Growing up in a police family, Jessica Brysky knew she always wanted to help people.
Her father, Greg Brysky, was a police sergeant in Cottage Grove, Minn., a small town with a population of 35,000 located 10 miles south of Saint Paul. As a lifelong Minnesotan from a small town, being immersed in a close-knit community was all she knew.
Her dad’s influence played a major role in shaping her future. With a big heart and an even bigger personality, Greg was well-known within the Cottage Grove community.
“My dad could go anywhere in the city and find someone to talk to,” Brysky recalled. “He could have a 40-minute conversation with them. He was just that person.”
During her senior year at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Brysky’s world was turned upside down when her father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer. With treatment, his doctor gave him 18 months to live.
A year later, in October 2014, Sgt. Brysky lost his battle with the disease.
“Growing up in a cop family, you’re groomed as a kid knowing that your parent could get shot any day. You always have it in the back of your mind,” she said. “I just didn’t expect that something like this would end up taking my dad.”
Brysky completed her bachelor’s in biology shortly after and knew it was time to start looking into graduate schools. She garnered an interest in Physician Assistant Studies after shadowing her family doctor, the same doctor who treated her father during his battle with cancer.
“I’ve always been a collaborative person, and that’s exactly what the PA field is,” she said. “I knew that I always wanted to help people.”
Brysky submitted applications to schools all over the country, including Bethel University in Minnesota, A.T. Still University’s PA Program in Arizona, and Pace University in New York City. Her aunt, who lives in Henderson, suggested she apply to Touro University Nevada.
“She said, ‘You know, you could go to Touro and live with me,’” Brysky recalled. “I think she was joking at first, but I applied anyway and got an interview.”
After finding out she had secured her interview, Brysky and her family went out to celebrate. During the celebration, Brysky broke her foot while dancing. The doctor labeled the break a “dancer’s fracture.”
A few weeks later, it was time for her interview. Equipped with a colossal Velcro boot on her right foot, Brysky was ready to take the next step in getting accepted. Before arriving for her interview, she had never even been to Nevada.
She laughed with her interviewers as they talked and joked about what happened to her foot, a comforting sign for Brysky that Touro was the perfect fit.
“They talked to me about who I am, and not just why I wanted to choose this field,” she said. “I could feel that sense of community in talking with them. That was very high on my list.”
After a successful interview, Brysky returned home to her job where she worked as a confirmation tech in a forensic toxicology laboratory. Upon finding out about her acceptance into Touro’s PA program, she screamed with excitement.
So far, her journey has been incredibly rewarding.
Since beginning her education at Touro, Brysky has developed a closeness with her classmates. Growing up with a lack of diversity in Minnesota, she’s grown fond of Touro’s multicultural campus, and the collection of ideas being shared inside and outside the classroom.
The friendships she’s developed have helped ease the pain she still feels from losing her father. The pain is still raw, but surrounding herself with others who also want to make a difference in the world helps to numb the hurt for a while.
“After moving across the country far away from my family, I really needed this,” Brysky said. “Everyone here is from somewhere different which is really neat. In our class alone, we have people from across the U.S. with different cultures and backgrounds, and just being able to talk to them about their journeys has been amazing.”
Brysky has also had the privilege of working on the Touro Mobile Healthcare Clinic while assisting the homeless population at Catholic Charities. Out of all the PA schools she applied to, Touro was the only one with a mobile clinic. She said it was a huge deciding factor in choosing where she wanted to go to school.
Though she’s still new to Southern Nevada, Brysky is quickly learning all of the exciting activities the community has to offer. When she’s not cramming in her studies, she can be found hiking at Red Rock, Valley of Fire and Lake Mead. She’s also taken advantage of the West Coast’s unique dining options, including late-night runs to Roberto’s and In-N-Out Burger.
When her Touro journey is finished in 2018, Brysky hopes to stay in Las Vegas and enter into oncology or pediatrics. Both fields are incredibly dear to her heart.
Her journey hasn’t always been easy. She still misses her mother in Minnesota, but takes comfort knowing that her younger brother, Joe, is still there to look out for her. Choosing Touro University Nevada as the school to help her achieve her lifelong dream has made her life easier, even if it is 2,000 miles from home.
“It’s been a whirlwind since I got here, but I’ve been very happy,” Brysky said. “If you want a program that’s going to motivate you as much as you’re going to motivate yourself, Touro is definitely it.”