Natalie E. Porcaro, a 2002 Ridgway Area High School graduate, now works as a Neurosurgery Physician Assistant at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, a facility ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country.
Porcaro went to college, both undergraduate and graduate school, at St. Francis University in Loretto. Porcaro took part in a five-year Physician Assistant Program, graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor's of Science, where she continued for a Master's of Physician Assistant Sciences.
“After the summer following my sophomore year, I went straight through for the next three years,” Porcaro said. “No summer vacations, which is why I was able to consolidate the program into five years as opposed to six.”
At the Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Porcaro is primarily a Neurosurgery Physician Assistant, but she also covers the Neurology service and less frequently the Ear, Nose and Throat/Otolaryngology service.
“The house staff covering these services consists of all mid-level providers like Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners,” said Porcaro. “We serve as the first assistants in the operating room. We are the ones who stand on one side of the table across from the surgeon and we don't hand the surgeon the instruments.”
Some daily tasks Porcaro completes as a Neurosurgery Physician Assistant is daily rounding on all inpatients, consultations throughout the hospital as well as emergent consultations in the emergency room. “We do procedures on the general floor such as lumbar punctures, intraventricular catheter placements, drain removal, and so forth,” Porcaro said. “My favorite part of my job is definitely being in the operating room.”
Now that Porcaro is away from Ridgway, she truly appreciates her hometown for all its worth.
“I think that most often people don’t realize how their home has shaped who they’ve become until they leave that place,” Porcaro said. “I’ve learned to appreciate little gestures. I find that the speed in the city is just so much more rapid than in Ridgway. It’s not that people aren’t willing to help or don’t want to make a simple act of kindness, but it’s almost as if everyone is in their own world.”
Being in a bigger city, has made Porcaro realize how strained people are for time.
“People just don’t take the time or have the time to look around,” Porcaro said. “I think Elk County is probably one of the last places on Earth where you’d still see somebody pulling over to help someone else change a flat tire on the side of the road.”
Her parents have helped her realize that people need to be treated more as a neighbor than a stranger.
“The smallest acts that my parents taught me simply as good manners are the things that touch people the most,” Porcaro said. “Ridgway has taught me to try to look at everyone as a neighbor instead of just another person in the world.”
The best part of growing up in Elk County for Porcaro was the idea of knowing everyone.
“I liked the idea that everybody knows everybody in the area,” Porcaro said. “I knew the name of every single person I stood with at my high school graduation, that’s only something that happens in these small towns.”
Perhaps Elk County didn’t prepare Porcaro exactly for the city life; it did however prepare her for something more.
“While Elk County may not have eased me into the city life exactly, or been so culturally sound – there’s something about Ridgway that gives me comfort,” Porcaro said. “The fall air smells the same as when I was in high school, and the winter snowfall somehow allows me to roll better snowballs than anywhere else. Ridgway will always be home. I didn’t realize how much I love Elk County until I moved away.
“I remember being so excited to graduate from high school and travel into the next steps of my life – college, career, moving to a new city. Now it seems as though I can’t get back to Elk County enough. There’s nothing like coming to Ridgway from the hustle in the city to find some quiet time at home.”
When she gets to make it home, her favorite thing to do is lie on the couch in her parents’ house and watch television.
“I feel like life moves so quickly when I’m in Baltimore and the pace almost halts when I come home,” Porcaro said. “Family is the most important thing to me, and I always love visiting with everyone and getting together for coffee and dinner. There isn’t a place in the world more relaxing than home, and no company I’d rather enjoy than that of my family.”
Those who remain in Elk County are her parents Edward and Patricia Porcaro, many aunts, uncles and other relatives.
“They’re all the most special people in the world to me and they’ve helped me through life more than they realize,” Porcaro said. “I attribute every success, every achievement, and every accomplishment to their love and support.”