Trees of Hope: MOCA and Carolyn's Story

Updated: December 03, 2018 12:32 PM

Carolyn Jahr has been a physician assistant for the past 10 years. And now, she's helping educate the next generation, teaching in the program at St. Scholastica.


"The PA role was developed 50 years ago, in response to physician shortage," she explained. "We see patients, take their medical histories, perform medical exams, and prescribe medications."

Future PAs learn those skills during their two year program at CSS. The first year is classroom and clinic based, and the second year is rotations, where the students work in the community.

They have different schedules than doctors, according to Jahr, and can end up spending a little more time with the patients. "Being able to build relationships over time with folks, it's really key. And it's something PAs are known for," Jahr added.

And that can be especially important when you have to break bad news, like a cancer diagnosis. "My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January of 2015. She passed a year and nine months later. It was right when I was developing my course," Jahr remembered. 

Her mother's name was Lise. The two women spoke at length, about how to make Lise's story count for something. So Jahr took her immense loss, and turned it into a lesson for her students.

"It's super important as providers to hear the quiet sounds that ovarian cancer makes early on, in order to effectively get people diagnosed earlier," she said.

She reached out to MOCA, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance. The Survivors Teaching Students program was the answer. Three survivors of ovarian cancer came and spoke to the first cohort of PA students, in the summer of 2017.

Dayna Dreier was in that room, and said it was something she'll always remember. "Each woman had their own story of how somebody impacted them in their care. And I want to one day, be that person. That's why I'm doing what I'm doing. To be that person. Yes, this is your body, but we're fighting alongside with you."

She's a second year PA student now. "You learn so much about the diseases and conditions. This was a unique way to take the information in."

Lise's battle may be over. But it's not forgotten. Because now folks like Dayna are taking up the fight for her. And it keeps Lise's memory alive, for her daughter, in another way.

"It was like having my mom in the classroom. It was an amazing experience. I'll forever be indebted to MOCA for making that happen," Jahr told us.

If you want to donate to MOCA:

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