Last year, 100 percent of Hobart and William Smith graduates who applied to medical school were accepted. They went on to pursue medical, dental or veterinary degrees at many excellent schools including Tufts University, Duke University, University of Buffalo, and the University of Vermont.
“Our students stand out as well-rounded when applying to medical schools. They have community service, campus activity, shadowing, internship and work experiences and campus activities that show they are not just saying they are interested in medicine, but are doing what they can to immerse themselves in the profession as much and as early as possible,” says Jim Ryan, health professions adviser and professor of biology at HWS. Study abroad opportunities further enhance most dossiers.
Several programs and departments at HWS work with students to prepare them. Ryan is the chairperson of the Health Professions Advisory Committee and serves as academic adviser for many health professions students. He works closely with Health Professions Counselor Laura Van Niel to guide students through their career paths.
The advising program is more inclusive than at many other undergraduate institutions. It focuses strongly on both premed students and those interested in allied health fields such as nursing, physician’s assistant and physical therapy. The Salisbury Center for Career Services also monitors students’ progress through a program called Pathways and outlines steps students should take to build their experience, networks and understanding of the desired field.
“I think the combination of the advisory committee, Laura Van Niel, and the Pathways Program is a significant point of difference that has an impact for our students,” says Ryan. Van Niel regularly advises students, obtains internships, maintains dossiers and grooms students through mock interviews and offers tips for improvement.
With only three years to prepare them to apply to medical school, Ryan and Van Niel try to catch them early, track progress regularly and create as many opportunities for experience as possible. They invite students with even the slightest interest in health professions to attend a meeting with them within their first week on campus. They keep students informed of deadlines and requirements of graduate and medical schools and of presentations on campus by health professionals.
“Last semester, a pathologist’s presentation attracted a crowd,” says Van Niel. “I watched one of the students mouth a diagnosis of the case patient as the doctor described his findings and then cheer when she was right. It’s nice to see students making practical connections with their academic knowledge.”
As Ryan and the advisory committee work to develop summary letters of students’ records for application to medical school, Ryan and Van Niel also work with students interested in allied health professions to develop their application folders specific to the graduate schools of choice.
“Graduate schools often don’t require summary letters but each varies in what it does require,” says Ryan. “So students need a lot of guidance as to what courses to take or where to apply based on courses they have taken.” Changes can also occur in medical school requirements from year-to-year. This year, for example, some dental schools began requiring anatomy and physiology courses. “We spend time on all of those details from year-to-year to make sure the students’ applications are as strong as possible.”
Exceptional clinical experience such as shadow experiences at Geneva General Hospital, provide a realistic view of what a career is like from day-to-day. “We work with our contacts to get our students the type of real-world experiences that make or break an application. Medical schools in particular assume a student has good grades and has a good score on the MCAT; what the application committees look for is ‘Who do I want to interview’ and Hobart and William Smith students rise to that challenge.”
Kumara Govardhan ’06 interned in the dialysis unit at Geneva General Hospital, greeting and gathering initial patient information and assisting the staff with instrument setup. “Much of my experience placed me right next to doctors and nurses as they were performing the dialysis procedures.” says Govardhan. “I learned an invaluable amount of knowledge in terms of patient relations, human nature, the role of a doctor and medical ethics.”
Jennifer Davidson ’06 worked with a physician’s assistant in the cardiology unit.'
Kristin Ronan ’06 shadowed two nurse practitioners, one in the internal medicine department and one in pediatrics. “The internships were a valuable experience to really get to know a medical mentor one-on-one. I got the chance to ask the nurse practitioners questions regarding what they did and did not like about their professions,” says Ronan.
Courtney Betts ’07 worked in obstetrics and gynecology.
Megan Treharne ’06 is a biochemistry major who shadowed a pediatrician in private practice in the fall. Over the preceding summer, she obtained work with an oral surgeon and also interned in the pediatric emergency room at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
Jennifer Tibbens ’05 worked on a family birth center. “Through the Health Professions Office, I have been able to decide what medical career is best for me. They placed me in an internship with a gynecologist that allowed me to solidify my interest in attending medical school,” she says.