PA Class of 2021 Student Spotlight: Shelby Neil


Shelby Neil, Stead Society president for the Class of 2021, is from Denver, Colo., and hopes to work in pediatric hospital medicine after graduation in August. She fell in love with inpatient pediatric medicine after her rotation in pediatric bone marrow transplant.  

Why did you want to become a PA? 

I worked with PAs in my pre-grad school life and was amazed by their dedication to their patients. I saw the difference they made in patients’ lives and I felt a calling to do the same. 

What were your patient care experiences like before coming to the Duke Physician Assistant Program? How did that help you prepare for your time here? 

Before PA school, I worked as a medical assistant in neurology, then pediatric gastroenterology. These experiences gave me vital insight into the health care professions’ nuances.  

I also spent two months volunteering in small health clinics in Tanzania and Nepal. There, I expanded my interpersonal skills by connecting with people through cultural and language barriers. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a Duke PA student? 

My favorite memories of PA school are the small moments that helped me feel normal during an overwhelming year. Lunches spent laughing in breakout rooms, silently studying with others at coffee shops, taking walks around the building between lectures. Quarantine made me realize exactly how much I relied on connections with my classmates.  

How has the program’s mission shaped your plans and goals? 

Through our annual Giving and Gratitude campaigns to PA Day of Service, the program's mission has encouraged me to seek service opportunities at every opportunity. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication to service has continued as my classmates and I have worked to assist with countless relief projects and volunteerism efforts. 

What made you decide to run for Stead Society President, and what are you most proud of during your tenure? 

I decided to run for Stead Society President to build my leadership skills. I had very few leadership roles in my pre-PA life, and I knew that to be a good PA, I needed to hone my management and delegation skills. I am not a natural public speaker, but I have gained confidence in my speech that I would not have otherwise achieved. 

Stead Society was able to accomplish a lot despite our first-year in-person experience being cut short [due to COVID-19]. We raised money for the Cornucopia Cancer Support Center in Durham and organized donations to the Ronald McDonald House. Despite not being able to take part in the 10th Annual St Baldrick's fundraiser, the Blue Devil Baldies raised $5,241 to fight childhood cancer. Even with the pandemic, Stead Society immediately coordinated with other Duke community members to provide volunteer services within Duke and our surrounding community. I am so proud of what we accomplished during such a tough year. 

Why should prospective students consider the Duke PA program? 

Yes, Duke has an extraordinary reputation and an astounding amount of available resources, but what sets us apart is the dedication the faculty and staff have to our personal growth.  I know I can reach out to many people dedicated to helping me through my struggles. 

What have you learned while being a PA student during the COVID-19 pandemic that you will carry with you into your career? 

As a student during the COVID-19 pandemic, I witnessed health care workers go above and beyond to carry our nation forward through this pandemic. I saw it when our class jumped at the chance to help. What I will carry with me from this crisis is the pride of soon entering a community full of altruistic, compassionate individuals. 

Return to 2021 Alumni Magazine