Denisonians in Health Professions: Social Work

Name:  Hannah Fiore Gallagher
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2016
Denison Major:  Psychology
Graduate Degree Type:  Master’s in Social Work (MSW), from the University of Pittsburgh, Class of 2020
Contact Me:  fioreh15@gmail.com


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school and career pathway: what impacted your decision?

Throughout my time at Denison, I planned to get a PhD in psychology. After graduation, I worked for two years as a project manager in a research lab at the University of Pittsburgh. I loved the work, but ultimately decided that the academic lifestyle is not for me. There are a lot more people with PhDs than there are jobs in academia, and all of the sacrifices necessary just to have a chance at a tenure-track position were not worth it to me. I don’t say this to discourage people from that career if that’s what they want! But I don’t think that future quality of life is talked about nearly enough when we consider career preparation, and it’s an important facet to consider. So, with academia off the list, I became interested in psychology-related master’s programs. I applied to social work, counseling, and marriage and family therapy programs, but I ultimately settled on social work because of its flexibility. I loved my liberal arts education at Denison, and in many ways the MSW is the liberal arts of professional degrees. Having this degree will offer me numerous career paths going forward. I can work for the government, the private sector, a non-profit, medical settings, and more. I liked that I could gain some expertise in the mental health field without being pigeonholed into one specific career path.

What challenges did you face on the way to or during graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

Social work does not have a great reputation as a profession. People associate it almost exclusively with Child Protective Services and think all social workers are miserable and burned out. Many of the stereotypes are off base or exaggerated, but a lot of people believe them. So getting past other people’s opinions about my decision to pursue an MSW was probably the biggest challenge I faced.

What has been your favorite part of your graduate school experience so far?

My favorite part so far has been gaining more experience with diagnosing mental health disorders and formulating treatment plans. I got an overview in these areas from my abnormal and clinical psychology courses at Denison, but now I’m getting an in-depth look at different treatment modalities and how to implement them. Starting this fall, I will have my own caseload of therapy clients, and I’m excited to put my classroom knowledge into practice.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I plan to work as a therapist, preferably in a doctor’s office or other medical setting.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate program like yours?

Work for a couple of years before you go to graduate school. It will give you valuable life experience, allow you to save some money and/or pay down debt, and help you focus your interests better. I think a lot of people are a little burned out by the time they graduate with their bachelor’s degree, so taking a gap year (or a few years!) can give you a much-needed break and also help you gain experiences that will make you more attractive to graduate schools.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Psychology

Name:  Christina Till
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2016
Denison Major:  Psychology
Graduate Degree Type:  M.S.Ed. in Child Psychology, and a Psy.D. in School Psychology, from Duquesne University, Class of 2020
Contact Me:  tillc@duq.edu


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school pathway: what impacted your decision?

I did not begin my undergraduate career with the intention of pursuing a graduate degree. However, a graduate school path became apparent after discovering my passion for psychology, research, and child advocacy through my coursework at Denison. By my third year, I knew that continuing my education was necessary to further my knowledge of these interests as well as combine them into a meaningful career.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

Deciding between two fields of interest (i.e. school and clinical psychology) was a particular challenge for me in the process of applying to graduate school. Completing my own research, attending graduate program interviews, and consulting with Denison faculty (thank you Dr. Weis!) were instrumental to my selection of a path that best fit my interests.

What was your favorite part of your graduate/professional school experience?

I have really enjoyed the practicum experience offered each year within my graduate program, as it has enabled me to gain an applied experience of content learned in class. A second favorite component to my graduate program is the opportunity it has given me to work with student colleagues who share a similar passion for the field and academia.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

After I receive my doctorate at the end of this academic year, I plan to obtain my state certification and licensure, and then pursue employment as a psychologist in the school setting.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

Prior to selecting a graduate program, speak with at least one or two professionals in your field of interest. This is especially helpful if you are considering multiple field or degree options. Ask them questions that are meaningful to you, such as additional information regarding their day-to-day responsibilities as well as what they like and dislike about their position. I was able to interview three school psychologists and two clinical psychologists prior to selecting a graduate program, and found their responses invaluable to my decision-making process.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Molecular & Developmental Biology

Name:  Kelsey Troyer (maiden name Elliott)
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2015
Denison Major:  Biology
Graduate Degree Type:  PhD in Molecular and Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Class of 2020
Contact Me:  kelseyhope15@gmail.com


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school and career pathway: what impacted your decision?

I was interested in programs that focused on ‘translational’ biomedical sciences, where I could work on human diseases. When going on interviews, the funding scenarios of the PI’s in the programs significantly weighed on my decision to choose a program in the end.

What challenges did you face on the way to or during graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

Finding somewhere to live when moving to a new city! It’s difficult to balance living somewhere close to work, but not too expensive. Graduate school stipends are tiny!! Finding roommates in your new graduate school class is a great way to get around this. Additionally, I found it difficult to decide which faculty I was going to rotate with since I had so many scientific interests! The best advice I got to curb that was to do extremely diverse rotations, I did one with a brand new faculty, one with a very established faculty member, and one with a mid-career faculty member, and all gave very different lab environments.

What has been your favorite part of your graduate school experience so far?

Indulging my curiosities and being able to set my own schedule. This is unfortunate a blessing and a curse, since grad students don’t get dedicated ‘Paid time off’ or ‘vacation days’, so I get to take as much or as little time off as I want, and work as many or as few hours a week as I need to. Some weeks are good, some weeks are bad. Flexibility is a fantastic thing about graduate school.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I am planning to do a post-doctoral fellowship followed by a career in Science Policy.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate program like yours?

Think about what kind of research topics you want to do, and find a place where there are an abundance of faculty you could see yourself working with. Finding a place where the current students seem happy is also important. I did at least one interview somewhere that all the students couldn’t wait to leave the program. Make sure the program boasts about their rates of students landing their top choice post-doc or industry job, and that their faculty aren’t anti-industry! Some places will be full of faculty that look down on industry, and it’s important to find opportunities to explore that since not EVERY PhD can/wants to stay in academia.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Social & Behavioral Sciences

Name:  Kinsey B. Bryant-Lees
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2013
Denison Major:  Psychology; Women’s Studies (minor)
Professional Degree Type:  M.A. in Cognitive & Social Processes, Ball State University; PhD in Organizational Psychology, Wright State University, Class of 2019
Contact Me:  kbbryantlees@gmail.com


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school pathway: what impacted your decision?

To be honest, I kind of wondered into my professional pathway by following the things that I was most interested in. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in research and that I was particularly interested in the consequences of stereotypes and implicit biases in the workplace. I began by pursuing my M.A. in cognitive and social processes. While in my program, I became much more interested in applied research which lead me down the PhD path in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

What was your favorite part of your graduate/professional school experience?

My favorite part of my graduate/professional school experience was being able to conduct research completely independently, and pursue my own passions.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I have just recently finished my PhD (July 2019) and am beginning my career as a tenure track assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University this Fall. I plan to continue this, as well as work as an independent research consultant. I don’t really feel like I’ve gotten to enjoy it yet, but when it sinks in I think that one thing I am going to enjoy most is the autonomy to develop my own classes and pursue my own research goals.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do when you graduate – just keep following what you’re passionate about and you’ll carve your own way.
  2. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks – full disclosure, I applied to 10 programs coming out of undergrad (1 masters program and 9 PhD programs). I was only accepted into the Master’s Program, which at the time was extremely discouraging and made me think that I was under-prepared for what was coming next. When I arrived, I was honestly over-prepared which allowed me to do my regular coursework, independent research, and get additional certifications simultaneously.
  3. Take advantage of everything Denison has to offer – this is something that everyone says, but I didn’t fully appreciate until after I had graduated. The education that you can get and the relationships that you can build at Denison are incredible.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Accelerated Nursing

Name:  Isabel Tumminell
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2017
Denison Majors:  Sociology & Anthropology, and French
Professional Degree Type:  Accelerated BSN, Marian University Leighton School of Nursing, Class of 2019
Contact Me:  isabeltumminello@gmail.com


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?

When choosing an institution for my next degree, I was looking for somewhere that I could combine my sociological background with the medical field. I found that in an Accelerated Bachelors in Nursing Program at an institution that approaches nursing from a human values perspective.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?

I struggled to find the right fit initially, but through a rejection to what I thought was a dream master’s program as well as reevaluating what I was looking for, I found somewhere where I could get my degree completed in 16 months. This second Bachelor’s has given me a chance to explore a field I never thought I would want as a first nursing job, and have the freedom to go back for a master’s in any field.

What was your favorite part of your graduate/professional school experience?

My favorite part of my ABSN program has been getting to meet people from all different professional backgrounds who are passionate about education and have made the choice to return for a second degree. My classmates range from police detectives to spa owners, and everything in between.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I have just accepted a position as an emergency department nurse in a level 1 trauma center.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

I would urge them to go into their next degree with an open mind about what they expect to get out of it. I went in with a rigid idea of what I would do after this degree, but along the way I have changed my mind and realized there is no limit to the possibilities that accompany a nursing degree.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Occupational Therapy

Name:  Melanie Blank
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2016
Denison Major:  Psychology (Neuroscience Concentration)
Professional Degree Type:  Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), Mary Baldwin University Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, Class of 2021
Contact Me:  blankme0617@marybaldwin.edu


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?

When I graduated from Denison, I thought that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. I interviewed at several programs and decided that I was not quite ready to go to graduate school, so I applied for Research Assistant positions and I got a job working in a Behavioral Neuroscience lab at the University of Pittsburgh as a Lab Technician. I worked in this lab for two years, and while I really loved my job, I also determined that I did not want a career that was exclusively dedicated to research. It was then that I started to explore other options. My sister suggested that I look into Occupational Therapy. She thought that OT might be of interest to me given my psychology/neuroscience background. After doing a little bit of background research, I shadowed several local occupational therapists and decided that OT was for me. I loved being able to see the positive impact that occupational therapists could have on their patients in such a short period of time. I came to realize that pursuing a doctorate in Occupational Therapy would allow me to have the best of both worlds. It would allow me to connect with people on a very personal level and provide me with the opportunity to continue my involvement in research.

What challenges did you face on the way to professional school, and how did you overcome them?

I think that my first major hurdle was figuring out exactly what I wanted to do. I had so many areas of interest, and it was difficult to pick one career path. I spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of PA programs, OT programs, Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs, and Neuroscience Ph.D. programs. At times this process was very overwhelming; however, listening to input from family, friends, and colleagues helped me to narrow my interests and led me to my current career. Later, once I figured out what I wanted to do, I struggled with managing the application process. I had to take prerequisite classes, craft my resume, fill out applications, and write personal statements, all while working full time. Juggling all of those things was difficult, but I learned to take time for myself and to take everything one day at a time.

What has been your favorite part of your professional school experience so far?

I think that my favorite part of my graduate school experience has been having the opportunity to participate in fieldwork experiences. In occupational therapy school, students are required to participate in a certain number of fieldwork experiences. During these experiences, students are assigned to work with an occupational therapists in the community in a variety of different settings. These settings can include outpatient clinics, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, schools, psychiatric units, and many others. I value fieldwork because I love connecting with clients in the community and I think that I learn so much more by working with clients than I do in a traditional classroom setting. I am very excited for more fieldwork experiences in the coming years!

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

At this point, I am still unsure of my plans post-graduation. I would love to work in neuro rehabilitation. I also love working with the geriatric population. Something that I love about Occupational Therapy is that OTs can work in so many different settings with so many different client/patient populations. We are trained as generalists, so once we are licensed we can work in any setting we choose. I like having options, and I look forward to exploring a multitude of settings during my next few years of graduate school.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

If you are unsure about what you want to do, there is no shame in taking a gap year or two. I think that taking two gap years was the best decision that I ever made. During these two years, I learned so much about myself and I had the opportunity to discover my passion for occupational therapy. Additionally, when considering any kind of graduate program, it is important to do your research. Make use of all of the resources that you have available to you. Talk to professors, friends, and family. Reach out to programs that interest you. Reach out to alumni. Ask questions. When I was considering graduate school, I reached out to people who were practicing occupational therapists and to people in PA school and Ph.D. programs (some of whom were Denison alumni). I thought that it was extremely helpful to talk to people who could offer a clearer picture of what graduate school is like. Talking with these people prepared me for the challenges I have faced during my time in graduate school. Never be afraid to contact Denison alumni. You can read pamphlets and webpages about graduate programs and jobs in the healthcare field, but nothing compares to talking with somebody about his or her lived experience. Odds are, anybody you talk to will be more than happy to share their story and offer advice. Above all, it is important to be passionate about your future career path; otherwise you will not enjoy your graduate school journey. Before you apply to graduate programs, take the time to discover what your interests are. I promise you will not regret it.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Mental Health Counseling & Behavioral Medicine

Name:  Emily Grabauskas
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2018
Denison Major:  Psychology, Religion (minor)
Graduate/Professional Degree Type:  Master of Arts (MA) in Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Class of 2020
Contact Me:  egrab@bu.edu


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?

I looked into both Mental Health Counseling and Social Work degrees to decide what best fit my goals. I talked with people in the field and then chose some schools to apply to! I ultimately chose BU because it is a counseling program that also provides its students with classes such as Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience counseling courses, which was incredibly appealing to me.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?

I was very nervous about moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone, but I decided to live with another Denison Grad and I joined the alumni chapter of Theta, so I still had a little bit of Denison with me while still starting fresh in a new city. In regards to coursework, I felt very prepared by Denison for what was ahead of me in graduate school.

What has been your favorite part of your graduate school experience so far?

My favorite part is the clinical experience I am allowed. I am currently an intern at a Substance Use Detox and Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program. The opportunity to actually engage in the work you will be doing while also attending school is wonderful.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I plan on working in the field of addictions counseling moving forward!

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

Choose a path you are passionate about. It makes all the difficulties like moving and making new friends so worth it!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Osteopathic Medicine

Name:  Courtney Testani
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2015
Denison Major:  Biology, Spanish (minor)
Professional Degree Type:  pursuing a Doctor of Osteopathic (DO) degree from Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2022
Contact Me:  cjtestani@gmail.com


Describe the process you went through while selecting your professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?

I always knew I was interested in pursuing some sort of scientific career, but I was never 100% sure if I wanted to pursue medicine. Quite frankly I kept trying to look at what other options were out there because I knew how much of a commitment medical school would be. When I attended a job interview in a different field however, I knew I wasn’t in the right place. I instantly realized that medicine was the field I wanted to be in.

What challenges did you face on the way to medical school, and how did you overcome them?

Because I didn’t make my decision to apply to medical school until second semester senior year, I had a bit of catching up to do. I moved back home and took all the courses I still needed to meet the prerequisite requirements for most medical schools. Once these were completed I took the MCAT. In total I took 3 years off in between graduating from Denison and starting at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine. During that time (in addition to what I’ve already listed above) I also gained invaluable experience working as a medical technician and surgical assistant for a retina specialist. It was a very grueling road to get into medical school and I often questioned why I was doing it. It absorbed all of my time and a lot of my finances, and I often felt like I needed more guidance from someone who knew how this process worked. The thing that helped me the most during this time was contacting anyone I could possibly think of who was in medical school and had recently gone through this same process. People in the medical field know how hard it can be, and pretty much all of them will want to help you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, even if it’s a strange connection like a friend of a friend. I promise you they will be happy to answer your questions. All you have to do is shoot them an email or ask them if they have time for a 15 minute phone call. It will help guide you in the right direction during the application process, and reassure you that you’re doing the right thing. If this is truly the path you want to take, the hard work will 100% pay off.

What has been your favorite part of your medical school experience so far?

I just completed my first year of medical school and my favorite part so far has been the incredible professors and mentors that I’ve met. We have an incredible faculty of physicians and it has been such an inspiration to hear their experiences in the field.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

When I graduate my hope is to get a residency in Orthopedic Surgery, or a residency in Internal Medicine and then a fellowship in Sports Medicine.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask for help! Medicine is an incredible field but you need to be prepared. Know what programs require of prospective applicants and make sure you have your ducks in a row before you begin to pursue your applications. It is a very competitive field and you want to make yourself as desirable of an applicant as possible the first time around. With that being said, do NOT be discouraged if you don’t get accepted anywhere the first time you apply. This is becoming more and more common, and it happened to me too. It is certainly frustrating, but if you know this is what you want to do, just ask yourself what you could do to make yourself look better for the next round, and apply again. My second round of applications to medical school were much more successful than my first and now I’m already a quarter of the way done!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Physical Therapy

Name:  Thomas (Tommy) DiFilippo
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2015
Denison Major:  Physical Education/Athletic Training
Graduate Degree Type:  pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Degree, from Nazareth College, Class of 2018
Contact Me:  tdifilippo5@gmail.com


Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school pathway: what impacted your decision?

In reality, the first part of the decision is based on admission. Don’t down play this, it is hard to get accepted into these graduate programs. After that, I reached out to professionals in the area to get a sense of the reputation of the program, cost of private vs. public etc. as well as extras or perks that set the school apart.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge is the academic rigor and time commitment. It can be more challenging than undergrad to work, balance a social life, etc. I found it crucial to do other things with my life to “escape” physical therapy for a little because in graduate school it can be all you think or do.

What was your favorite part of your graduate school experience?

My favorite part was networking and working with people all interested in the same field. This is the point where you truly choose what exact route you want to go and you take classes and meet professionals with the same interests.

What have you enjoyed most about your work post-graduation?

Putting 7 years of education into practice and having patients trust you immediately made it very rewarding.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

Do your research. Shadow, talk to people in multiple jobs, think hard about career goals. These programs are very time consuming and very expensive. Make sure you want to be that type of professional and then commit 100%.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Physical Therapy

Name:  Alexandria Nickles
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2017
Denison Major:  Biology
Professional School:  pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy from High Point University, Class of 2020
Contact Me:  alexandria.nickles1@gmail.com


What is the focus of your professional school and what content has most engaged you?

I definitely spent a lot of time talking to individuals who had gone through the process of applying to physical therapy school before me to gain advice on how to proceed moving forward. Their advice helped guide me into understanding the process a little better and helped prepare me early on in my Denison career to make sure I could attend PT school right after graduation. I also was fortunate enough to apply to schools that had interviews so I was able to explore different campuses before I made my final decision.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?

I faced many challenges applying to graduate school. One of those challenges was trying to show schools all of the wonderful things that I learned at Denison beyond my GPA. I definitely worked a lot with mentors at Denison and mentors within my desired field to help edit my application to make sure that was showcasing my diverse experiences from my undergraduate degree. Future, I also struggled with knowing if physical therapy was exactly the way I wanted to go with my career as went into my junior and senior years at Denison. To make sure, I actually spent a lot of time with alumni of Denison and my mentors at Denison talking through my options. They were the best sounding board of reflecting what my career goals were with my interests.

What challenges did you face on the way to medical school, and how did you overcome them?

My favorite part of my graduate school experience was getting to attend a medical mission trip to Jamaica this summer. I was able to go down with a few of my classmates and my mentor here at High Point for a week and a half to provide care to patients with neurological conditions such as strokes, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. I had a completely life changing experience through learning about many different clinical techniques, the importance of inter-collaborative patient care, the cultural differences that exist in the medical field worldwide, and through all the people that I met.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

Post graduation, I plan on finding a job as a physical therapist in a hospital system, hopefully specifically a hospital with an inpatient rehabilitation facility. I hope to continue to pursue mentorship and education wherever I work to someday hopefully become a clinical instructor and maybe a faculty member at physical therapy program.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?

Definitely start looking into programs that you think that you want to attend early in your career. It will help you plan out classes that you want to take throughout your Denison career so when it does come time to apply you don’t have to take classes outside your Denison education. I would also recommend reaching out to your Denison mentors and asking their advice when it comes to what you personally should look for in a graduate program. They are full of knowledge and can help you prioritize a list of characteristics in schools that fit your learning style best.