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PA Hospitalist Strikes Balance With Running

For those aspiring to blend their passion for health care with their athletic pursuits, Board Certified PA and marathoner Gabriella Rooker, MPAS, PA-C, offers insights rooted in her own experiences.

“Remember, if you have a body, you are an athlete,” Rooker said. “Start off by setting small, attainable goals.”

Rooker, a 36-year-old Internal Medicine Hospitalist PA at M Health Fairview in Minneapolis, Minn., emphasizes the importance of resilience and a supportive community.

“Cut yourself some slack if you miss a day or two of training when life is hectic,” Rooker said. “Find a community of other athletes who are working towards common goals and feed off the excitement of other people’s successes to cultivate your own success.”

Rooker credits her background as a marathoner with shaping her approach to medicine.

“My role as a PA has helped me make quick decisions during races,” she said. “My professional running career has helped me learn to continue working hard, especially when days are tough.”

Juggling PA Duties and Training

Balancing the demands of her duties as a PA with rigorous training required meticulous planning and dedication.

“For nearly eight years, my full-time schedule was seven days on, followed by seven days off,” Rooker said. “Training during my week off allowed me to increase mileage and intensity, while also affording me time to rest and recover.”

Despite the demanding schedule, Rooker persevered. She maintained a routine of waking up at dawn for runs before her shifts, which continued until December when she transitioned to part-time status that enabled a more balanced lifestyle.

Her dedication has paid off. Rooker participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February and had a remarkable finish at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, placing 11th overall and fourth among American runners.

From September 2021 to February 2024, Rooker was part of Nike Project Dreamweaver—a community of 120 female runners vying to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Nike supported them through training shoes, nutrition education, mental health resources and enriching experiences at their headquarters.

In January, Rooker signed a professional contract with Nike.

“My passion for running was ignited after college,” Rooker said. “As a former college gymnast, I felt a bit lost without a sport or competitive outlet after graduation. I joined the Mill City Running Race Team in 2019 and found a wonderful community of runners. As my speed improved, I continued to set bigger goals and focus on the horizon.”

Preventing Burnout

A supportive work environment proved instrumental in preventing burnout for Rooker, who credits colleagues for fostering a collaborative and encouraging atmosphere.

“I work with an incredible group of advanced practice providers and physicians,” Rooker said. “Our lead has been incredibly supportive of my running career and has done everything she can to help me find success as a health care provider and athlete.”

Drawing parallels between athletics and health care, Rooker emphasizes the resilience cultivated in both fields. When faced with obstacles in providing the best possible care to patients, she leans on lessons learned from sports – staying focused and determined.

“I find that all athletes are very resilient,” she said. “Sport teaches many lessons that are applicable to health care, including trying your best and learning from your toughest days.”

Gabriella Rooker, MPAS, PA-C, is an Internal Medicine Hospitalist PA at M Health Fairview in Minneapolis, Minn.