Physician assistant graduate Dani Chamberlain centers wellness and balance

Date: Monday, November 27, 2023

Dani Chamberlain poses outside with a fluffy dog standing on its hind legs.

Hometown: Orange County, California 

Undergrad: Cell and developmental biology, University of California Santa Barbara 

Danielle Chamberlain had never set foot in Iowa when she applied to the Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, but her experience feeling welcomed during the interview process spoke volumes about her future home. 

“It was definitely the people,” she says. “I was able to showcase myself and interact with the interviewers. I felt like they cared about who I was and not just what accolades I had.” 

She’s had a desire to help others since early childhood. Her mother says that while most kids her age were watching Saturday morning cartoons, Chamberlain was hooked on the Discovery Channel and learning about how babies are born. Fast forward to high school: A PA mentor she admired got her interested in exploring the profession. She valued the work-life balance in the profession and the ability to complete her PA education much quicker than she could a medical degree. 

“That got me excited because I could start caring for people a lot sooner,” she says.  

Chamberlain also liked that she would have the ability to move from one medical specialty to another. 

I’m the most indecisive person in the world,” she jokes. “Down the line, if I’ve been in family medicine for a long time and I feel comfortable there, I can decide to challenge myself by going to a new specialty. Or if things change in my life, I can move to a specialty that’s more conducive to the schedule I need.” 

The experiences she gained through job shadowing solidified her decision. Chamberlain encourages others who may be considering PA school to shadow many different PAs to get a feel for the breadth of specialties and roles. 

See what a day in the life of a PA actually is,” she says. “Getting into the setting and seeing all that a PA can do is good for somebody contemplating becoming a PA.” 

Spreading the word 

Educating others about the PA profession has been a recurring theme during Chamberlain’s time at Iowa. Serving as a social media representative for student government, she had the opportunity to help grow understanding about why PAs are such a vital part of the health care team. 

“I think it is so important to teach people about what PAs are and what they do,” she says. “I put a lot of effort into making good posts about our students and continuing to get people to know more about Iowa and the profession in general.” 

Chamberlain’s other passion project in PA school was student wellness. As a former athlete in her undergraduate college’s Olympic weightlifting club, she has a strong belief in the power of nutrition and movement for better mental health. She used this interest to support her classmates through Flocks Learning Community’s health and wellness committee. 

“Keeping students in a healthy mindset and focusing on their wellness was really important to me, and it inevitably helped me keep myself in that same mindset,” Chamberlain says. 

She wants to continue to emphasize holistic wellness as she begins her career as a PA in Atlanta, likely in family medicine. 

“I think that’s going to give me the best opportunity to influence people’s lives in bigger ways than just prescribing medications,” she says. 

Chamberlain will kick off her next stage with many fond memories of the camaraderie among her classmates at Iowa. 

“I came here without knowing anybody, and I was really scared to move and be all alone. But within the first three days, we were all best friends,” she says. “I felt at home here, even though my home is so far away. Knowing I have these friendships that are going to last forever is so special.”