Bethany Floyd '10 with Dr. Steve Long '82
R-MC Biology Professor Jim Foster is excited about the college’s Pre-health Program,
which has contributed to the successful health-related careers of R-MC students
for more than 50 years. "The program offers students a strong foundation for a wide
variety of medical fields," says Foster.
The program began in the 1950s, and in the 1980s now-retired Biology Professors
Barry Knisley and Art Conway took over the reins of the program as well as the Pre-med
Advisory Committee, which serves students’ needs by providing medical-career counseling
services and other tools for success. Current advisory committee members are: Craig
Anderson, LCP, director, counseling services; Jim Foster, chair of the biology department
and chair of the pre-medical advisory committee; Traci Stevens (biology), John Thoburn
(chemistry); Nora Green (chemistry), Melanie Gubbels Bupp (biology); and Deonna
Although the biology department plays an integral role in the Pre-health Program,
other departments—chemistry, sociology, physics and psychology, to name a few—are
also important in keeping the program’s vital signs healthy. Students need at least
two semesters of physics, for example; in addition, they can choose from classes
as diverse as "Death and Dying," "Medical Ethics" or "Live Long and Prosper: History
of American Health Care and Policy" as they prep themselves for a smooth transition
to medical school or graduate studies in other health-related fields.
There are more than 80 current R-MC students who have declared an interest in pursuing
health-related careers. "Students come in with a variety of interests," says Foster.
"The Pre-health Society, a student-run initiative, brings in medical professionals—including
R-MC alumni—to talk to students about all sorts of career opportunities."
Bethany Floyd ’10, who serves as the current president of the Pre-health Society,
has worked for several years under the tutelage of Pain Specialist Dr. Steve Long
’82. "It has been a wonderful experience," says Floyd. "I have been able to expand
my knowledge of the medical field while making great networking connections. Dr.
Long is such a fantastic role model as he donates so much time to R-MC students.
I’m getting clinical exposure while learning what a physician's life is like as
I prepare for medical school," she says. Floyd’s duties range from reviewing charts
and taking patient histories and vital signs to observing in-office surgical procedures.
"We also work with the advancement and career services offices to determine which
alumni are best suited to give advice to our students," says Foster. "Several alumni
have been instrumental in helping the college forge partnerships with various medical
In 2009, Dr. Dick Robins ’58, who spearheaded an alumni-driven effort to improve
R-MC’s medical-school admissions rates, talked to R-MC students about the importance
of preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and gaining medically
relevant experience. He also stressed the importance of hard work and a strong work
ethic. Robins is a retired Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor from Newport News,
Virginia who now teaches part-time at the University of Virginia Medical School.
Dr. Dave Young ’58
Dr. Dave Young ’58 also works with R-MC students interested in attending medical
school. "Young is a strong advocate for R-MC with admissions deans at Virginia Commonwealth
University, Eastern Virginia Medical School and University of Virginia" said Foster.
Jessie Armstrong ’12 worked with Young during her freshman year. "He has been a
great mentor who has given me valuable advice about medical school," says Armstrong.
"Dr. Young’s enthusiasm and dedication are palpable and he is a great resource for
the pre-medical students at R-MC."
The Pre-med Advisory Committee meets with pre-med and pre-dental students during
their junior year to assess their progress. "We take a look at the students’ overall
preparedness, which includes grades and any internship or volunteer experience they
have had," says Foster. "It’s a chance to give them feedback, help them with personal
statements and refer them to career counseling if necessary. It’s not an official
interview, but it’s a chance to pay attention to their interpersonal skills—an important
attribute to many future employers."
Students on the pre-health track at R-MC have advantages over students enrolled
at larger colleges. "We try to make contact with students early, to make sure they
think about their grades and the importance of volunteering and interning," Foster
says. "Students at R-MC are taking classes from advisory board members, who in turn
can help by preparing them for medical or graduate school admission tests and by
writing personalized letters of recommendation. You don’t get that kind of personal
attention in a larger school."
Foster has worked diligently to make connections with area schools in order to help
R-MC students make solid decisions about medical school. "The dean of the University
of Virginia’s Medical School came to R-MC in February 2010 to talk to students about
their program," he says. "Students have to apply to medical schools in their junior
year, having already taken biology, chemistry and physics, and having prepared for
the MCAT. This type of expert advice is invaluable."
Foster is hopeful that R-MC can establish a "guaranteed seat" agreement with Virginia
Commonwealth University (VCU). This would mean that a qualified R-MC student would
be guaranteed entrance to VCU’s medical school. "Given the competitive market,"
says Foster, "this would be a terrific opportunity."