From the ice rink to the classroom


How one SpartanPA student balances figure skating career with rigors of PA school

When Brenna Stotlemeyer was five, she picked up a pair of figure skates at a birthday party and hit the ice. Her family could never have imagined the role the sport would soon play in her life, and eventually, her medical career.

Now, the second-year student in the Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) has earned national accolades in figure skating — and continues to use the sport as a personal outlet while tackling PA school.

Originally from Missouri, Stotlemeyer first became a Spartan as an undergraduate student. She was initially drawn to MSU for its large size partnered with its world-class academic standards and high-achieving athletic programs. By graduation, she knew that staying in East Lansing for PA school was an “easy choice,” she said, adding, “I loved what the new PA program had to offer and was intrigued by the passion of faculty and staff to form a new way of PA education.”

She understood PA school was no walk in the park, especially alongside her athletic endeavors, but felt that years of skating had prepared her with the skills to be a successful student. “PA school isn’t for the faint of heart, it takes a lot of hard work, grit and perseverance — skills that my competitive figure skating career helped me learn early,” Stotlemeyer said.

“To be a good athlete, I had to learn time management, communication, dedication and how to be coachable and learn from mistakes, all of which I have leaned on in school,” she continued. “Focusing on self-improvement and advancement rather than winning is also a skill I have implemented in PA school. Here, I focus on learning and perfecting skills over getting a 100% on every exam.”

Her goal in the medical field is to provide patient-focused care while advocating for the role of PAs in the health care field. Stotlemeyer is currently interested in working in orthopedic trauma surgery, cardiology or internal medicine.

Although PA school can be stressful, Stotlemeyer has found her peace with a pair of figure skates on a clean sheet of ice. “Skating is my stress relief; it reminds me I can do hard things. There is no better feeling than the early morning ice to myself and the sounds my blades make on the ice. This helps me push through the hard days in the classroom or when preparing for a hard exam.”

Before starting PA school, she qualified for and earned a bronze medal at the U.S. Adult Figure Skating National Championships. As a member of the MSU Figure Skating team throughout her undergraduate years, she also became a two-time U.S. Collegiate Bronze Medalist. While difficult to train during PA school, she continues to make her skating passion a priority, and even competed in this year’s U.S. Adult Figure Skating Sectional Championships.

As intense as her education program and athletic career are, they mutually benefit each other. Skating is her stress relief from school, and school has helped her appreciate and be more productive during practice.

She advises other students to prioritize their passions and self-care to balance out the rigorous demands of PA school and a career in health care. “There is no way to make it through the didactic year without taking some time for yourself, allowing yourself the time to participate in activities you love and spending time with friends and family,” Stotlemeyer said. “We must fill our own cups before we can fill the cups of others.”

Stotlemeyer hopes to continue training and enjoying her time on the ice while navigating her educational and medical career. She also coaches figure skating locally to support the next generation of athletes, hoping to instill the same character traits and work ethic that her coaches taught her. “I can’t wait to see where they go in life on and off the ice,” she said.

She thanks her family for always supporting her dreams, as well as her coaches and trainers who have helped her develop lifelong skills to propel her into PA school. “PA school is a lot of hard work and time, but being a PA student and attending the MSU PA Medicine program is one of the best choices I have made. If you dream big and work hard, it is possible, and you will do it.”