Jefferson Veteran Profile: Cheryl Sizer

Cheryl Sizer isn’t afraid of an adventure. In fall 2016, she embarked on a new journey when she entered the Jefferson College of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Program. Her new academic career wasn't her only adventure, though: to become a PA student, she actually moved with her family—four children and a husband, her father and her dependent sister—to Greensboro, NC from Colorado, where she'd lived for 20 years after retiring from the Air Force.

That kind of change and travel are nothing new to Sizer, however. She grew up on the bayou in Lafayette, Louisiana. In New Orleans, she earned a music education degree from Loyola, then traveled to Philadelphia to earn a master’s degree in performance from Temple University. As an undergraduate, she had ventured into music therapy and worked with terminally ill children. Sizer admits that, at the time, she was too young to emotionally cope with that line of work, so switched majors to Music Education, leaving the medical field behind for the time being.

After switching majors, Sizer continually went to professional auditions, including one for the United States Air Force Band.

“I had no idea what that entailed," Sizer says. "I chose music as a career because I was passionate about reaching people on a deep level, and the Air Force gave me the opportunity to do that, and more.”

As principal flutist in the U.S. Air Force Academy Band, she and her fellow musicians were “musical ambassadors,” performing for veterans, civilians, students and troops. She performed for Presidents Reagan, Carter, Bush, Sr., Ford, Nixon and Clinton in 1992, in honor of the opening of the Ronald Reagan library in California.

Her time in the Air Force left an indelible impact on her. She believes in the core values of "Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do," and said the Air Force brought maturity and discipline to her life.

“I went into the military with a somewhat self-serving attitude," she says, "musician first, airman second. But, each performance was an opportunity share the Air Force message—that we are here to serve the United States, and service is one of the most fulfilling parts of life. I switched from being a musician to being an airman. Being in the military affirmed my desire to serve.”

Sizer had always loved science, and after retiring, decided to return to the healthcare world in some capacity. After speaking to a professor, she was inspired to pursue PA school. She successfully completed all of the PA entry requirements at UNC-Greensboro, gained experience as a CNA and volunteered at Greensboro Hospice and Palliative Care. She chose Jefferson College of Health Science’s program because a former graduate suggested she would receive an amazing education and that the professors were exceptionally supportive and encouraging.

While Sizer's education at Jefferson College in Roanoke is a commute back to her family on weekends, she is thrilled to be here. She has had to figure out how to balance the challenging class load and family, but says that the weeks are flying by.

“I am ready to devote the rest of my life to being an excellent, compassionate Physician Assistant," she says. "I'm ready to trade in the piccolo for the stethoscope!”

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