Success: Tracy Alshouse

Tracy Alshouse ’87 transferred to Mount Mercy University with an associate degree from Kirkwood Community College, graduated from Mount Mercy with her bachelor’s degree in biology, and then continued on at the University of Iowa to become a physician assistant. But Alshouse’s road to a career she loves wasn’t without a few twists and turns.

“I started out not knowing what I wanted. My first semester here (at Mount Mercy) I looked into public relations because I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in medicine, but I quickly knew public relations wasn’t for me,” said Alshouse. “Then I transferred to the University of Iowa as an undergraduate doing one semester of biology stuff, and it was horrible. You would have one professor in a class of 300 or 400 in a big auditorium, you can’t really ask questions, you can’t read the overhead projector. It was awful, and I hated every minute of it.”

Busy raising her toddler son and working evenings in the operating room at Mercy Hospital, Alshouse decided to leave the University of Iowa and return to Mount Mercy where she had the flexibility she needed to balance all of her responsibilities and still excel academically.

“I came back here to Mount Mercy, and the professors here were absolutely amazing. They worked really hard to try to teach you. I’d be sitting in class with a confused look on my face, and my professors would stop, look me in the eye, and say, ‘Tracy, what don’t you understand?’ Then, they’d back up and start over until you got it.”

Tracy Alshouse, '87
PA-C (Physician Assistant)
Affiliates of Family Practice
Cedar Rapids

For Alshouse, the genuine care and concern her professors showed extended beyond the classroom.

“These were people you could come into their offices anytime, talk to them, sit down and get extra help, or just talk about life in general and where you were going. They were always open,” said Alshouse. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have the support and the quality education that I got here.”

With a bachelor’s degree from Mount Mercy, Alshouse hoped she would be able to pursue a career in organ retrieval services, but she soon realized it wasn’t meant to be.

“Initially, since I worked in the OR and surgery was my first love, I was getting my biology degree to go into a career in organ retrieval services, which required a minimum of a bachelor’s in science,” said Alshouse. “But, by the time I graduated with my bachelor’s, the program had closed. You couldn’t get into it without being at least a PA. So I thought, okay now what do I do?”

For a few years following graduation, Alshouse worked as a sales representative while she planned what her next move would be, and she got a little help and advice from her former professors and colleagues.

Neil Bernstein [Professor of Biology] was still my advisor two years after I’d graduated. He was a huge influence and really encouraged me to look into PA schools, and also several of the other physicians I’d worked with in the OR were very instrumental in helping me weigh my options,” said Alshouse. “At the time, the PA program was relatively new and there was really nobody in Cedar Rapids I could look to who did what I wanted to do.”

Following graduation from PA school in 1991, Alshouse, who had discovered an unknown passion for family medicine during her studies, began working at the Affiliates of Family Practice in Cedar Rapids, where she is currently employed. She enjoys being able to work with patients at all stages of life and getting to personally know her patients and their families.

“I’ve had families where I’ve seen four or five generations,” said Alshouse. “I have other patients who I saw as children who are now grown and bringing their own children to see me, and I can say to them, ‘I knew your dad or mom when they were little.’ That’s the best feeling in the world.”

Alshouse advises current high school students to determine their goals before committing to higher education.

“You have to have a very good biology background in order to get into PA school, and because of some of the courses I took at Mount Mercy, I was farther ahead in some PA courses than some of my classmates,” said Alshouse.

In spite of the winding path Alshouse took to get to where she is now, she would be hesitant to change any aspect of her college years if given a chance.

“It makes you who you are, all of your life changes. The hard knocks of life matured me and made it possible for me to come back and get an education that allows me to do what I love.”

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