For Some Pre-Meds, an Alternative Future
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:02
While most pre-medical students at Georgetown continue on to medical school, others consider alternative paths such as research, nursing, consulting and education.
According to Edward Meyertholen, assistant dean and director of pre-health programs, there are approximately 90 to 130 pre-medical students in the Class of 2016, including those in post-baccalaureate programs, while 130 students in the Class of 2012 applied to medical school.
“It’s up to the student to decide what they want to do, and then we will try to help them achieve [that],” Meyertholen said.
Since the pre-medical curriculum at Georgetown is not an official major, students have the flexibility to consider other fields of study.
“One advantage of the pre-med curriculum is that students can pursue any academic major, thereby developing critical skills that are generalizable to many career fields outside of medicine,” Cawley Career Education Center Director Mike Schaub said.
Instead, pre-medical status is a flag in the university system that helps deans advise students in choosing courses. Pre-medical advisors host workshops focusing on medical school applications and the MCAT, while clubs such as the Georgetown University Pre-Medical Society also advise students.
Kenny Lahart (COL ’16) said that the ability to study other fields allowed him to consider alternative careers.
“The pre-med concentration is a way to keep that door open,” Lahart said. “I’ve always been interested in science and math, so I guess medicine is one area that I’m interested in, but I’m not really sure if I want to go down that path for my career.”
Though Lahart found the pre-medical advising program helpful, Matt Emch (COL ’14), a chemistry major in the pre-medical track who plans to go to law school, disagreed.
“There is no hands-on experience in hospitals,” Emch said. “I think they really do need to overhaul their program. … I look at the nursing students, and they are doing clinicals from day one.”
Pre-Med Society Co-President Kate Schertz (NHS ’15) said that most students who eventually decide not to apply to medical school originally intended to pursue medicine.
“The few pre-med students I know who are considering going into research initially thought that they wanted to go to medical school,” Schertz said. “Most of them became interested in research after becoming volunteer research assistants.”
Emch said he felt conflicted about applying to medical school due to his varied interests.
“I realized that my interests varied so much, and I just couldn’t see myself being a doctor anymore,” Emch said. “The biggest component was the lifestyle choice — you’re on call all the time, and I just didn’t want to have that lifestyle. If you want to raise a family and have all the other niceties of life, do you really want to be a doctor? The answer for me was no.”
Schertz, however, said that pre-medical students should only include those considering medical school.
“There is absolutely no reason for someone who is interested in pursuing a science major or a career in science to be a pre-med student unless they are considering medical school in the future,” Schertz, who has never considered other options, said.
Nevertheless, John Delgado-McCollum (COL ’16), a mathematics major on the pre-medical track, said that he wanted to keep his options open.
“Being pre-medical really sets a fantastic foundation in the sciences,” Delgado-McCollum said. “You really get a good exposure. It’s a good setup for any career in the sciences, one way or another.”
Alexandra Palumbo (COL ’16), a biochemistry major and Russian minor on the pre-med track who plans to go to veterinary school, also disagreed with Schertz.
“I’m doing the pre-med track just because it’s basically the same track for pre-vet and pre-med,” Palumbo said. “I just have more of an interest in animal sciences. I want to be a zoo veterinarian.”
Nathalie Lawyer (COL ’13) also said that some pre-medical students, especially after years of hard work, feel too burned out to continue directly to medical school.
“I’m still strongly considering medical school, but right now, I feel like going into medical school straight out of working very hard through high school and college is a little bit daunting,” Lawyer said. “I feel like my heart wouldn’t be in it right now, so I’m taking a break, and we’ll see where I am after.”
But despite the array of career options available to pre-medical students, Schertz said that advisers and professors rarely discuss such alternatives and that while Georgetown’s pre-health program’s website includes information about pre-vet and pre-dental tracks, these options are often neglected by advisors and faculty.
“These options are available if people seek them, but they are not explicitly discussed by our pre-med teachers and advisers because it is assumed that if you declare yourself to be pre-med, you intend to go to medical school.” Schertz said.
Palumbo expressed frustration at this lack of guidance.
“It’s kind of frustrating,” Palumbo said. “There isn’t really a lot of support or information for what students can do other than go to medical school.”
Lawyer, who plans to go into the Peace Corps or a graduate program for emergency disaster preparedness, said that she had to be proactive to find information about these programs.
“I think the NHS is really good about sending out [emails] about healthcare-related jobs,” Lawyer said. “Pretty much all the information that I’ve gotten was mostly self-sought out.”
Emch cited the lack of alternative career guidance as one of the pre-med program’s largest flaws.
“Georgetown’s biggest failing lies in that the teachers don’t discuss any options besides pre-med with you,” Emch said.