For physician assistant Kristina Sandstedt, the words of the late great American psychologist Abraham Maslow pretty much sum up her philosophy on life: “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.”
Kristina’s walk throughout her medical career and her life in general has been paved with a series of stepping stones—some laid out neatly before her and others requiring longer strides or leaps of faith. Yet even when faced with fears and obstacles, she has remained living proof of Maslow’s sentiment, walking tenaciously into new experiences and great unknowns.
“I like to constantly challenge myself,” she says with a smile. “I want to continue moving, aspiring, and growing throughout my whole life.”
Kristina’s determined nature is also fueled by a consistent desire to serve others. “I’ve always been drawn to help people,” she explains when asked about her motivations for pursuing medicine. “My dad had a lot of medical issues when I was growing up, and I remember his various doctor appointments and hospital stays,” Kristina shares. “It didn’t frighten me. Instead, I was inspired by the idea of helping people like him get better.”
While her father’s health issues gave Kristina the initial push to embark on a medical career, her true march toward medicine really picked up speed after graduate school, when she put her initial education and training to work as a clinical exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator.
For 13 years, she found her stride working in outpatient cardiac rehab and diabetes management—until her unwavering urge to move forward and grow gave Kristina the courage she needed to take the next step in her journey.
“I wanted to take the foundation I had and build on it,” she says. “I was ready to go to that next level of patient care, so that’s when I decided to go to PA school in my late thirties.” Kristina continues, “I’ll admit, being an older student going back to school was frightening. But I feel like it was just another stepping stone to get me to where I was ultimately meant to be.”
Now, settled in her practice at AFM, Kristina takes a proactive approach with patients of all ages—focusing on the mindsets and behaviors that lead to overall wellness.
“My goal is to empower my patients to take control of their health,” she emphasizes. “But I try to convey that you don’t have to be sore and miserable to do that,” she laughs. “It’s all about finding the right balance for you.”
For Kristina, her healthy balance comes from family time with her husband and two children, plus daily walks in the Colorado outdoors. “I always tell my patients, never underestimate the power of a walk. It’s therapy and medicine that you can’t put in a pill.”
Kristina’s advice to patients perfectly aligns with her personal philosophy to keep walking through life. From her early draw to medicine to her current role at AFM, Kristina has seen firsthand the benefits of stepping out of the proverbial comfort zone and continually moving forward.
“Change can be scary,” she admits, “but taking steps toward what inspires you is what truly allows you to grow.”