‘I Have Never Wanted to be an Astronaut’
Empathy, compassion, a ready smile and the ability to listen are all traits that we appreciate in our health professionals. As she closes in on becoming a Physicians Assistant, Katie Ensinger has all those attributes and much more. Nicknamed “Bubbles” by an employee of the Third Street Deli in Marietta she brightens up any room. It would have been easy, even when she was a baby, to predict her success in any field that she chose in adulthood. Not only did Meg and Bryan Ensinger, her parents, pass on a set of good genes, they have actively encouraged her love of learning, sports, and sociability.
Your education at Marietta College has been rigorous. What things prepared you for your success there? The importance of education was emphasized throughout my childhood as both of my parents are retired teachers. Throughout elementary school, I was pushed by my parents and teachers to challenge myself and keep reading and learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Once I reached high school, many of my teachers ensured that I was ready for college by providing challenging coursework as well as offering helpful real-life advice such as how to apply to colleges and where to find scholarships. Some of the high school teachers that played the greatest role in my success at Marietta include Mrs. Hinerman, Mr. Ross, and Mr. Riggle. I entered Marietta College with a goal of becoming a physician assistant and utilized many tools at the college such as the career center and one-on-one meetings with professors to accomplish this goal.
You seem to have a close extended family. Tell us about what it’s like to grow up in such a family. Growing up with a close extended family was wonderful! I was fortunate to be able to grow up with my grandparents living nearby and cousins to spend time with. I have many cherished memories of playing cards with my grandparents and getting together with family for the holidays. I also developed a love for traveling at a young age as my family and I made many trips to visit my extended family in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago.
Are there advantages to being an only child? Disadvantages? Yes, I can think of a few advantages of being an only child. As an only child, I often had to entertain myself, so I am content spending time on my own and consider myself to be fairly independent. Additionally, I have always felt comfortable around adults and I attribute that to time that I spent with my parents and their friends growing up. The biggest disadvantage that I can think of for being an only child is that it can be lonely sometimes whenever you are the only child at a gathering full of adults. However, this did not occur often as I spent much of my time with my cousin, Peyton, while we were growing up. He grew up in Sardis, Ohio and is also an only child so we often served as the siblings that the other did not have.
You have had diabetes since early childhood, yet you live a seemingly normal, active life. How do you manage your condition? I often tell people that I believe it to be a blessing that I was diagnosed with diabetes at such a young age as I cannot remember life without it. If I had been diagnosed at a later age, I think I would have had a more difficult time adjusting to living with the disease. I am very fortunate to have some of the latest technology such as an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor that assist me in controlling my diabetes and ensuring that my blood glucose levels are in range. Through trial and error, I have learned that following a mostly plant-based diet and incorporating daily exercise has helped to control my blood glucose levels. However, type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease and each day presents its own challenges. I have also been blessed with great medical teams to assist in managing my diabetes. My pediatrician would always tell me that I could be anything that I wanted except an astronaut. This did not bother me as I have never wanted to be an astronaut.
How do you imagine your life 5 years from now? In 5 years from now, I imagine myself practicing as a physician assistant. At this time, I am unsure which specialty I would like to practice in as I have enjoyed many of the specialties I have experienced on my rotations. I have always been fond of big cities so I could see myself moving out of the area at that time. However, I have also enjoyed my time in Marietta so I could see myself practicing as a physician assistant there. I can also see myself with a couple of cats.
If there was anything about New Martinsville you could change, what would that be? One of the elements that I enjoy most about bigger cities is the activity of the downtown area. I think that increasing the number of downtown businesses and restaurants could provide entertainment and opportunities for both residents and visitors to the area. My dad often tells stories of visiting New Martinsville as a child and how the downtown area was always bustling, especially around the holidays, so restoring the activity of the downtown area would be a positive change to New Martinsville.
What is your favorite thing to do when you have a break from school? It is difficult for me to choose just one activity! I really enjoy spending time catching up with friends, being outdoors, and traveling! I enjoy spending time walking, hiking, and hopefully I will be able to go cross country skiing this winter. If I can combine these activities, that is even better.
Who have been mentors/role models for you? One of the biggest role models for me has been my cousin, Breanna. I have always looked up to Breanna as she is a few years older than me and as we got older, we found we had the shared goal of going into the medical field. Breanna is currently finishing up her residency in pediatrics with WVU Medicine at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. I was able to go to Breanna for advice for many of my undergraduate classes as well as encouragement when I was applying to physician assistant school.
Another one of my mentors has been one of my biology professors at Marietta College, Dr. Spilatro. He was my professor for microbiology and immunology which were some of the most difficult classes in my undergraduate career, but those courses helped to prepare me most for PA school. He also served as my capstone advisor and we spent many hours together dissecting articles learning about the gut microbiota. He spent many hours helping me to revise and edit my capstone for which I am very grateful.
What is the best thing about living in Marietta? I really enjoy the scenic views on the bike path as well as the restaurants and stores in downtown Marietta. I also am renting a historical house built in the 1800s which is pretty unique. Being the first settlement in the northwest territory, Marietta is rich with history. The cobblestone tree-lined streets and historic landmarks add to the charm of this city.
You are going to be a physician assistant when you graduate. Have you chosen a specialty yet? I initially thought that I wanted to specialize in endocrinology as I have always wanted to be able to work with other diabetics. However, through my rotations I have found that I have really enjoyed other specialties such emergency medicine, so I am keeping my options open at this time.
Can you tell me about one of your happiest memories? Most difficult? One of my happiest memories was either getting accepted to physician assistant school or the weekend I received my white coat. Aside from my cousins, my family did not have anyone in the medical field so getting accepted to go to school for my dream career was one of my happiest memories. My white coat ceremony weekend was especially important to me as two of my aunts surprised me by attending the ceremony! Both of them had to travel significant distances in order to attend so it was wonderful getting to show them around Marietta for the weekend. One of the most difficult times for me was my freshman year of undergrad. I was running track for Marietta College at the time and fell on the ice at track practice which caused me to break my ankle significantly enough to require surgery. The remainder of the semester was a challenging time for me as I had to undergo extensive physical therapy in order to be able to use my ankle and learn to walk again. In addition to the physical challenges, this time was mentally challenging for me as well as I was isolated in my dorm room and unable to see my newfound college friends as just going to classes was a difficult for me.
How are you most like your mom? Your dad? One of the first things that many people notice about me is my upbeat and bubbly personality, which I attribute to my mom as she is very positive and fun-loving. However, my dad and I share many of the same interests including watching sports, especially Cleveland Indians baseball and WVU basketball. My dad also encouraged me to pursue running throughout high school and into college and we would often go on runs together. Though I do not run regularly anymore, I enjoy going on long walks with both of my parents when I am home.
How would you describe yourself as a child? As a child, I remember being very inquisitive and wanting to know the “why” of how the world worked. I spent a lot of my childhood reading a wide variety of novels, from Harry Potter to historical fiction. My parents also tell me that I was very talkative as a child which is something that has carried into adulthood for me.
Do you have any funny stories about physician assistant school? Though there are many stories that I could tell about PA school, one that sticks out in my mind is from our splinting and casting lab in the spring. My friend Dakota and I were partners and one of us got the bright idea to send pictures of ourselves in our casts to our family members to freak them out. Knowing better than to send the pictures to my parents as they would have sped to Marietta, I chose to send these to a few aunts. Their responses were priceless as the story was believable as I had had a fall and broken a bone a few years ago. Eventually, I had to give up the truth and they were not too happy. Hopefully they are laughing about the story now!
Do you have any family traditions? Prior to this year, my family and I have traveled to warmer destinations over Christmas and New Years. Some of our travels have included New Orleans, Key West, and Charleston, South Carolina. Since the pandemic, we have established a new tradition with my mom’s side of the family in which we FaceTime every Sunday afternoon.
What is your favorite travel destination? My favorite travel destination is Key West, Florida. I love the warm climate, fun atmosphere, and beautiful views, especially the sunsets. Visiting Ernest Hemingway’s home and meeting his six-toed cats that reside on the premises and observing the chickens wandering around the downtown also was memorable.
Is there some place you would like to visit when it is safe to travel again? I don’t have any specific places in mind, but I would like to travel out to the west coast and explore more of that area of the country. I have never been further west than the Grand Canyon and I would love to see more of that area of the country.
What are some health changes we could all make that would benefit us? One of the biggest health changes that has helped me has been to change to a plant-based diet. Though many may see this as extreme, switching to a “meatless Monday” is a great start! Throughout high school and college, I learned of the importance of exercise and the benefits that it can have on not just physical but also mental health. Prioritizing at least 30 minutes a day for exercise can provide a great outlet for stress. Throughout the past few years, I have found that practicing yoga has helped me stay centered during hectic times. The practice of deep and controlled breathing facilitates a calming effect which could be beneficial to everyone.
Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what is on it? I do not have a specific bucket list at this time. However, I would love to continue to travel to new destinations in the future. As a baseball fan, I would also like to visit as many baseball stadiums as possible. At this time, I have been concentrating on school and hopefully getting a job that I haven’t been able to spend too much time working on my bucket list.
Any advice for a middle school or high school student who is thinking about entering the medical profession? My biggest advice for a middle school or high school student considering the medical profession would be to shadow and volunteer. Before high school, I was unaware of the role of the physician assistant in the medical field and was able to learn more about the profession through shadowing. Volunteering also provides an opportunity to experience different aspects of the medical field and provide assistance to patients before acquiring a job in a specific profession. I would also encourage students to be flexible as the medical field is constantly changing especially with the creation of telemedicine and an increase in the use of telehealth visits.