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Single Mom Leaves Russia, Learns English, Becomes Doctor

In December 2021, I graduated from Lynchburg University with a DMSc degree. I consider it an achievement and the beginning of ever-expanding possibilities to grow as a professional in the medical field. Just three years ago, I was content with my life. I am a PA working in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in New York City. However, life presented its challenge, and I took it. How did it all begin?

From the Motherland to the Land of the Free

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia. Medicine was not my first call. However, after giving birth to my two children, I realized I wanted to serve as a medical professional. I decided to move to the USA in 1989 after graduating from Russia’s version of PA school. At that time, I was a single mom with two young children, but I was motivated and determined to move across the Atlantic.

Dr. Inessa Shlifer at the University of Lynchburg Commencement

In 1990 I landed at JFK, New York City, filled with skyscrapers and different life dynamics. I had no friends or relatives, and my English was nonexistent. It wasn’t easy to get around places and communicate with people. I identified two primary goals; to learn the English language and to get myself back into professional life. With a dictionary in my hands, I went to NYC Library, where I was searching for my profession. Many people would tell me I should apply to college and become an RN. However, I believed that in the USA, there had to be another profession. And sure enough, I found that the Physician Assistant which is equivalent to Feldsher; the title common in Europe and Russia. I have begun my quest and search for PA schools. I narrowed down the schools and decided to go to LIU/The Brooklyn Medical Center. I began studying English as a second language in 1991 and in 1995 I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and the Physician Assistant title.

From Employee to Entrepreneur

In 1995 I worked for eight months at Maimonides Medical Center as a Plastic Surgery PA. However, I realized that staying at the hospital would limit my growth professionally and I decided to leave my job and become an independent contractor. I did not have a model to follow the steps, rather, I created my own. I knew that it will be difficult, but I accepted this challenge. I joined two surgeons, both in their separate practices, and together we flourished. It took about six years to get busy and gain earnings much higher compared to my colleagues.

The Freedom of Being Your Own Boss

We are facing burnout issues in the medical field, among many others. Professionals are looking into a balanced lifestyle, especially now. I read many posts where medical professionals transition to another field to have better control of their schedule, spend more time with family, and “ work to live and not live to work”. I intuitively knew that being “my own boss” will give me a perfect life balance, and it did.

Being an independent contractor gave me flexibility in my schedule. I worked only four days a week and took vacations at my discretion. My level of expertise in my field was much higher compared to the hospital PAs because I was performing surgery four days a week and was exposed to a larger variety of surgical procedures.

Scholarship Runs in the Family

My son graduated from Rochester University with Ph.D. in Biochemistry. Each time I would have a conversation with him, I realized that my level of education was far behind and I decided to go back to school. When I graduated from PACE University with an MPAS (Master of Physician Assistant Studies), I was excited and filled with new knowledge. However, I felt that I only scratched the surface and needed to further my education. As the saying goes: ” the more I know the less I know”. It turned out to be true.

The abundance of scientific research, data, and articles presented a need to study medical science. I am fortunate that a group of smart and talented PAs decided to create a DMSc (Doctor of Medical Science) program at Lynchburg University. “Created by PAs for PAs” is a brilliant idea. The faculty has PAs with great experience in medicine, education, leadership, medical writing, business, and health law. The collaboration of these faculty members gave me a great opportunity to study hard and learn what is new and current.

Becoming a Doctor of Medical Science at the University of Lynchburg

The curriculum was challenging, however, it is accomplishable and rewarding. In just a year I learned so much and became more comfortable with search engines, Pub Med, EMBASE, etc.

Dr. Inessa Shlifer, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA

I love to serve people and I love to share my time and finances for the good cause. I have served on various committees and PA Associations/Societies. I am fortunate to be a part of NYSSPA (New York State Society of PAs), an organization that is filled with dedicated PAs donating their time and expertise to improve PAs’ position in our state.

Learning and Progress Never Stop

Being a surgical PA for over 26 years is an accomplishment. However, I developed an interest in endocrinology and how patients can benefit from a different approach, using non-conventional medicine to keep them healthy. I am not a stranger to any challenge and am very excited as I am taking courses to enhance my knowledge.

Inessa Shlifer, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA

Dr. Inessa Shlifer is an experienced Physician Associate and Doctor of Medical Science with a demonstrated history of working in the medical practice industry. She is trained in Family Medicine, Medical Education, Pediatrics, and Emergency Medicine and has worked in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for over 25 years. Dr. Shlifer studied medicine at Long Island University and then earned a Master's in PA Studies at Pace University. She completed the DMSc at the University of Lynchburg.

One thought on “Single Mom Leaves Russia, Learns English, Becomes Doctor

  • Congratulations on your great accomplishments!!!
    Let me introduce you to myself, I did my medical school and ob/gyn residency as an international medical graduate from a very good medical school.
    When I came to USA 35 years ago I decided to go to an established PA school instead of doing usmle pathway, I did graduate with masters and started as a medical officer for in patient busy hospital, then did interventional and general cardiology, followed by dermatology, then Emergency medicine for more than 20 years followed by nephrology and dialysis fellowship while still doing emergency medicine, also did my CAQ in Emergency medicine.
    Currently working in Emergency Medicine and as an Assist Physician in nephro-Dialysis.
    Unfortunately after all this extensive experience I am frustrated and disappointed that PAs are highly underpaid and over worked professionals and I know more than attending but unable to get recognition for my profession because of the name and because of the co -signature of the collaborative Physicians.
    PAs are unfortunately lumped with NPs while we should be compared with MDs and DOs as NPs are the trained nurses with scattered online lectures and a couple of scattered out patient clinic shadowing and an easy test.
    While PA Schools are mirror image of medical schools with the same Allopathic Medicine curriculum and same highly structured clinical rotations with residents and with medical students.
    And now the future of PA profession is uncertain and bleak plus a dark shadow of collaborative physicians hanging on it and the name of the profession. Hiring PAs is expensive for the agencies as they have to hire physicians too, but with NPs due to their strong lobbying and unity the agencies are replacing PAs with NPs as hiring NP is cost effective as they don’t have to hire a physician.
    My question is even if PAs do doctor of medical sciences it does not change the fact that it means NOTHING unless PAs have strong lobbying to address all the above and set themselves free of the clutches of Collaborative Physicians and to change the name to Doctor of Medical sciences for all PAs and to go for Residency for 2-3 years.
    Otherwise PA profession will be EXTINCT.. and No agency will hire PAs. Time to wake up. Now or never.
    Thank You. Appreciate!


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