Paving a Path Towards Medical School
Chatham University Pre-Med Advising Program
Chatham’s Pre-Med Advising Program might just be the unsung hero of the Buhl Science Complex. This past August, two recent Chatham graduates started at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine with full-ride scholarships, a rare opportunity to attend medical school fully funded.
This story was originally published on Pulse@ChathamU, Chatham's hub for the latest news, stories and community profiles.
Chatham’s pre-med advising program might just be the unsung hero of the Buhl Science Complex. This past August, two recent Chatham graduates started at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine with full-ride scholarships, a rare opportunity to attend medical school fully funded. Other recent grads are attending Boston University School of Medicine, Ohio University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and a handful of others. Not to mention, 12 current undergraduate students are participating in Chatham’s partnership with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), a program that guarantees LECOM admission from day one at Chatham.
What is contributing to such strong medical school success rates? A carefully curated pre-med advising program led by Dr. Pierette Appasamy, Associate Professor of Biology, that guides students through every step of the med school application process, from extracurricular guidance to interview prep: “Some students start [the program] during their first year and some don’t come to me until they’re close to the time that they’re going to apply,” says Dr. Appasamy of student participation. The pre-med advising program welcomes students pursuing medical, dental, veterinary, optometry, pharmacy, and podiatry schools and keeps students on track with a year-by-year checklist to help ensure medical school preparedness.
We offer students the ability to sit down and talk to figure out if they’re taking the right classes to meet the prerequisites for medical school. We look at whether the student is doing important extracurriculars, like shadowing physicians, volunteering, working in a healthcare field, and so on.
—Dr. Pierette Appasamy
Dr. Appsamy also offers sessions on crafting the personal statement, help revising personal statements, and advice on ways to approach studying for the MCAT. In previous years, the pre-med advising program has brought in guest speakers and admissions officers from a wide array of medical schools. In order to adapt to the COVID-19 climate, Dr. Appasamy is choosing to instead develop a pre-med Brightspace page where students can find important information about medical schools, the application process, and relevant healthcare topics and terminology.
One of the major recommendations Dr. Appasamy makes to her aspiring medical students is to start building their research portfolio early on, a choice that increases the amount of research experience students have on their resume and the chance that a student can be listed as a co-author on a publication. As far as the science they focus on: “I don’t think it matters as long as they’re doing research. The important thing is using the scientific method and becoming experts in certain techniques,” she advises.
When I went to medical schools to interview, interviewers often said that mine were the most impressive letters of recommendation that they’d ever read because my professors knew me personally. I don’t think that would be possible without relationships like the ones I’ve gotten at Chatham.
—Maggie McGovney '17, current medical student
The pre-med advising program also provides students with the opportunity to participate in the Health Professions Advising Committee’s interview process, where Dr. Appasamy and a group of hand-selected Chatham faculty, staff, and medical professionals lead students through a mock medical school interview. Students receive real-time feedback on what they’re doing well and what they should work on, allowing them to tailor their actual medical school interviews accordingly. The committee features Professor of Psychology, Dr. Tony Goreczny, Physician Assistant Studies Program Director, Judy Truscott, Associate Director of Career Development Internships and Employer Relations, Lesli Talley, and retired surgeon, Dr. Bill Goldfarb. “Most students feel that it is really helpful in preparing for their interviews and application material,” says Dr. Appasamy, who also notes that plenty of students still receive pre-med advising guidance without going through that process.
For those who are ready to get their medical school journey started as soon as possible, Chatham’s partnership with LECOM allows high school and first year undergraduate students to receive early acceptance to LECOM. High school students can apply to both Chatham and LECOM to participate in a three (Chatham) + four (LECOM) program or current first year students can apply to participate in a four (Chatham) + four (LECOM) program. The program helps students save time and money in their medical school journey.
And Dr. Appasamy’s advice for those who are on the fence about it? “I think the best advice is for a student to shadow or get experience with a hospital or healthcare program. I’ve had students working in places that give free healthcare to underserved people. [I recommend] getting that experience and making sure that’s really what you want to do.”
Chatham University's pre-med advising program offers a supportive environment and expert advice for students preparing to go to medical-related graduate schools.