Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
"Within the pre-med culture, I think there is too much of a focus on being involved in activities and taking classes that look good on a resume. While this may be important, I think it is also very important for students to really find and pursue their own passions. Schools are no longer looking for "cookie cutter" pre-meds. Make yourself stand out. Be involved with activities and classes that will not only make you more competitive, but also light you up when you describe them."
What was your major/minor at Purdue and when did you graduate?
I graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Neurobiology and Physiology and a minor in Psychology.
What was your most compelling class and why?
My most compelling class was probably BIO542 – Lab in Neurophysiology with Dr. Stephanie Gardner. In all of my neurobiology courses, I always felt like I was learning a lot of interesting material but it was very hard to get hands-on experiences in the laboratory. This laboratory module was the first time I was able to record my first membrane potential and stimulate an action potential in living tissue. It was extremely fascinating to actually see in real-time the principles and foundations of neurobiology and physiology that I had learned about for three years previously.
What drove you to pursue your current career path?
When I first started my undergraduate education, I was at a different university studying Marine Biology with aspirations to be a researcher studying coral reef degradation or marine mammals. During my first year, though, I realized that this career was not a passion of mine and was more of a hobby than anything else. As I began to examine other career options, I realized I had a love of science and biology with an extreme interest and desire to help people in need. Additionally, I had previous jobs working as a first responder. All of these experiences propelled me into my career as a physician. I am still very early in my medical education, but as of right now, my plan is to work as an academic emergency medicine physician.
Did you pursue internships/co-ops, research experiences, volunteer, or join student organizations while you attended Purdue?
I really enjoyed my involvement with research, educational opportunities, and student organizations at Purdue University. I had two research experiences at Purdue. My first and longest was my research in the lab of Dr. Nancy Pelaez where I studied smooth muscle contraction in porcine pulmonary arteries. The second was during the Summer Research Program funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. With this program I worked in the lab of Dr. Ed Bartlett studying the use of local field potentials in examining age-related hearing loss in the auditory brain stem. When applying for medical schools, research is not necessarily a required component to an undergraduate curriculum. However, performing undergraduate research is highly regarded for most medical schools. Most admissions committees look upon the skills that one develops with research, including critical thinking skills and a lot of the laboratory tasks, very favorably.
I am extremely interested in education and worked as a tutor for the core biology courses and select upper level biology courses in the Biology Resource Center for two years. Additionally, I was a teaching intern for many biology courses including BIO 115, 131, 135 (CASPiE version), and 328.
The main leadership positions I held in student organizations at Purdue included Boiler Gold Rush Supervisor and Team Leader and College of Science Ambassadors Executive Board Member. I was also involved with the Stadium Rescue Squad, Biology Club, Caduceus Club, and Dance Marathon. All medical schools require some involvement with extracurricular activities; even more, though, they really look at the leadership roles students take in those activities. By being heavily involved with a few organizations, I was able to demonstrate my leadership potential and skills that some other applicants might not have.
Was there one person at Purdue who shifted the course of your career?
I wouldn’t say there was one person who shifted the course of my career, but there are certainly faculty members who really helped me achieve and supported my career choice. Drs. Nancy Pelaez and Stephanie Gardner really had strong hands in supporting me, not only educationally, but also in my roles in research and education. They were instrumental in helping me develop a robust interest in biology, specifically physiology, and I'm certain were instrumental in my eventual matriculation into medical school.
What were you most afraid of when you were about to graduate?
The thing that I was most worried about when I was about to graduate was probably the process of matriculating into “real life.” Albeit I am still a student, but moving to a big city, learning how to use public transportation, and just acclimating to life in a different environment was what I was most nervous about. It took some time to adjust, but within a few weeks it felt so natural. One of the things I have learned that I would pass along is to be patient. It’s certainly difficult because transitions are always overwhelming, but taking time to get used to living in a different place will be worthwhile in the long run.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently performing research between my first and second year of medical school. My research is in medical education and studying the effects of developing a longitudinal curriculum for calling consultations in the emergency department. I have a hand in two separate portions of the project. The first is implementing a curriculum for fourth year medical students at Pritzker School of Medicine and measuring if the curriculum has an impact on the actual abilities of students to call consultations in simulated emergency medicine cases. The second involves implementing the same curriculum for first year Emergency Medicine residents at the University of Chicago and measuring the retention rate of the curriculum by examining consultations in real-time in the Emergency Department at the University of Chicago Mitchell Hospital.
This project is in its very early stages, but I am extremely excited to be doing research in education at such a world-renowned academic medical institution. I’m certain that the skills I developed at Purdue University will be key in the development of this project as it moves forward.
Do you still keep in contact with any of your classmates or professors?
I keep in contact with many classmates from Purdue. One of the nice things about studying at such a large, prestigious university is that many of my classmates have gone on to successfully work or study in many fields across the country. I have classmates and friends that are doing graduate work in New England, professional work in many states across the Midwest and West regions of the nation, and many individuals who are working in industry across the country. The relationships I have built while at Purdue are personally rewarding friendships, but are also in such diverse fields in science that I know I can ask for advice and professional assistance of them and vice versa.
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