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Anusha Francis

For South Asian Heritage Month 2021, physician associate (PA) Anusha Francis talks about the importance and value of her heritage in her journey towards becoming a PA.

From a young age, I never found it easy growing up in the UK juggling both the Indian and Sri Lankan cultures alongside British culture. Looking back, I always recall my parents placing particular emphasis on the importance and value of my south Asian heritage, which I truly believe has influenced and shaped me into the individual I have become today.

Having migrated from a developing country with very few opportunities, my father had no choice but to adopt a resilient approach to life. For these reasons, he always ensured I understood the significance of being well-educated, as this would provide me with a higher chance of success in my future endeavours. Therefore, I always felt a strong sense of purpose, and that I had duty to my parents and all their hard work – especially since I had the luxury and opportunities they lacked when they were growing up. As a result, I was distraught in when I did not achieve the A-level grades required to study medicine.

Despite this, I still went on to university to study biomedical science, and I loved being surrounded by newfound friends who shared a similar culture to me – this was something I never had growing up. In my younger years, I always felt there was a lack of representation of south Asians in the media, which always made me feel slightly out of place, without my even realising it.

After 3 long years of hard work and determination, I managed to somehow obtain a first class degree. This still surprises me to this day, but it made me come to the stark realisation that despite the many hindrances in my childhood, hard work and determination does not go unrewarded. It was this moment that I believe provided me with the confidence to apply for the physician associate (PA) course.

Coming into the PA course, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in which I would be able to help others. Throughout my education, I recognised that I always had a passion towards volunteering roles.

Nevertheless, behind closed doors I was very self-critical and full of doubt regarding my own capabilities. Looking back, I now know this partly stemmed from the somewhat strict Asian ideals that had been imposed upon me. However, I would not change any of the experiences I had to endure, as I believe they have prepared me to be the clinician I am today. I am now aware that due to the many life experiences and battles with my own mental health, I can practise as a PA from a place of compassion and openness, which I believe is invaluable in the healthcare sector, especially during these unprecedented times.

My advice to others is to welcome every experience (regardless of whether it is positive or negative) with open arms, and never be afraid to make mistakes. I truly believe this is what allows us to reach our full potential.