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The Professor Is In: Ellen Mandel

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College of Health Professions Clinical Professor Ellen Mandel has had quite a marvelous journey through the medical field. But did you know she was a thespian in high school, or that she had dreams of being a rock ‘n’ roll singer? Find out what drives this professor and why health and the human body will always have a special place in her heart.

Ellen Mandel, DMH, MPA, MS, PA-C, has worn many hats in the medical field as a physician assistant, registered dietician and nutritionist, hospital administrator, clinical physician assistant, medical humanist, and currently as a clinical professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in Pace’s College of Health Professions. For Mandel, the opportunity to make a contribution to peoples’ health is extraordinary, and she teaches and trains her students to make their own positive impacts in the lives of others as physician assistants. But did you know Mandel has a passion for French language, or that she backpacked through 12 countries, or that she had ambitions of being a rock ‘n’ roll singer? Learn more about Mandel’s marvelous journey through the medical field and more in this edition of "The Professor Is In."

What was one thing or person that made you passionate about your current career?

Although not a direct effect, my initial undergraduate nutrition coursework ignited my love of the human body. My studies in chemistry, biology, food science, and advanced nutrition topics laid the foundation for critical thinking and inquiry. When I was in high school, I was not in any of the advanced science or math courses, and my confidence in these areas, now referred to as STEM, was low. I had gravitated to literature and French language coursework, and felt I would surely pursue a humanities career. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my aptitude for the sciences when I enrolled in a core requirement for a science-related course. “Introduction to Nutrition” happened to fit my heavy work and commuter schedule. Well, I aced the class and eagerly secured an appointment with my college adviser to change majors. I shuddered when she informed me of the number of science courses required to become a registered dietitian. This led to finding my true mentor in Dr. Nancy Paisley. She was my chemistry professor for all 16 credits, and she made me realize my potential as I overcame my fear of the Periodic Table and then some! Becoming a physician assistant (PA), and teaching PA students, is a natural progression from this female science mentor. I owe her a debt of gratitude.

What quality do you most value in your students?

Inquiry: the desire and ability to critically assess a gap in personal knowledge and logically fill the gap. Gap filling takes many forms including looking up the answer, re-visiting any core or foundational weaknesses, and posing questions in the classroom for the benefit of one’s peers. A career in medicine requires a passion for inquiry, aka lifelong learning. 

What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college/graduate school?

Students are in a unique position to learn and make mistakes. A small ego and tolerance for constructive criticism are key. Also, avoid being so sure of one’s knowledge that there is a failure to listen to others.

If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you choose? What profession would you not choose?

So, here is where magical thinking comes in. My initial love of the French language was setting the stage to pursue a career as a translator. My lofty thoughts had me in the United Nations or working in the Foreign Service. I also wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll singer. 

I walked away from a potential career in business after observing too many ethics violationsnot my cup of tea.

What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?

If I take this question literally, then my favorite word is “yes.” Least favorite is “scared.”

What is your guilty pleasure TV show or mobile app?

I am not a big TV watcher, but I loved House of Cards on Netflix. I don’t play any mobile app games.

What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?

I encountered my favorite class while completing my Doctorate in Medical Humanities at Drew University. It was with Dr. William Campbell on the history of medicine. I recall that I had to do an oral presentation on Paracelsus, born Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. A man of great humility, Dr. Campbell likely did not imagine that he would win a Nobel Prize in 2016. He was an amazing professor.

If you were a Pace student, what class would you like to take with another Pace professor?

Nothing specific comes to mind. I would like to take some theater arts classes. I was a thespian in high school and had a varsity letter for my theater activities. This contributed to my rock ‘n’ roll aspirations.

What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?


What is your favorite professional or personal journey/experience?

When I was 19, it was all the rage to backpack through Europe. So in the summer of 1976, I quit my job, bought a Eurail Pass, Youth Hostel card, a roundtrip ticket from New York to London, a Europe tour book, a backpack, some rolls of color film for my Kodak camera, and traveled through 12 countries. It laid the foundation for my love of travel, minimized my fears of change, and frankly, it changed my life.

What is your favorite saying/words to live by?

The universe is always talking to us, we only have to listen.

If you could have any five people living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?

Moses, he had a really demanding life; Genghis Khan, a real history-maker; Rosalind Franklin, she was a brilliant scientist; the little boy in the photo found here. There is controversy surrounding his identity. Regardless, since my first exposure to this photo as a child myself, he has haunted me. My maternal grandmother. I am named for her. She is a mystery to me.

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