Meet Alyson Zoratti, our featured “Empowered Woman”. Aly is a role model and inspiration to women in all walks of life. She is the down to earth, genuine, hardworking soul that exudes positivity and strength in every encounter. Learn more about Aly's journey into what led her to become a successful Physician Assistant in cardiac surgery while balancing life, love, and family. Aly and her husband Paul are expecting their first child this fall!
Aly is wearing our Spring Floral Kimono
Tell me a little about how you got to where you are today in your career/personal life.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from SUNY Geneseo, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with it. The first year after graduating was rough because I was poor with zero income, living back at home with my parents and no clue what I wanted to do with my life. During this confusing year, I injured my wrist and had to see an Orthopedic doctor. While waiting to see the doctor, this young female walked in the room wearing a long white coat. I was completely impressed by how much knowledge and compassion she had at such a young age. I glimpsed at the name on her coat and after it, it had PA-C written. So I asked her what that meant, and she explained she was a Physician Assistant. This immediately sparked my interest and I asked if I could come back to shadow her. I shadowed her for the rest of that week and started applying to PA schools a week later.
I decided to attend PA school locally at D'Youville College so that I could continue to bartend on the weekends and save money. Physician Assistant school was a challenge but I studied daily to keep up. My favorite class was gross anatomy and this is when I fell in love with the heart!! The heart is the one organ that keeps all other organs in our body alive. I was intrigued by how strong it was, how hard it worked and how it never stopped moving. During gross anatomy I stayed extra hours just to dissect the heart and all its chambers (I know I know, NERD ALERT!!!). When I approached the last year of the PA program and completed all required rotations, I was allowed to choose 2 rotations that I was interested in. I of course chose cardiac surgery, but my program told me it's nearly impossible to get a rotation in that field. Luckily, my Aunt Mary knew a Nurse Practitioner that worked in cardiac surgery and I found my window!! My very first day on the rotation I watched an open heart surgery. The first time I saw the beating heart I almost wanted to cry I was so happy (Nerd Alert again!). I worked so hard during this rotation that I was offered a solid job at the end and never looked back. I have since been a cardiac surgery PA for 8 years and counting!
Who has been your biggest supporter and how?
Throughout PA school I would definitely have to say my mom. She is the one who forced me to write essay after essay every weekend for scholarships to help fund my education while all my friends were going out and having fun. Graduate school had several tough moments and the first person I would call would be my mom. She always listened to me vent and always offered fantastic advice. She would do anything in her power to make my day better, even if it was just coming over to help clean my apartment or to bring me groceries.
When I started my career, I found it hard to date and find a man who understood and respected my career choice. My career involves late nights, 3 am emergencies, not being able to drink or go out while I'm on call on weekends, being overly emotional because one of my patients died, and a physical/emotional stress that doesn't seem to end no matter how experienced I am. When I started dating my now husband, Paul, he was the first man to ever ask how my day was and would truly listen. He was the first man to stay in with me on a weekend to watch movies because I was on call for emergencies. He was the first man to wake up with me for a 3 am emergency to start my car and make me a coffee. He was the first man to watch me sob over a patient I lost, rub my tired feet and have dinner ready for me when I got home after a 15 hour work day. Since Paul has been in my life, he is now my biggest supporter in every way imaginable. I am so happy that I didn't settle until I found the right one!!
Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
Earlier in life my biggest inspiration was my father. I grew up in a "tough love" household where my father instituted life lessons I still follow today. He taught me that nothing is handed to you in life, and if you want something you have to work hard for it. He taught me how to be an independent female and to never settle for anything less than I deserve. He lastly taught me how to never get into financial debt and to only buy what you can afford. Because of him I got on the right successful track financially, independently and educationally!
Now that I'm well into my career, my patients and boss both inspire me to be the best healthcare provider possible. When I meet a patient for the first time under dire circumstances, I have to tell the patient's family members to prepare for a grim outlook. This is by far the most emotional and hardest part of my job and something I will never get used to. When that same patient makes it through surgery, walks into my office to give me a hug and thank me for saving their life, there is no better feeling in the world. Having the job satisfaction of saving lives is enough to keep me going with such a challenging career. My boss, Dr. Grosner, has also inspired me since becoming his PA 6 years ago. He had confidence in me and trusted me from the beginning, even while I was still learning the crucial steps of surgery. Watching how calm he is during emergencies encourages the entire operating room to remain calm and stay focused. He is by far the hardest worker I've ever witnessed and will literally sit at a patient's bedside into the wee hours of the night until they are stable. He works close to 100 hours a week and never complains. His daily attitude towards our field continues to motivate me to be the best health care professional possible.
What does being empowered mean to you?
Being empowered means having the control to create your life the way you've always envisioned it. The road to accomplish your life dreams may be long and challenging, but staying focused and positive will give you everything you've hoped for.
What is one message you would like to give to other women?
Don't ever let someone tell you that you can't accomplish something. I've been told by many people that I can't do several things in my life, right up until recently (as in 2 weeks ago). It's funny how these instances will just make you stronger, because it will encourage you to succeed and prove them wrong!
Also, always be kind and respectful to everyone you come across, especially in your career. It's a small world and you never know when you will run into someone from your past again, and possibly even need their help getting a job.
Do you have a quote that has stuck with you throughout your journey?
Be happy with what you have instead of unhappy with what you don't have. There were times in my life when I was financially unstable, didn't own a car like all my friends, didn't have the job I wanted, didn't have wealthy parents who paid for everything, didn't have my own apartment and lived with my parents, didn't have the relationship I wanted, and the list goes on. I never got down on myself during these times because as soon as I stopped comparing myself to others and started to appreciate what I did have, I became much happier in life. I also kept reminding myself that if I continue to work hard, I will get everything I want out of life.
Do you have a favorite self-development/inspirational book and how has it influenced you?
I usually read boring medical books and articles! Recently I did read "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi, which is true story about a young surgeon that is diagnosed with terminal cancer and thereby becomes the patient. It personally inspired me as a PA because it spoke a lot about how important the doctor-patient relationship is during times of death and dying. It also put into perspective what is really important in life when you are given a short time to live, highlighting the importance of a strong family support system.
How do you view style and fashion in your daily life?
To be honest I live in scrubs because of my career but my fashion does change as I get older. I now want to look more professional and polished but with lots of color. You will rarely see me wearing black. I do love to dress up for weddings/events etc and try to pick out the most unique dresses without being too weird! Now that I'm pregnant for the first time though, its all about comfort!