrate each of you with the pomp and circumstance you deserve regardless of the platform,” President Dr. Michael R. Williams told HSC graduates in an April 9 letter.

Career switch

Jamieson, who grew up in Canada, obtained a baseball scholarship to Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.

The scholarship provided a free college education while playing sports, he said. He majored in biology and made sure to keep good grades. After undergraduate school, Jamieson was drafted into minor league baseball, where he played for six years as a shortstop and a utility player.

In 2016, while playing for the Reno Aces, Jamieson suffered a labrum tear on his left shoulder during a collision at home plate.

“That’s a career ender,” Jamieson said, describing how the loss of a baseball career path seemed like going through a “mid-life crisis.”

After some reflection, Jamieson began applying to physician assistant programs in Texas.

“It never hurts to keep your grades up,” he said, explaining that his habit helped him in his search for the right graduate program.

Jamieson is among 73 graduates in the physician assistant program in the School of Health Professions. There are also 45 students graduating from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Dr. Forister said graduation reminds faculty why they are committed to students.

“The faculty take great pride in the part they play preparing graduates to treat patients,” he said. “It is an awesome responsibility to practice, and by extension, an awesome responsibility to teach. For students, it is a signal that they have completed a significant social rite of passage.”

A challenging semester

Jamieson’s graduation comes after COVID-19 impacted his everyday studies. He had to adjust while also helping his wife through chronic pain because of severe autoimmune issues.

Jamieson said he was able to finish his last rotation before the campus was closed and classes shifted online. He finished final requirements online.

Jamieson’s wife, Hilary, took his graduation photos in May as social distancing continued.

“I am so incredibly proud of Sean for becoming a PA,” Hilary Jamieson said. “He is the most driven and hardworking person I know. No one deserves this more than him.”

In June, Jamieson will take part in an online graduation banquet through Zoom. Because of the pandemic, Jamieson’s family and friends canceled plans to come to Dallas to celebrate.

Jamieson said he is disappointed he can’t celebrate graduation with friends and family.

“It would have been nice to have the family come into town and to celebrate all the hard work that I put into becoming a PA,” said Jamieson, who spent days leading up to the June event preparing for exams so he can be licensed by Texas as a PA.

As Jamieson reflects on graduation, he hopes to spend more time with friends and family. He is also grateful to his wife.

“I can’t thank my wife enough for working and supporting the family while I went through this,” he said.

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