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Shippensburg Schools

Teen of Week: Byers wants work-life balance in a medical career

From the Sentinel Teens of the Week 2019-20 series
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Benjamin Byers is clearly a people person, and he intends to be for his entire career.

The Shippensburg Area Senior High School senior does a little bit of everything, not because he’s particularly tied to any one interest, but because he loves interacting with people and helping them.

“I try to have an eclectic approach,” Byers said. “I want to do them all because I want to interact with the most people.”

But don’t let this fool you into thinking Byers is aimless. In fact, his career goals are very clear cut. He’ll be attending Slippery Rock University in the fall for the school’s physician assistant program, a field he chose after job shadowing a local PA.

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“I fell in love with it,” Byers said. “I try to take care of myself and I always love to see it when people who perhaps aren’t taking care of themselves set a goal, work toward it, and achieve it.”

While a physician assistant may actually assist a physician in some settings, the job also entails acting as a practitioner in one’s own right. Physician assistants are allowed to dispense some medications, order tests, conduct exams and other functions that full medical doctors also do.

Byers’ job shadowing was in a family practice; helping a wide variety of patients immediately appealed to him.

“With a family practice, there’s a lot of variety,” Byers said. “For a lot of people, it’s about guidance. They don’t know what to do because there’s something preventing them from doing what they need to.”

Many patients battle with depression, others with nagging injuries from long work hours and heavy lifting on the job.

“It can get really emotional,” Byers said. “A lot of people are really struggling with something.”

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Empathy is something Byers has honed through his high school career in theater, band, choir, sports, Boy Scouts and a myriad of church organizations.

He’s been a co-captain of the school’s cross-country team the past two years, and has seen it improve to be one of the best in Shippensburg’s recent memory.

“I love getting a group of people to come together and achieve something,” Byers said. “Working with the coach and the team, we all worked together to train and we achieved a lot.”

Unlike many other students he knows, however, Byers said he doesn’t view his career choice as some momentous decision that will define the rest of his life. He made his choice early and out of practicality, something he credits to his mother; he’s her fourth son.

“I was so thankful that my mother said ‘look early, and make sure you do this,’” Byers said. “You establish the plan knowing that odds are it’s going to go horribly wrong. But establish the plan anyway.”

“I don’t want my career to become my life,” he said. “I’ve always loved the arts and athletics and so many things like that. I don’t want to leave those.”

He’s been asked why he doesn’t set his sights on medical school and becoming a doctor, Byers said. The physician assistant path would allow him to do that later on, if he wanted, but he’s not in it for the prestige of being an M.D.

“It’ll pay me enough to live and it’s something I enjoy,” Byers said. “But I don’t want it to consume me.”

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