A 13-Year-Long Mentoring Relationship Continues to Thrive

Klarisse Mathis and Sondra Middleton

In 2012, Klarisse Mathis, MS, PA-C, was in an ER in New York City preparing to perform a knee aspiration on a patient who had previously been diagnosed with HIV. Then she got a needle stick.

A terrified Mathis ran out of the hospital and called her mentor, Sondra Middleton, MHS, PA-C, whose specialty is infectious disease. “In my head, I was just dead,” Mathis says. “And she coaxed me through it. [For me, she’s] that person that’s just going to take [me] down, bring [me] back to Earth, and put things in perspective.”

Mathis has had a mentoring relationship with Middleton for 13 years, since Mathis was a student in the PA program at Touro College in New York. There, Middleton—who was a part-time associate professor at the time—helped Mathis during a difficult time early in her education.

During the second semester, Mathis’ grades were slipping, so Middleton pulled her aside to see if she could help. “I just wanted her to know that she wasn’t alone and that I was available to her,” Middleton says. Mathis says now that she wasn’t studying as much as she could have been, and she remembers Middleton explaining that studying was like her job while in the PA program. Middleton also paired up Mathis with a PA student who was further along in the program to help her with studying.

“From there, it was eat, sleep, and study, and my grades skyrocketed,” Mathis says. “It took that one person to invest that time in me. It made me feel good that I knew there was someone on my side who was pushing me to be the best I could be.”

When Mathis shifted into her career, her relationship with Middleton remained strong. Mathis’ goal is to move into teaching, and Middleton works in education. “I’m going to eventually get there with our mentorship,” Mathis says.

Today, Mathis strives to emulate the amazing qualities that Middleton has exhibited as her mentor. “[Sondra] is almost brutally honest, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings or anything because she’s super fun and giggly and happy-go-lucky,” Mathis says. “She has been a great listener and teacher as well, all of which are qualities that I pass on to others.”

Middleton says she strives to be a good sounding board for Mathis as she advances in her career. “Klarisse has a very strong vision of herself and what she wants to do,” adds Middleton, who is now the associate director of the PA program and an assistant professor at Touro College. “It’s been so wonderful seeing her blossom and grow, first as a PA student and then as a colleague.”

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