Denisonians in Health Professions: Genetic Counseling

Name:  Samone Schneider
Denison Graduation Year:   Class of 2016
Denison Major:  Biology
Professional School:  Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics, Class of 2018
Contact Me:  vt.samone@gmail.com


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

I entered college knowing that I wanted to become a genetic counselor. The field is very new and continuously expanding with many different opportunities. In addition, I had a real passion for genetics and a desire to work closely with patients. Genetic counselors work with their patients to evaluate their personal and family history and determine which tests are the most appropriate. Also, genetic counselors work very hard to obtain true informed consent and educate the patient on not only why we are offering the given test, but how it can impact the patient and their family.

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

The majority of individuals who enter a genetic counseling training program end up taking at least one gap year. The acceptance rate for these programs is actually quite low, so it was important to have an impressive resume. While your academic performance is very important to these schools, so are your experiences outside of the classroom. One of the largest examples is some sort of counseling experience and some exposure to the field itself. Personally, I quickly became a part of SHARE on the Denison campus and became as involved as possible (being an advocate, being on-call trained, participating in events, and presenting during freshman orientation). For my exposure to the field, I spent all three of my summers shadowing and eventually interning with a genetic counselor. My summers were quite busy, because I also worked throughout the summer too. It took a lot of work, but I was able to get into the program straight from undergrad.

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

Definitely my relationships with my classmates. Graduate programs tend to be quite small (mine was ~25 individuals), so it becomes a very tight knit community. In addition, our program worked very hard to eliminate a competitive environment and instead made us feel like we were working together to accomplish a goal. This attitude extends to the professional community as well: genetic counselors tend to look out for one another.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

That is a very hard question! I love my job for many different reasons, probably the most of which is the relationships I am able to cultivate with my patients. I have a lot of autonomy in my job, so I can really take the time my patient needs to hear them out and what they need from me or the hospital. It can be an extremely satisfying job.

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

Take the time to build your resume with things that make you an interesting applicant. There are many experiences you can get while at Denison (ex. tutoring, TA-ing, SHARE, research, etc.), but it is also important to get experience off campus. Take advantage of the internships that are available. Also sometimes you need to create your own opportunities. When I was shadowing with a genetic counselor I kept asking what I could do to make her life easier. I ended up getting involved in research with her and eventually becoming her intern. Even if you are only given the ability to redraw pedigrees for example, that is still a huge learning opportunity. To find a genetic counselor, use the NSGC.org Find a Genetic Counselor tool. Many hospitals have strict rules about students, but even chatting with a genetic counselor over coffee is something you can add to your resume. In addition, many programs do “career days”, which can also count as exposure to the field. I am also always happy to speak to any student in more detail!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Allopathic Medicine

Name:  Carol Vitellas
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2018
Denison Major:  Computer Science
Professional School:  Pursuing an MD at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Class of 2022
Contact Me:  carol.vitellas@osumc.edu


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

At the OSU College of Medicine, I am most engaged when working with patients. What makes being a medical student at OSU so unique is that during your first month of school, you are paired with a physician and get to work in their practice every other week for 2 years. In my first month of medical school I was taking real patient vital signs and histories, as well as presenting this information to the doctor. At other institutions, medical students usually do not get to work with patients until their 3rd year, so I am very appreciative of this opportunity. The ability to help real patients not only gives me valuable practice with my clinical skills, but it also gives meaning to my schoolwork at times when studying can seem overwhelming and tedious.

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

While at Denison, I had two seemingly conflicting passions: medicine and computer science. I had always known I wanted to attend medical school upon entering college, but accidentally fell in love with computer science during my first semester. Rather than give up one of my passions, I pursued a degree in computer science while simultaneously completing my pre-medical course requirements. I was constantly asked why I was majoring in computer science if I wanted to go to medical school, as the two fields seemingly have little overlap in their application. However, I actually found that computer science opened several unique opportunities to me! One such opportunity was the ability to lead data analysis for a clinical research project in a gene therapy lab at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I also had the opportunity to design an artificially intelligent diagnostic algorithm for breast cancer in my Artificial Intelligence class. Not only were these projects extremely interesting to partake in, but they also provided great talking point for interviews! In fact, my computer science major was brought up in every interview that I attended, and it was really neat to have something to talk about that helped me stand out from other applicants. I would therefore encourage pre-med students to pursue their passions, even if they don’t fall within the typical pre-med pathway! Medical schools are interested in you as a whole person, and your unique abilities, talents, and interests will only add depth to your application.

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

While I have only received one-semester of medical school education, I have definitely encountered several challenges. The main challenge that I did not foresee was having to completely change the way that I study. Although I have been a high achieving student in the past and had a great handle on how to study in high school and undergrad, medical school proved to be an entirely different ball game. It is not unusual for my peers and I to put in 10-12 hours a day reviewing material. The sheer amount of information forces you to come up with new, more efficient, and quicker ways of studying just to keep from falling behind. Every student that I know in my class has also had to adapt to new study methods this year, and everyone’s technique is constantly shifting and evolving, even now that we are in our second semester! My advice to students who are entering medical school would be to be ready for change, focus on what works best for you and not what works best for your peers, and to be patient with yourself as you adjust to this new way of learning!

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

When I graduate from medical school in 2022, I plan on entering some kind of residency program, but I am currently very unsure about what specialty I would like to pursue. Although it is a little scary being so uncertain about the future, people tell me that going into my 3rd and 4th year rotations with an open mind will help me find the field that best suits me. I hope they are right!

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

Apply EARLY. I cannot stress this enough. Medical schools admit students on a rolling basis and classes will fill up, so it is in your very best interest to apply right on June 1st. I took the MCAT late and couldn’t apply till the fall of my senior year. This put my application deep under the pile of the students who had applied early, and definitely added unneeded stress onto my application process. While some students were interviewed in August and received acceptances in October, I didn’t receive interviews until January, and acceptances until a few weeks before graduation! Do yourself (and your mental health) a favor and apply as early as you can! On another note, I would recommend students complete some sort of anatomy coursework before they enter medical school. I did not take anatomy in high school or in undergrad, and found it challenging to adapt to the anatomical terminology used in our most recent muscular/skeletal system unit. It is absolutely not necessary to take anatomy, but it will definitely make the transition into medical school a lot smoother and easier! Even if it is just taking a free online “Intro to Anatomy” class the summer before, I would recommend students familiarize themselves with the field before entering medical school.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Biomedical Sciences

Name:  Maria Mancini
Denison Graduation Year:  2016
Denison Major:  Biochemistry
Professional School:  pursuing an MD at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Class of 2021
Contact Me:  mancin_m1@denison.edu


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

I am currently in medical school, which involves not only education in the biomedical sciences and the development of clinical skills, but also engagement in social justice issues and bioethics. Of the medical science topics studied, I favor histopathology because I find it a very beautiful representation of cause and effect, and being able to directly visualize the cellular basis for a diagnosis is incredibly satisfying. However, in considering my medical education as a whole, I most enjoy how it fosters a growth in social and cultural awareness, and it is rewarding to see the positive effects on patient outcomes when these factors are considered in patient care.

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

I chose to attend medical school because my deepest passion in life is puzzles. I’ve always been drawn to the sciences because of their inherent puzzle-like approach to understanding phenomena. I explored various scientific career paths–interning with and shadowing many areas of healthcare at the Cleveland Clinic, spending several years immersed in research that ranged from organic and analytical chemistry to behavioral ecology, self-studying basic computer programming, and much more–and while research satisfied my need for puzzles, I often felt the human aspect was missing. I enjoyed solving research problems, but I didn’t get the satisfaction I got from learning from and attempting to aid the doctors I worked with to really understand a patient. I truly felt at home in medicine.

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

I faced a number of challenges including some significant physical and mental health issues as well as personal trauma that stretched me to the limit of what I could cope with. However, these are the experiences that help you become a good doctor. When you understand pain, you are often more sensitive regarding the pain of others. I was fortunate enough that my inner drive and stubborn refusal to quit were strong enough to keep me going. However, given how hard this was on my physical well-being, when treating patients I hope to promote the idea that there is no single definition of success. Sometimes choosing to discontinue the path you are currently on is what is best for you. I believe that is a much healthier attitude to take when approaching challenges.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I am currently undecided on a specialty, but I am heavily considering pathology or OB/GYN.

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

Really use your time in undergrad to perfect your wellness rhythm. Although you may feel as though you are consistently stressed and crunched for time right now at Denison, the amount of information you are given at a time increases by tenfold and the amount of time you must spend studying increases exponentially in medical school. Use this time to figure out how you best study, how you de-stress and take care of yourself, how you plan and stick to your schedule, and basically how you do you. Because if you have this down, you will be much more likely to be able to apply it when things go crazy in med school (i.e. always) and it will significantly protect you from overwhelming anxiety and burnout.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Osteopathic Medicine

Denisonians in health professions: osteopathic medicine - 04-22-19-kristen-brennan-283x300.jpg image #0Name: Kristen Brennan
Denison Graduation Year: 2018
Denison Major: Biology
Professional School: D.O. from Midwestern University- Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (CCOM), Class of 2022
Contact me: brenna_k1@denison.edu

What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
While the curriculum at every medical school is different, the focus of my first year of school has been focused on learning the human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and also working with standardized patients (actors) to develop my formal interpersonal skills required to be a doctor. Being a student of osteopathic medicine means that all of my classes tie in and demonstrate the role of osteopathy in every condition present. My training thus far has consisted of a lot of hands on work — learning to identify the human body by touch, distinguishing normal from abnormal, practicing osteopathic manipulations and techniques, and ultimately being able to decipher what pathologic process the structural or functional problem is indicating internally on the patient. All of my classes interest me, I love being a medical student. As a first year student, I believe the most engaging component of my schooling is when I can see how every class ties together. I now understand the necessity of all of the prerequisite courses I took at Denison before medical school, as most of my courses now are based upon and pull in material that I learned throughout my time in undergrad. My most engaging medical school moments are when I get to interact with a standardized patient. In these moments, I am being assessed on my ability to take their health history, develop patient diagnoses, and ultimately put knowledge into action.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
I have always felt very fortunate that from a young age I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. Every exposure to the profession only reinforced my desire to one day be a physician and for that reason my time was spent more on trying to get into medical school and selecting the one that I found best suited for me. Being an athlete my entire life (Go Big Red Volleyball!), I had my battles with acute and chronic ailments. Chronic back pain plagued my Denison volleyball career and what kept me going was preventative rehab, treatment, and hands-on care. Feeling the massive benefits that this type of care brought me really drew me towards the osteopathic field. My own body was so angry with me, so out of its normal structural alignment, and constantly compensating for the physical toll I was putting on it. Painkillers helped my pain to go away temporarily, but working to counteract those stressors with preventative and targeted physical modalities provided by my doctors, incredible athletic trainers, and physical therapists is what made me better long term. I still keep up with these preventative methods daily, and feel so much better because of it. For that reason, I felt the strong urge to be the type of physician that would emphasize and utilize the body’s “normal” structure and function as a roadmap to help make my future patients better.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
One of the largest challenges I faced on my way to medical school was multifaceted. My challenges stemmed from my desire to “do it all” at Denison. School was my priority; however, I also was a member of the volleyball team, worked for Admissions as a tour guide and a senior interviewer, was a member and held leadership positions in multiple clubs, participated in sorority and fraternity life, and mentored younger students. In addition to these things at school, I had to make sure I was fulfilling the extra service work, research, and shadowing experiences necessary to be a competitive medical school applicant. Almost every minute of my days were planned, I would even pencil in times to eat! I do not regret it for a second because it is what I wanted to do; however, every day presented a new challenge. I think the biggest challenges I faced and that so many other medical school students I have talked with face during their pre-med journey involve sacrifice and fears of inadequacy. Figuring out what to prioritize when everything is important led me to sleepless nights, and sacrificing time with friends and people I cared about. Most days I felt like there simply was not enough time in the day. Throughout the path to medical school you are constantly being evaluated on your grades, extracurriculars, and ability to hold it all together. Daily stressors of not being good enough are present for most pre-med students. I think getting over that fear and being proud and happy with all of the work you put in as a student is one of the biggest keys of success. A positive mindset and a great support system will really get you a long way.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
While I am unsure of the exact type of doctor I want to be right now, I plan to match into and enter a residency that will provide me the tools and training to go forward and be able to practice independently as a physician for the remainder of my career!

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
Never give up. If becoming a physician is your dream, make it happen. There will be people who do not believe in you, grades that discourage you, and days that make you wonder if all of the effort is worth it. Go back and think about why you want to be a doctor, ground yourself, and keep pushing forward. While of course I would advise students to do well in school, be involved, and find ways to demonstrate your passions, I do not think that would be the most important advice I could give you. The two most important pieces of advice I can provide are: 1) surround yourself with people who support you and 2) take care of yourself. I am so grateful to have had such an amazing support system including my family and friends, professors and advisors, and even my bosses.  This is a tasking journey and you are going to need their hugs and cheers along the way. Never forget to thank them and make time for those people, because at the end of the day that is what is important in life. I will say that while getting into medical school might have been one of the greatest days of my life thus far, the best part about it was being able to share it with the people who helped me to get there, and thank them for everything they did. Secondly, while the support system is so vital — those individuals are, for the most part, not trying to go to medical school. You are your biggest advocate and if you do not take care of yourself first, you are not going to be able to get done what you need to do. Listen to your mind and your body. Take breaks!! Exercise, eat well, drink lots of water, laugh, and make time for the things that make you happy!!!! I cannot stress that enough. Recognize when you need to reach out for help and do just that. Finally, Denison is the best place in the world. My time on the hill grew me into the person I am today. Take advantage of the incredible people and opportunities that Denison provides you. Every member of the Denison community only wants your success. Believe in yourself, be a better you every day, and never give up on your dreams!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Allopathic Medicine

Denisonians in health professions: allopathic medicine - 04-08-19-hannah-glick-300x300.jpg image #0Name: Hannah Glick
Denison Graduation Year: 2018
Denison Major: Biochemistry
Graduate School: MD at the University of Michigan, Class of 2022
Contact me: glickhh@umich.med.edu

What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
he focus of my program is training to become a medical doctor. I am currently in my M1 year at the University of Michigan. In our program, we have a condensed curriculum meaning that we only have one preclinical year and we go to the wards to do our clinical rotations starting our M2 year. The first few months of school we learned foundational material that covered biochemistry, genetics, immunology and diagnostic therapeutics. We are currently learning the normal physiology and abnormal pathophysiology associated with all the organ systems of the body. Additionally, we have year long courses, some of which focus on things like inter-professional experiences, biostatistics and diagnosing chief concerns and communication and physical exam skills. The content I find most engaging right now is learning about all the different pathological states that can occur in the human body and how medicine has evolved/is currently evolving to treat or cure different disease states.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
The University of Michigan Medical School was always my dream school for many reasons. One reason is the condensed curriculum. Whereas many schools have 1.5-2 preclinical years, we get to go into the wards and start interacting with patients very early on, even before we take our first board exam. Another thing that impacted my decision was location. Being from Ann Arbor, I was so excited to get back home and be close to my family. Medical school is hard and taxing, one of my biggest stress relief activities is going to the gym with my mom or going home and playing with my dogs!

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
I think some of the most difficult parts of my road to medical school were because of mental health issues or issues where I ‘failed’ at something. I’ve always been very hard on myself so every exam I took at Denison really mattered and I really stressed myself out. There were a few semesters that I thought ruined my chances at getting into medical school because I was struggling with anxiety and depression and my GPA suffered. First and foremost, I had to take care of my mental health, which I did (use Whisler if you need it!). I then bounced back and had my best semesters of college, GPA wise. Once I got to the application process, I decided to use my lower GPA semesters to my advantage and show schools my resilience. I openly wrote about my tough times and showed major GPA improvements in the following semesters while still keeping up with my extracurriculars at Denison like volleyball and research.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
Although I’m not sure what field of medicine I will enter in to, I hope to pursue a residency at an academic institution like Michigan where I will have opportunities to do research, interact clinically with patients and train the next generation of physicians below me!

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
There is no direct path to medical school and taking time off is right for you if it’s right for you just like going straight through is right for you if it’s right for you. The application process is challenging and daunting but take your time and never give up. Always ask for feedback and continue to constantly learn. If you stay humble and ask questions, people will want to help and teach you. Please reach out and email me if you have any other questions!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Osteopathic Medicine

Denisonians in health professions: osteopathic medicine - 03-25-19-ryan-vagedes-1-300x296.jpg image #0Name: Ryan Vagedes
Denison Graduation Year: 2017
Denison Major: Biology, Spanish (minor)
Graduate School: DO from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2021
Contact me: rv1581616@ohio.edu

What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
he focus of OU-HCOM is developing primary care physicians practicing in underserved communities in Ohio. The most engaging thing for me at OU-HCOM has been being able to explore public and global health. I was able to combine my experiences from Denison (studying Biology and Spanish) and translate them into developing intentional global health research in medical school. Because of Denison, I was able to develop and be the lead investigator on an international research project focused on understanding social determinants, HIV transmission, and care received by people living with HIV/AIDS in urban and rural communities in Ecuador.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
I knew I wanted to go to medical school since I was pretty young. From my experience shadowing physicians in different specialties as well as seeing my sister go through medical school, I wanted to attend an osteopathic medical school. Why osteopathic medicine (DO)? There’s a strong emphasis on preventative medicine and primary care, promoting wellness, and focusing on the interconnectedness of the body and mind, taking a “whole person” approach. In addition to taking all the same classes as allopathic medical schools (MD), you take an additional courses in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) which is a form of manual medicine (think physical therapy) than can help diagnose and aid in the treatment of different medical conditions.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
During your first year of medical school, it is a lot like transitioning into college. You have to rethink the way you learn and how you study. While the material you learn is not harder than at Denison (in many cases, it is actually easier), the pace at which you learn is very different. Things move a lot faster. Each medical school lecture usually covers the amount of material in about 3-4 undergraduate lectures. Being proactive (rather than reactive) in your learning is what helped me adjust to medical school. Reaching out to second year students, using all the resources you have available, and getting tutoring when you think you need it is how you succeed. There is no shame in asking for help.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
Right now, I am interested in going into general internal medicine and splitting my future practice into inpatient hospitalist work and outpatient primary care. I want to practice in a medically under-served area. I am also interested in public health, social medicine research, and practicing internationally (e.g., Doctors Without Borders). If I can find someway to combine all that together, that is what I want to do!

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
If you are thinking about going to medical school (or really any health profession), I suggest to shadow some professionals to get a sense of what the practice of medicine is like in whichever field interests you. If you are not sure if you are competitive for a certain program/school, call them! You can call or email the admissions office of nearly any school and ask them what kind of applicants they accept (e.g., MCAT scores, GPA, research, volunteering, etc.). I scheduled a meeting with an admissions officer and brought my resume. We chatted about what kind of applicant I would be and how to be more competitive. The best advice someone can give you about being competitive for medical school are the people who accept you to medical school. Overall, I think osteopathic medicine is very much a continuation of the the liberal arts philosophy at Denison. When looking at applying to medical schools, keep osteopathic medicine on your radar. It is a rapidly growing field. Now, about one in four US medical students attend an osteopathic medical school. If you ever have any questions, I can do my best to answer them. Find me on LinkedIn, and we can chat from there.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Pharmaceutical Science

Denisonians in health professions: pharmaceutical science - 03-04-19-lauren-thompson-300x300.jpg image #0Name: Lauren Thompson
Denison Graduation Year: 2018
Denison Major: Biochemistry, Mathematics (minor)
Graduate School: PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Class of 2023
Contact me: thomps_l1@denison.edu

What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
I am in a Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD graduate program. While the classes are fascinating and challenging, I most enjoy my time in the lab. My program has us rotate through 3 different labs in our first year so I’m getting experience working with cell lines, mouse models, and patient clinical data.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
For me, the interviews were vital in really getting a feel for a program. In talking with the students and faculty, I was able to tell where I would fit in. Additionally, it was important to me that whichever program I chose had multiple labs that I was interested in. This way I would have a chance to rotate and make the best decision for myself.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
I had spent the first 22 years of my life surrounded by friends and family in Ohio. Graduate school was my first time going off on my own. While this is certainly challenging, my parents have been very supportive, especially with the big move (21 hours of driving!). Living alone in a new state is certainly scary but the other students in my program have been a great resource and I’ve even connected with some old Denison friends!

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
I’ve only just started my program so I’m not entirely sure yet but I’ll likely end up in pharmaceutical industry. If not, I could definitely see myself running a research lab in an academic institution.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
Talk with other students who have been there! Don’t be afraid to reach out to Denison connections and even faculty members at programs you’re interested in. They’re surprisingly approachable and it can help your chances at getting an interview! Also, the absolute best thing to prepare yourself for graduate school is your lab experience. Get involved on campus, look for summer programs in fields you’re interested in (I did a couple in Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Sciences labs off campus), and make sure you really understand your previous research and can talk about it!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Occupational Therapy

Denisonians in health professions: occupational therapy - 02-18-19-logan-berlet-264x300.jpg image #0Name: Logan Berlet
Denison Graduation Year: 2016
Denison Major: Psychology
Graduate/Professional School: Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) from Washington University in St. Louis, Class of 2019
Contact me: lberlet15@gmail.com

What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
I am currently in my last year of my clinical doctorate degree in Occupational Therapy (OT) at Washington University in St. Louis. In our OT program we have the opportunity to get exposure to many areas of practice through clinical experiences (fieldwork), research experiences, and classroom clinical exposure. I am specifically very interested in the hand therapy area of practice within occupational therapy, so I am currently completing my doctoral research in hand therapy, mentoring students in a student-run hand therapy clinic, and have completed one of my two 12-week clinical experiences (fieldwork) in hand therapy. Despite my interest in hand therapy, I am very grateful that I have had exposure to other areas of practice through clinical experience in the program, including acute care, pediatric therapy, inpatient rehabilitation, mental health, and other areas of the field.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
After my freshman year, I knew I was very interested in psychology, education, and healthcare. However, I wasn’t sure if I could find a career that incorporated all of my areas of interest. My cousin is an occupational therapist, but at the time I had no idea the field of occupational therapy existed. Quite a few members of my family work in various aspects of healthcare, so I began to ask them about what they did and how they got there. When I talked to my cousin, she explained to me that she worked as an occupational therapist in an outpatient neurology clinic working with patients who had undergone a stroke or had other neurological conditions who were having difficulty with various activities in everyday life. She explained to me that occupational therapy involved working with patients to get them back to doing the activities they do on a daily basis (occupations) and that an occupational therapist gets to use knowledge of medical conditions (anatomy, physiology, etc.), creativity, an understanding of people, and education to help individuals get back to the things they want and need to do every day. This conversation really peaked my interest, so that summer I shadowed at an outpatient pediatric clinic working with younger children with developmental delays. That summer I got to shadow two licensed occupational therapists as they evaluated children and worked with them to get them back on track with their developmental milestones.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
Once I decided I wanted to pursue graduate school for occupational therapy, I had to find a mentor who understood my career and graduate school goals. This was challenging because I couldn’t find a lot of people that knew about the field I was interested in and there were not many alumni that I could find who followed the path to graduate school in occupational therapy. Eventually, I found Dr. Gina Dow and worked closely with her for three years at Denison to make sure I was getting experiences that would be beneficial before entering an occupational therapy graduate program. Dr. Dow helped me to determine classes I would need to take both at Denison and during the summer to meet application requirements and helped me to gain experience with individuals in the community she knew. I worked with Dr. Dow for an independent study my senior year focusing on Transition to Independent Living for Developmentally Disabled Adolescents and got exposure to a lot of individuals in the community. Denison did not offer some of the courses I needed for application requirements, so I took a few of them when I studied abroad in New Zealand, took a few courses over the summer, and got creative with the independent studies I completed at Denison.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
I currently have one academic semester left in St. Louis, which includes mentoring and teaching experiences, and then I will complete my second 12-week clinical experience in inpatient rehabilitation in Colorado and complete my doctoral experience in advanced clinical practice with a focus on upper extremity amputation and prosthetic rehabilitation. I would love to get my first job in hand therapy, but that can be difficult as a new graduate, so I am open to starting my OT career in another area of practice. Overall, I am so happy I chose a field that encompasses all of my interests and allows movement across areas of practice. After graduating with my OTD and passing my board certification exam, I will be qualified to work in almost all areas of OT practice, which opens up a lot of opportunity.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
I’ll start off my advice with a funny story: I remember talking to somebody at the career center at Denison at the beginning of my sophomore year to find out as much information as possible about occupational therapy. I learned about a 3-2 program with Washington University in St. Louis in which I could complete 3 years of my undergrad degree at Denison and then finish requirements for my Masters in Occupational Therapy at Washington University. I remember thinking to myself that I did not want to join this 3-2 program because it would limit me to just one graduate school and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to move to St. Louis, MO. Ironically enough, I ended up at Washington University after all that and have had an amazing experience here. So, my advice after this story is that for graduate school, specifically OT, you end up going to school where you get in. Unfortunately, you have a lot less choice when it comes to these programs because they are competitive. Another piece of advice would be to try to get shadowing experience in a variety of areas of practice within occupational therapy. Try to shadow in pediatrics, in a hospital, in a nursing home, in a hand therapy clinic, or other areas locally. Getting a variety of shadowing experiences will really help you to understand the field of occupational therapy better and set you up for success when applying to OT school. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about occupational therapy or occupational therapy graduate school, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Nursing

Denisonians in health professions: nursing - frances-hinkamp-284x300.png image #0Name: Frances Hinkamp
Denison Graduation Year: 2016
Denison Major: Athletic training
Graduate/Professional School: Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN), at Resurrection University, class of 2019
Contact me: franceshinkamp@gmail.com

What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
Although I enjoyed many of the clinical rotations and classes that I have taken in my program, I really enjoyed OB- labor and delivery as well as postpartum.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
After graduating Denison, I really did not know what I wanted to do with my major and what I was interested in. I shadowed my aunt, a nurse anesthetist and fell in love with nursing. I looked at many programs in Chicago both bachelors and masters programs but I really liked the facility at Resurrection University and that I could finish a program in 16 months. I still had to finish some prerequisites but most of the classes I needed I had already taken at Denison. I was really excited to apply my athletic training background from Denison to nursing.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
One of the challenges I faced applying to nursing school was not knowing what programs to apply to/the process of applying. I did not really have a lot of guidance in applying to schools and felt like I did not really know what I was doing. Applying to colleges, I had a college counselor who helped me with the process but I did not have anyone guiding me for this. Fortunately, there are a lot of programs in the Chicago-land area so I was able to apply to many schools. However, none of the schools had the exact same prerequisites so it was challenging making decisions on what programs to apply to and all the different prerequisites I had or needed to take in order to apply.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
To work as a registered nurse on a medical-surgical floor of a hospital.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
I definitely think I would have benefited from someone helping me through the application process. Since I made the decision to go to nursing school after I had graduated from Denison, I was not able to use the resources on campus. I would say if you know you want to go to graduate school to take advantage of the resources at Denison through the career center. Having someone to guide you through the process would be extremely beneficial. I also think it would be helpful to reach out to people who have already graduated from Denison who were/ are currently in a similar program to reach out to them for specific advice about the program.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Osteopathic Medicine

Denisonians in health professions: osteopathic medicine - bryan-margaria-281x300.png image #0Name: Bryan Margaria
Denison Graduation Year: 2016
Denison Major: Biology
Graduate/Professional School: Pursuing a DO degree at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, class of 2020
Contact me: margar_b1@denison.edu

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
I did the pre-medical track at Denison, with a major in Biology. I focused on plant biology primarily. I chose to go into medicine based on my experiences as a medical assistant and clinical research (during my first year and sophomore summers), and through mentorship I got from professors such as Dr. Hauk, Dr. Kuhlman, and Dr. McCall. Additionally, I knew from my introductory courses in chemistry and biology that I had a strong passion for the sciences.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
A challenge for me throughout my time at Denison was time management. I was involved in many areas of campus life such as playing on the soccer team, being a resident assistant/head resident, and holding various leadership positions such as in DCGA. I struggled at times to find enough time to study; I overcame this by learning how to make the best use of all the time available in the day. I had a schedule I stuck to daily, and made sure to do my homework in all the gaps in between.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
I plan on specializing in some form of medicine such as oncology, neurology, or anesthesiology.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
My first piece of advice would be to focus on building strong study habits throughout your time at Denison. Denison will provide a challenging and rigorous undergraduate education; take advantage of it! Building strong study skills such as discipline and dedication will go a long way in preparing you for medical school. Learning how to manage your time will also pay dividends in the future. Do not forget to have fun as well! Denison was some of the best times of my life; live your life to the fullest and enjoy the time you have. My second piece of advice would be to have a well rounded application. Experiences such as being involved in leadership activities and hands on experiences such as research really help boost your chances of getting into medical school. Grades and MCAT scores are important, but being a well rounded applicant will set you apart in the process. Finally, take the time to figure out if going to medical school is the right move for you. To give you an idea of what a day in the life of a medical student is like: wake up at 7 am, attend class (or watch lectures online) from 8 to 3, then frantically study from 3 to 12 pm or later. This schedule becomes even worse when you start studying for board exams. There is time for some fun, but only after exams every couple weeks. Many times parents will encourage their student to follow the premedical track when the reality is the student would prefer to be doing something else. Follow your passions! Denison offers amazing programs in many different disciplines. Medical school is among the toughest academic environments on the planet; you have to love what you are doing or you will struggle.