Antonio Reisopoulos, ’19, ’22 MSPAS, PA-C, puts his passion for healthcare into practice every day. Whether it's packaging safe sex kits for AIDS Care Ocean State, conducting sexual health presentations for students on campus at Bryant University, or raising money for the American Heart Association, Reisopoulos built a career around helping others.
Growing up just south of Boston, Reisopoulos — who uses he/they pronouns — always wanted to go into healthcare and work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Graduating from high school in 2002, Reisopoulos went on to earn an associate’s degree, start a bachelor’s degree, and spend nearly two decades in retail and cosmetics. With the support of his husband, Reisopoulos resumed his higher-ed journey at Bryant in 2017 and completed an undergraduate Biology degree at 36 years old. He was immediately accepted into the university’s Physician Assistant Program and finished in 2022.
“I didn't think medical school was possible for me, especially at my age. With PA, I was able to get into a career that I really wanted to do in a shorter period,” says Reisopoulos.
Today, Reisopoulos works at Open Door Health, a Providence-based clinic offering primary and sexual healthcare to LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders and the community at large. Opening two weeks before the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the practice hoped to register 1,000 patients in its first year but ultimately doubled its goal.
“A lot of the work I do is gender-affirming care, so that is helping with the social or medical transition for gender diverse people,” Reisopoulos says, noting that approximately 70 to 80 percent of the organization’s patient population identifies as LGBTQ+. “I always knew this was part of LGBTQ+ healthcare, but I really fell in love with it when I did my second rotation at Open Door Health as part of the PA program’s clinical practice experience.”
One of Reisopoulos’ early memories on the job dates to a month after he was hired. Mpox — formerly known as monkeypox — was a rising national and international crisis, and Open Door Health found itself testing, diagnosing, and treating a third of Rhode Island’s cases.
“We had an amazing turnout, and I think it stressed the importance of queer-focused healthcare. A lot of providers, unfortunately, aren't super educated on some of the health concerns we have, and some people are not comfortable talking about concerns with providers who can't identify or don't pursue that knowledge on their own,” Reisopoulos says.
During his time at Bryant, Reisopoulos served as Bryant Pride’s treasurer and found himself surrounded by supportive mentors, including School of Health and Behavioral Sciences Director Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D., and Hochberg Women’s Center and Pride Center Director Kelly Boutin.
“Kirsten, I cannot sing her praise enough. Knowing what my goal was and the things that I was doing outside of school, she really helped keep me going,” Reisopoulos says, adding how another faculty member offered to hold a separate Biology II lab section for him when none fit his schedule.
Reisopoulos describes Bryant’s 27-month PA program as a marathon at a sprinting pace. He says the program prepared him for being in clinical environments and the various rotation sites he worked at and preceptors he met at Open Door and elsewhere were irreplaceable.
As the healthcare profession continues to develop, Reisopoulos believes more people will see the value of a PA career since it allows for a work-life balance and career flexibility.
“PAs bring a lot of quality care to healthcare administration and delivery,” Reisopoulos says. “I think it's achievable for people as well. Medical school seems really overwhelming and, while PA school is also overwhelming, it is more accessible.”
While he was accepted into PA school on the first try, getting into a program can be extremely difficult.
“It's an emotional process because you put a lot of your value into the application, and if you get turned down one, two, or three times, it can be demotivating. But persistence is key,” Reisopoulos says.