Everything about her career as a physician assistant was on the track she had always imagined. Then Lindy Nester PA’09 discovered an opportunity she couldn’t resist — joining the U.S. Department of State and seeing the world.
“It was actually my husband who met some diplomatic agents and they encouraged him to apply, and he got the job. We talked about the possibilities of traveling the world, and we even thought if we end up in a country in Africa we’ve never heard of — seriously, who gets to do that.”
And the middle of Africa is exactly where she and her husband, Jim Woll, were placed for their first assignment. After two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a short stint back in Washington, D.C., the couple was reassigned to Tel Aviv, Israel for an additional two years.
“The first two tours are directed tours. You are required to take Home Leave in between assignments to return to the US and are also allotted Rest and Recuperation travel as well (as many as three trips during a tour). This ensures that Foreign Service Officers who spend a lot of their careers overseas still spend time in the US on a regular basis. This lifestyle really affords you not only the adventure of a life abroad but also reminds you why living in the U.S. is so amazing.
“When we lived in Congo, we had the chance to visit six different African countries, for personal and work-related travel. It was hard and I was on call 24/7, but it was an amazing experience. We also loved Israel and the people we met and the places and things we got to see. I try to encourage other physician assistants — no matter their age — to consider this career opportunity because it is very rewarding.”
Jim and Lindy are what the Department of State consider a tandem couple. They are currently doing a one-year tour in Peshawar, Pakistan, that ends in August 2021. Her patient size is much smaller in Pakistan — 21 Americans also assigned there— compared to Tel Aviv when she worked to care for as many as 700.
“Here in Peshawar, I’m one of only three females who work here, and it is a male-dominated culture. But we supervise men from Pakistan and they have learned to respect us and listen to the things we say. It has been a great learning experience for everyone involved.”
Growing up in New Matamoras, Ohio, Lindy dreamed of working in the medical field, but always believed she would be in a private practice in Ohio. The plan was to graduate from Ohio University with a degree in Physical Therapy and get a job in that field. But after taking a physiology class, she started looking into physician assistant programs — and Marietta topped her list.
All her clinical rotations were in Ohio and West Virginia, but after visiting Washington, D.C., she made the decision to live there, and it is still her home base. She has worked in Internal Medicine with the Cleveland Clinic, worked in a private practice Internal Medicine office in Great Falls, joined The George Washington University Hospital’s Neurosurgery Department in 2014 and eventually made the leap to the Department of State in September 2015.
There were two major reasons why Lindy was able to transition so easily. First, the Department of State is actively recruiting physician assistants. Second, her experience as a primary care PA was a bonus as they are also in high demand.
“In primary care, you are the person with the patient from the beginning to the end of their medical problem, you help with the work up, the diagnosis, the management and the referral. It’s a very important relationship and they really rely on you. I don’t believe primary care physicians or PAs get enough credit for how challenging and rewarding it is. Let’s be honest, you have to know a lot about a lot.”
Miranda Collins, who served as Program Director for Marietta’s Physician Assistant Program from 2014-21, has enjoyed hearing about Lindy’s exciting experiences with the Department of State.
“It doesn’t surprise me that this is what she is doing for her career,” Collins says. “During school she was always positive, energetic and faced challenges with an optimistic can-do attitude. We couldn’t be prouder to have her representing MCPAP at the global level.”
In August, Lindy and her husband will return to Washington, D.C., for two years and then they are off on a new adventure.