Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
When Sarah Bacon, associate professor of biological sciences, and David Gardner, assistant director for prehealth and science graduate school advising, greet new students at the prehealth orientation session, their message usually comes as a surprise. "What we emphasize is that you can major in absolutely anything and still go to medical school or other health-related graduate programs. Yes, there are certain requirements that have to be fulfilled, but there's no single course to chart. You can major in environmental studies or music or politics--you can pursue your talents and interests. In fact, doing that can make you a more competitive candidate. What's most important is showing a capacity for excellence and exploring what it is you want to do," explained Bacon, who graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1987.
During the session, Bacon and Gardner give examples of Mount Holyoke students who are planning for health-related careers. They're looking to become dentists, doctors, genetic counselors, naturopaths, nurse midwives, optometrists, pharmacists, physical therapists, public health officials, and veterinarians--and the list goes on.
The duo also regard the orientation as a valuable opportunity to put a face on Mount Holyoke's support system for students interested in the health professions. The two are central to the activities of the Committee on the Health Professions--Bacon is the committee's chair--which advises students pursuing health-related careers. The committee, with includes faculty members from the sciences and other disciplines, represents a dynamic collaboration between Mount Holyoke's academic departments and its Career Development Center.
"The CDC is a partner in the process of helping students through the four-year planning process. We address everything from examining a student's reasons for wanting to go into a particular career path to assisting with the mechanics of gaining admission to a particular professional school," said Gardner, who works with prehealth students throughout their four years at Mount Holyoke. In addition, when students complete their sophomore year, they are assigned prehealth advisers from the Committee on the Health Professions. The CDC also regularly sponsors events that connect students with alumnae and other professionals working in a range of health fields. In February, a panel of female physicians spoke to students about their experiences getting into--and through--medical school and how they balance their careers with their personal lives. In March, a group of alumnae was on campus for a panel covering a wide range of careers in both clinical and research medicine.
"The CDC is also a resource for placing students in summer clinical internships at renowned facilities, such as the Albert Einstein Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Along with linking students to research opportunities on campus, the CDC also helps students access other laboratory research programs, such as Yale University's competitive summer undergraduate research fellowships. Both clinical and research experience are extremely important to medical admissions committees," said Gardner.
Melanie Hnot '06 of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, who has been accepted to veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania, knows firsthand that Mount Holyoke's prehealth resources help students discover and open doors to possibilities. "The members of the Committee on the Health Professions and the CDC helped me immensely by checking over my application and giving me a mock interview with only a few days' notice to prepare for my UPenn interview. The questions they asked were very similar to those asked at my vet school interviews," she said. "My best advice is to take full advantage of Mount Holyoke's prehealth resources to improve your chances of getting into the graduate school of your choice."
Both Bacon and Gardner are committed to advertising those resources early and often. They also want students to know that access to the Committee on the Health Professions doesn't end with graduation. "It's actually very rare for a student to continue on to medical or other health professions programs right from college. The lion's share of applications comes from alumnae. Going out and having other experiences really strengthens an application," said Bacon. "So, we're here for both students and alumnae. We're here to help them achieve what they dream to do."