One of my favorite responsibilities while teaching at a predominantly undergraduate institution (PUI) was mentoring and advising students. I still do it. Just this past weekend I met with two former students this weekend to map out their degree programs and discuss how to request research experience from professors and prepare for the MCAT.
If I could make a true unicorn job for myself and if a PUI wants me, we can talk….it would be to advise and mentor a Biology/Chemistry department pre-professional students. I would start advising these students their freshmen year and we would focus on the three parts necessary to get into professional school (MD/DO/DDS/PharmD, Chiropractic, PA, PT/OT, optometry, etc.) which is scholarship, clinical experience and research. There is more to it than that but those are the three areas, in my experience students have the most difficulty with.
I have no doubt if I could put together and run the following program, I could increase pre-professional student retention and acceptance into various professional programs.
This is how I would outline this program -it is basically a health professions advising course and center:
- Teach a university 101 course centered around successful study habits and exploring biomedical career options which have been proven to retain freshmen students (see what University of Pittsburgh Greensburg is up to)
- Advise all pre-professional students to ensure they are taking all required courses for the schools of their choice
- Introduce the entrance exams necessary for these programs (DAT/OAT/MCAT/GRE) and discuss best time in their academic career to take these exams and how to prepare
- Introduce undergraduate research and as part of their first-year experience and have students meet the various STEM researchers at our institution
- Introduce REUs to our students – here is the link for all biology REUs being offered this summer
- Create a shadowing/internship program with local professionals and hospitals to ensure no matter if you are a first-generation student or a student whose family in healthcare you have an opportunity to shadow, meet and intern with various professionals
- Bring graduate and professional schools to our PUI – create a professional school fair where admissions folks and professionals can answer students’ questions, have a panel discussion about careers and life/balance
- Create workshops on resume writing, application process, personal statements, debt management, scholarship options and the professional school interview process
- Bring back recent alumni who are currently enrolled in professional schools to present how they managed their undergraduate careers and what professional school is like
- Create a library of materials that students can explore online such as helpful websites like the AAMC, exam prep and recorded interviews with various professionals and professional student alumni
Obviously, all students require mentoring not just biomedical majors however at institutions such as my previous institute where 66% of our students are first generation are at a high risk for changing majors because they are not prepared early on the requirements to get into highly competitive programs.
Also, we should be monitoring these students closely to help them explore all the various STEM career programs and have a plan B in case they do not get into professional school right away or change their mind on their ultimate career goals. It breaks my heart when a pre-med student graduates with no job prospect and has no idea what they need to do to be competitive for professional school if they still want to pursue medicine.