Gannon University Pre-Health Students Rise To The Challenge By Helping One Another

Posted: August 23, 2017

Students looking for a career in the health-related fields have a lot on their plate: a rigorous course load in the classroom and often at clinical placements. Yet to be competitive for admission to medical school and other health professional programs, pre-professional students also need a full slate of extracurricular activities.

Keeping these multiple demands in balance was the inspiration behind a new club for pre-professional students at Gannon University. Founded in February, Gannon's Pre-Health Club was formed to unify undergraduate pre-health students and provide a means of support and communication for students striving toward the common goal of attending health professional school.

At the fledgling club's bimonthly meetings, students share experiences and tips on test preparation, applying to graduate schools and other topics. The club has attracted around 30 members in its brief existence.

"The challenge is time," said Karla Mashburn, director of Gannon's pre-health advising program. "In addition to academic work and clinical experiences, many students spend time building their soft skillset through a variety of extracurricular activities. For example, professional schools like to see evidence of leadership, but for students in demanding fields of study, to stay with a campus organization or project long enough to become a leader can be hard to do."

Kaitlyn Unger, a senior pre-med/biology major from Erie, was well aware of the challenges and decided to do something to help her fellow students.

"After the winter break in January I went into Karla's office to talk about applying to medical schools and planning for my semester. I asked her if there was an organization for students because I knew I wasn't the only one in this boat," Unger said.

Mashburn told Unger that there was no such organization and urged her to "take the reins" and form one.

"By the time we got going in late March, it was kind of late in the semester, but we set aside two hours a week on a weekday for study groups. After our meetings were over, we stayed behind to talk among ourselves and do a little venting because applying for professional school is a stressful project."

Unger hopes to expand the scope of the Pre-Health Club for the 2017-18 Academic Year, including a mentorship program for first-year students. "We'd like juniors to do this to help younger students with scheduling, class choice, study skills and the like. We're hoping to set up shadowing experiences at hospitals and we'd like to do half-shadowing, half-service-learning experiences, too."

As Unger gets set to take the Medical College Admission Test and burnish her resume for applying to medical schools, she's confident that the Pre-Health Club can make a difference. "It helps to know that there are other students that are going through this who you can lean on. Growing together and coming together with your professors to help reach your goal is more beneficial than going it alone."