Bethany Floyd '10 with Dr. Steve Long '82
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 Woolard (physics).
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 schools."
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
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."