USD Continues to Support Pre-Health Students During Uncertain Times

USD Continues to Support Pre-Health Students During Uncertain Times

The USD Pre-Health Advising Office has always guided students who are interested in pursuing a career in the health industry. But now more than ever Cassandra Gomez, director of the pre-health advising, and her team are providing support for pre-health students as things have dramatically changed in a short period of time.

We asked Gomez a few questions about her role in the Pre-Health Advising Office and what she’s currently doing for students during the era of COVID-19. "The most significant impact has been that most clinical, community-service and research experiences have been put on hold. Students should rest assured that everyone is in the same boat and they will not 'fall behind,'" she says. "I see this time as an opportunity for students to start a new hobby or learn a new skill they have always wanted to. Health professional schools look for interesting, well-rounded applicants. Doing something outside of medicine is important!"

Read the full Q&A with Gomez below. For more information about the Pre-Health Advising Office and common FAQs for students, visit the Pre-Health Advising website.

 

1. Tell us about your position in the Pre-Health Advising Office.

I have the privilege of advising USD students interested in exploring health careers or pursuing health professional school (medical school, dental school, etc.). It’s an amazing job because I get to work with so many talented, passionate, kind, ambitious students with a commitment to serve.

In addition to advising, I organize programs, events and seminars that help students prepare for health professional school while working closely with campus partners (Career Development, Undergraduate Research Center, Mulvaney Center, etc.) to support our students. 

2. What type of support do you provide to students who are applying to schools?

Starting in the first year, students receive advising to ensure they are taking their course prerequisites for medical school (or dental school, pharmacy school, etc.). Additionally, our office provides ongoing support to first-year students in the form of an orientation in the fall, a spring event where they are matched with a pre-health peer mentor and an "Exploring Health Careers Forum" event where students interact with health professionals to learn about the different fields. 

When it comes time to apply, students receive one-on-one application support, personal statement reviews and mock interview support. With the small class size, USD students benefit from having the opportunity to interact closely with their faculty, which helps when it comes time to ask for letters of recommendation. The students applying to medical or dental school can request a committee letter from USD which is a composite letter written by a committee of USD faculty.  


3. Are there any programs that are unique to USD students?

Yes! We have a very unique partnership with Scripps Mercy Hospital which allows USD students to participate in a semester-long internship in the emergency room and trauma surgery unit shadowing physicians while taking a course on patient and physician communication. 

We also have a semester-long Health Equities Fellows Program where students learn about health disparities and social determinants of health through a series of seminars and community site visits. Students also participate in a community service project.

We have an incredible team of pre-health peer mentors who are trained to support, guide and mentor first year pre-health students. Being a pre-health student can be stressful due to the competitive nature of health professional school admissions and, at USD, we try to create a culture of care and a we-are-all-in-this-together approach!

We also have a number of pre-health student organizations and student international experiences such as Medical Brigades, or Torero Trek, a networking opportunity through the Career Development Center, and a biomedical ethics minor that launched a few years ago. 

4. How is the current COVID-19 situation impacting students applying to schools or admissions to schools?

The most significant impact has been that most clinical, community-service and research experiences have been put on hold. Students should rest assured that everyone is in the same boat and they will not "fall behind."

For students applying in the upcoming cycle, health professional schools are making accommodations and our office is working closely with those students to ensure they are still on track to apply!


5. What recommendations do you have for pre-health students right now?

Try to remain positive and use this "down" time to focus on the transition to remote learning, self-care and personal development. Most pre-health students are usually extremely busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities. I see this time as an opportunity for students to start a new hobby or learn a new skill they have always wanted to. Health professional schools look for interesting, well-rounded applicants. Doing something outside of medicine is important!

Additionally, it is a great time for students to journal and reflect on why they want to pursue health professional school, who they are, and how their experiences have shaped them. This introspection is important for when it comes time to write personal statements and interview. Having a strong sense of self and an ability to communicate who you are is essential for any admissions process.

Lastly, if students have taken prerequisites needed for MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc., this is a great time to squeeze in some extra studying!

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