Student Spotlight: Q&A with Olivia Harkins, Pathologists’ Assistant Class of 2024

Olivia Harkins
Olivia Harkins

We’re getting to know students from every program at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Submit your own details for Student Spotlight consideration by filling out our brief form.

Q: What 3-5 words would your biggest fans use to describe you?

A: Empathetic, enthusiastic, spooky, artistic and strong.

Q: What is your favorite way to spend free time?

A: Spending time with family and friends, going to DCFC games, powerlifting and painting.

Q: Why did you choose Wayne State University?

A: I came to Wayne State because of the personable, professional professors and high-achieving graduate programs. In 2019, when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and art at Alma College, I participated in the WSU Applebaum Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program under the guidance of Dr. Randy Commissaris. SURF was an amazing experience that set me on the path to becoming a pathologists’ assistant. 

Q: Why did you choose the Pathologists’ Assistant program?

A: I've always been interested in pursuing higher education and a career in forensics. This program specifically allows me to combine my love for art and science! If it were not for SURF, I would not have found out about paths I could take after undergrad, and it specifically introduced me to the PAA program. (Special thanks to Dr. Frade and Dr. C!) 

Olivia Harkins in the grossing lab
Olivia Harkins practices grossing a liver specimen.

Q: What is a classroom, lab or clinical experience you've enjoyed?

A: I enjoyed shadowing at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office with Dr. Lokman Sung, who also studied at Alma College and WSU. I learned so much about pathology and it truly set my path toward coming to Wayne State to become a pathologists’ assistant. I also began participating in Dr. Commissaris’ study as an undergraduate researcher starting in May 2019. The goal of our study was to determine how alcohol and marijuana impact reaction time within a driving simulator. 

Q: Tell us about a leadership role you hold.

A: I currently serve as the PR representative on our 2024 class board. I am able to promote our program and engage with current as well as prospective students!

Q: Have you taken advantage of any community engagement opportunities through WSU?

A: Our class has been going to local high schools to introduce and educate students about our profession. 

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for students following in your footsteps?

A: Be diligent in keeping up with coursework, as it is much different than undergraduate work. Even when things get tough, keep the passion for the profession in mind as the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Q: Share a recent accomplishment.

A: I’m proud to be achieving better grades this semester and setting myself up for success. 

Q: What are your career plans?

PAA Class of 2024
Olivia Harkins (left) with her WSU Applebaum Pathologists' Assistant Class of 2024

A: My goal is to pursue a career as a forensic pathologists’ assistant performing forensic autopsies. 

Q: What makes you Warrior Strong?

A: Being a homegrown Michigander and being able to engage with the amazing Detroit community surrounding our campus. 

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to share?

A: I cannot wait to get into clinical year and start working as a PAA!

Established in 1989, the WSU Applebaum Master of Science in Pathologists' Assistant program is one of only 13 in the United States and Canada accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) to train students in the highly specialized field of anatomic pathology. Information meetings for prospective students take place at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. The priority application due date for spring 2023 is Jan. 15, 2023. The final application deadline has been extended to March 1, 2023, with an adjusted application procedure due to issues with GradCAS. All prerequisite coursework must be complete by Dec. 30, 2022.

An anchor in urban health care

The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is built on more than 100 years of tradition and innovation in the heart of Detroit. We have grown deep roots in our city, harnessing its powerhouse hospital systems and community service organizations as vibrant, real-world training grounds for students, with an ongoing focus on social justice in health care. And our research at all levels – from undergraduates to veteran faculty members – translates into creative solutions for healthier communities.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 25,000 students.

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