Samantha Snukis (M.S. ’14) is competitive by nature, and though the competition was fierce while searching for the right physician assistant studies (PA) program, she was barely deterred. Today, her role as PA reflects her career in sports and vice versa. A triathlete, Snukis has competed nationally and internationally in marathons, Ironman triathlons, and other competitions. She’s an Olympic Trials qualifier and finished first place during the Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid, a series of triathlon races, which ran from 2017 through 2019. She also hit a personal best of 2:44 at the California International Marathon in 2018.
Like a true athlete, after completing her undergrad studies at another college, Snukis went an extra few miles, gaining a Master’s in Microbiology there in 2010 and continuing on for a second M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies at New York Institute of Technology.
Now serving as a PA at Commonwealth Orthopaedic Associates in her home state of Pennsylvania, Snukis works in private surgery in the surgical center and contributes time at the Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center, also based in Reading, Pa. At the core of her success as a PA is that she knows how to treat athletic injuries since she has suffered many herself.
“I’ve been through a lot of injuries, so I can relate to some of the patients,” shares Snukis. “I see how they’re injured, but I also see the emotional side of it, which is a big part of treating someone. Physically treating someone and getting someone better is one part. If they want to get back to sports, that’s the other part, so I can relate and can meet them in the middle.”
Snukis’ two passions interweave perfectly, working as a PA for 40 hours a week and keeping up with training for another 20. Now, she’s at a point where she has created her own schedule. One moment she’s in the office, the next, she is in the operating room for total joints surgery, administering cortisone shots, ultrasounds, and more.
For students ready to take on a profession in PA, Snukis says there’s one simple trick: “Be open-minded for any of the specialties that you want to do and work as much as you can because that’s the only way you’re going to get experience,” she says.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Snukis continued working in the hospital as a hospitalist since many surgeries were canceled. “I took the opportunity to keep learning and that’s the biggest thing, especially being a PA,” she says. “You have to keep learning new skills and always say ‘yes’ to something new. Just do it because you can always learn from it and keep that experience in your back pocket.”