Laurel Ridge associate of science graduate Meredith Dhillon (’12) has transformed herself from a 16-year-old girl living on her own, to a physician assistant specializing in mental health.
Dhillon was one of just 40 applicants out of 3,000 to get into her master’s degree program, so it’s hard to believe she was hesitant to take that first step of enrolling at Lord Fairfax. She only did so at the insistence of her husband, Neil.
And, she is sure glad she did.
Dhillon is a graduate of the Anne Arundel Community College/University of Maryland Baltimore collaborative physician assistant program, and now works as a psychiatric physician assistant in Virginia Beach.
“Attending Laurel Ridge was the best experience ever,” Dhillon said. “The professors care about learning, they care about teaching.”
Getting to where she is today wasn’t easy. Dhillon left home in Kansas City, Mo., at 16, was emanicpated and joined the U.S. Navy, where she would serve in the first Gulf War and obtain her high school diploma through correspondence courses.
After four years in the Navy, Dhillon returned to Kansas City where she worked in a battery factory. In 2002 she headed to the East Coast where she had a great aunt.
She met her husband, a pharmacist, and worked as an account manager for a payment transaction firm.
“Neil had been telling me forever to “go to college, you’re intelligent, you’re capable,’” Dhillon said. “I really didn’t believe in myself – college was for other people, not for me. I didn’t think I was smart enough.
“My husband actually dragged me in here to look at classes – which were starting the next day!”
Before she knew what had happened, Dhillon’s husband had registered and paid for her biology class at Laurel Ridge. Still, she hesitated.
“I was terrified, I didn’t know if I was going to be smart enough or good enough, but the professors were always helpful,” she said. “After a couple semesters, I felt like I was on top of my game here.”
As she was completing her bachelor’s degree in biology, Dhillon’s university advisor discouraged her from applying for graduate school, saying her community college beginnings would hold her back. She proved the advisor wrong by being accepted into the extremely competitive PA program.
Now she recommends Laurel Ridge to “everybody.”
“I feel like if I didn’t have that foundation, I wouldn’t be as successful as a student in grad school,” Dhillon said. “I feel like I owe it to Laurel Ridge.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.