We live at a crazy time, and almost everything we do is approached with more caution than ever. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic going on, many students interested in going towards the health and wellness profession and career route are now facing a number of difficulties deciding. Dr. Richard Marn is here to help. He invites a panel of four pre-health college advisors from across the country to give advice on one question sent by a pre-health student at Washington University: “What can undergraduates do to learn more about health professions and enhance their application to make them stronger candidates?” Find out about their answers in this episode.

Listen to the podcast here:

Episode 027: How To Improve Your College Resume During The COVID Pandemic – Pre-HeaLth Advisors Panel 1

This show is to help students who are interested in health and wellness profession and career to hear from other professionals who are already doing the profession and career of their interest. In those previous episodes, we’ve talked about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how they got there. In this episode, we’re not going to talk about what other people are doing, but what you can do right now. We’re not talking about a year from now or six months from now or a week from now, we’re talking about right now. Maybe you’re thinking like, “This is totally different.” You haven’t heard it yet quite frankly, but you’re going to value what this episode has in it. How did this come about? It came to my attention that with the whole pandemic and Coronavirus going on, that the usual way that students were trying to explore and learn about a health and wellness career has turned itself upside down.

What I did is I reached out to a handful of pre-health students at Washington University. I asked them, “What is one question that you would like answered from an advisor, specifically a pre-health advisor?” I got a whole bunch of different questions from these students. One question that stood out was the following. “In light of our pandemic at this moment, what can undergraduates do to learn more about health professions and enhance their application to make them stronger candidates?” That’s a great question, but I thought the best people that would be able to answer that are pre-health advisors at universities and colleges. What I did is I reached out to several pre-health advisors across the country, and this episode is their responses to that.

In this episode, we’re going to hear from pre-health advisors with tons of experience from four major universities from across this country. In their own way, they’re going to answer the question, what can our graduates do to learn more about health professions and enhance their application to make them stronger candidates during this pandemic? If you’re a student and you like this episode and you have a question that you want answered, then email me, let me know and maybe I can help you out. After reading about the wonderful panel of four pre-health advisors and their perspectives, read on to my final thoughts at the end of this episode. Let’s read on our panel of pre-health advisors.

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Our very first pre-health advisor that we’re going to hear from is Dr. Dija Selimi at the University of Wisconsin.

My name is Dija Selimi with the Center for Pre-Health Advising at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. Our office has a great collection of resources that you can explore on our website at PreHealth.wisc.edu. Click on the slider called Involvement During the Pandemic for ideas on volunteering locally, virtual volunteering, patient care training, and developing life skills and more. This isn’t just specific to Madison, Wisconsin. It’s meant to get you thinking about ways you can do this in your area. I want to focus on connecting with professionals and alumni during the pandemic. The pandemic has put a cramp in our ability to learn about the fields that we’re interested in because we can’t be in the same spaces.

 

The pandemic has put a cramp in our ability to learn about the fields that we’re interested in because we can’t be in the same spaces.|

 

First of all, connecting with alumni, check with maybe your career service office at your school and see if they have an alumni connection service. At Madison, we have something called Badger Bridge, which helps students connect with alumni. Check and see if your school have something similar. I am not a big LinkedIn user now, but when I was transitioning into my job, I used LinkedIn a lot. Create a LinkedIn profile and join groups. Groups are a great collection of people around a shared interest. It’s a great way to meet people. You can message them directly and ask if they have time for a short Zoom chat. I usually phrase it like this, “Do you have time for a short Zoom chat? If not, would you be willing to answer a few questions by email?” You’re building your network and you could do this locally. You could just do it maybe in the city you’re in, or you could do it within a specialty that you’re interested in. If you want to meet a bunch of people who got into anesthesiology that isn’t geographically limited. The purpose of doing this is you’re building virtual connections that you can tap into later when you can be in a real physical space.

The third thing that I would do is attend virtual fairs. Virtual fairs are hosted by schools. The chat rooms are often staffed by the professionals in the program. You can meet doctors and PAs or dentists or whatever you’re interested in. It’s a great way to make a first contact with the school and get questions answered that you may have. Most importantly and finally, diversify your social media platforms and amplify content that you like. What does this mean? Let’s say you’re super into anesthesiology. Start following some anesthesiologists on TikTok or Instagram. Find hashtags that are connected to things that you care about. If you’re interested in diversity in medicine, start following some of those hashtags and amplify them on your stories.

Be sure to reshare and tag them because that gets you noticed too. You can start having these side chats in direct messaging. They see you. You get to talk to them. You’re starting to build a connection that maybe you can have in real life later. These are some things that I would do to bridge this gap that we have when we can’t be in real spaces. Mind your alumni contacts, use LinkedIn, go to virtual fairs and diversify your social media platforms. Thanks for reading. Good luck. Hang in there. You can do this.

That was Dr. Dija Selimi, one of the main pre-health advisors for several years at the University of Wisconsin. I love her advice. It’s very tangible and clear. To summarize, number one, she says connect with alumni. Number two, create a LinkedIn profile and join groups through that. Number three, attend virtual fairs to help deepen the connection and maybe initiate the connection and the deepen it with doctors and dentists and other professions that you’re interested in. Number four, diversify your social media platforms so you can amplify the content that you like. I love how she finalizes a thought process where you’ve got to bridge that gap. You have to be proactive and make connections to make up for the real spaces that we don’t usually have.

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The next advisor I’d like to introduce you to is Dr. Kiana Shiroma. She is the Director of Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising Center at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, which is in Honolulu, Hawaii. As some of you may know, the University of Hawaii is where I got my Medical degree from and where I was born and raised. It’s great to have Dr. Shiroma and the University of Hawaii participate in this episode.

I’m Dr. Kiana Shiroma. I’m from the Pre-Health Advising Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I’d like to thank Dr. Martin for allowing me to answer regarding the question in light of our pandemic at this moment, what can undergraduates do to learn more about health professions and enhance their application to make them stronger candidates? This is a great question. I get it with every other appointment that I have with my pre-health advisees. Although there are very few opportunities that you can take advantage of in person, there are very many ways that you can still be active and still improve your application as a health profession school applicant.

One way is to contact health professionals that are still working with patients and ask them if you would still be able to shadow them. I know on the Continental US, as well as here on Oahu, there are professionals who are letting applicants shadow them in their tele-medical appointments. That could be one option that you can still be able to learn more about health professions and still get some shadowing hours. Another way to get more experience or more knowledge about the professions is to take advantage of the very many online opportunities that there are out there. One of them would be our workshop series for which we provide to anyone and everyone, who is still has a school or university email accounts.

Pre-Health Advisors: Another way to get more experience or knowledge about the professions is to take advantage of the many online opportunities out there.

You can go to our website at Manoa.Hawaii.edu/undergrad/pac. You can sign up for our workshops there. Some of these workshops include a health professions panel as well as we used to shadow and network. All of those opportunities can be found on there. On our website, you will see that you can be able to subscribe to our monthly newsletter. In that newsletter, we include any kinds of opportunities that we get nationwide on there.

In addition to that, we post these same kinds of events on our social media, all of which you can find on that subscribe web page. We also have a specific webpage dedicated for opportunities during this COVID-19 pandemic. All of that can be found on our website. You can contact us directly at UHPac@Hawaii.edu. We’re open to the public. Anyone can schedule an appointment with us as well. You can email us if you have any questions or concerns, or if you want to schedule an appointment. Keep in mind that the admissions committees are aware that a pandemic is going on, they will be knowing that applicants in general aren’t able to get as many in-person experiences as possible. They will be putting more of a focus on what are you doing as an applicant to be proactive, to still learn about your health professional career, to still be striving to enhance your application.

That’s why it’s important to record everything that you’re doing even now. All of those events that I mentioned earlier that you may be attending, record all of those events and opportunities now. With that way, you’ll be able to refer back and make sure that you include everything that you’ve done up until this point in your application. Another way that you could also still enhance your application is to demonstrate that you are a leader. That’s thinking outside of the box and being creative and also learning and thinking about how you might want to contribute to this community during significant times of need.

Those are ways that admissions committees are still looking for you to be active in that way. Still be active, record everything that you do and then also know that admissions committees are going through the same pandemic as you. You’re trying to be proactive in other ways. Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions or concerns or want to speak with a peer advisor or myself. Thank you so much to Dr. Martin for having me. Take care and be safe.

That was Dr. Kiana Shiroma, the Director of Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, which is in Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Shiroma’s advice was very clear and precise. To summarize, number one, she recommends contact pre-health professionals and reach out to them and maybe possibly do a telemedicine shadowing. Number two, look at online opportunities. Look at your colleges or universities website, look for their workshops or newsletters or any other specific resources that could be applicable, but also look at other universities and other colleges resources.

Dr. Shiroma is highlighting some of the resources for her university students who are at the University of Hawaii, but the principles are still the same. The idea is still the same. Check out those resources at your nearby university or college that maybe you can tap into. Number three, record everything because admissions officers and admissions committees still want to know and see if you’re remaining interested even during this pandemic. Number four, demonstrate that you’re a leader. Start thinking outside the box, be creative, find a way to contribute to your community in these significant times of need.

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My next pre-health advisor is Ms. Jo Scullion. She is the Assistant Director of Health Careers in BioSciences at the University of California Berkeley. She’s been doing health and pre-health advising for over a decade. Let’s tune into her advice.

The question is what can undergraduates do to learn more about health professions and enhance their application to make them stronger candidates? First, I recommend students only do what they’re comfortable doing in this time of COVID-19 restrictions. There are many online volunteer activities that students can get involved in that can inform them and they can add to their application. Our Cal Berkeley students have been finding opportunities to help others by participating in the mini campus clubs that have resumed meetings via Zoom. For example, there is a K through 12 virtual student tutoring, CoachArt in the California.gov site to name a few options out there.

I’ve listed lots and lots of opportunities for getting involved and helping others in our weekly Health and Medicine Career Mill. Students know there are things they can still do to help. During the summer. I encourage students to read what I call Doctor Books for pre-meds and nursing books for pre-nursing students. I provided my short list of about ten books to students, but I have many more if they’re interested.

I encourage students to listen to science and medically-related podcasts to get a better scope of understanding of science and medicine. One suggestion I often make is to consider volunteering for crisis hotlines. These provide excellent training and communication skills for handling crisis situations that are done via phone or text. There are virtual opportunities for shadowing being created for students that allow them an opportunity to shadow professionals. Some professional schools are willing to accept these hours and if they are documented through homework.

Even if professional schools are not willing to accept those virtual shadowing hours, I remind students that the experience is for their learning benefit, not just to fill in hours for their application. For students who want to be actively out helping, there are activities that I suggest such as COVID testing, COVID tracing, helping out at food bags, delivering food to seniors, who are isolated at home, or train to become an essential worker such as an EMT, CNA, phlebotomist, scribe or medical assistant to name a few.

Research has been harder for students to find or continue as most research has been put on hold. I’ve encouraged students to ask their PIs if they could do a literature search for them. There are a few labs I have heard of that are starting to allow a student or two to return to lab work, which is great. There are many students who’ve had their research work put on hold. Some students are using this time to take extra courses since they have more time to study and some are using their extra time to learn another language. I’ve been truly impressed with the creative ways our students are adjusting to the virtual world of COVID and still managing to find opportunities to help others, whether virtually or in person.

That was Ms. Jo Scullion, one of the main pre-health advisors at the University of California Berkeley. She had a whole plethora of things that you could consider doing. To summarize, number one, consider looking at online volunteer opportunities and activities. Look at some clubs to join. Number two, she encourages reading what she calls the doctor books and nursing books to provide a better idea of what each health career could be like. Number three, listen to science and medically related podcasts to get a better understanding. Number four, conserve volunteered for such things as a crisis hotline. Number five, virtual shadowing as similarly suggested by Dr. Shiroma.


Listen to science and medically related podcasts to get a better scope of understanding of science and medicine.

 

Number six, consider helping the community out such as volunteering for COVID testing and COVID tracing or even helping out at food banks. Number seven, consider research. You could even do a literature search for a principal investigator. Don’t rule research out. Number eight, consider doing some extra studying and taking courses. Maybe you’ll learn another language. The main key component for me from Ms. Scullion’s advices is you have to be creative. Continually look at opportunities and find opportunities that maybe you or others have not noticed yet especially during times of this pandemic.

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My fourth and final speaker is Carolyn Herman. She’s an Associate Dean at the College of Arts and Sciences and also the Director of the Pre-Health Program at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Washington University or WashU as we call it, is my alma mater. It’s where I did my college and undergraduate years. I’m happy that Dean Herman and Washington University was able to participate in this very interesting and insightful episode. Let’s read what Dean Herman has to say.

This is Carolyn Herman. I direct the Pre-Health Advising Program at Washington University in St. Louis. I’m getting a lot of questions from my own students about what to do to get clinical experience when most shadowing and most in-person volunteering has been canceled. I think I have already seen students pursuing a couple of avenues and one of those is just getting a part-time or even a full-time job in a clinical setting. Maybe training as an EMT, getting licensed, and working for an ambulance service, maybe working as a transporter or an ER tech or scribing in-person at a local urgent care. I’m seeing all of those options being pursued.

A lot of my students who are not in a position to add work to a busy academic schedule are going to spend more time and energy on things like informational interviewing of physicians and virtual volunteering things, some of which are taking place in clinical settings. There are virtual volunteering opportunities with hospice patients with elderly in nursing homes. Those are great ways to at least important insights into the patient perspective and what it’s like to work with patients even if it’s not direct observation of the physician role. There are also some virtual shadowing opportunities that you can find just by Googling virtual shadowing. We’re encouraging students to participate in as many of those as possible. There will still be ways to explore healthcare and learn about both the physician role and patient’s needs even in the midst of a pandemic.

There will still be ways to explore healthcare and learn about both the physician role and patient’s needs, even in the midst of a pandemic.

That was Carolyn Herman at Washington University. Her advice was great because it specifically honed on ideas on how to obtain clinical experience and information during these challenging times. To summarize Carolyn Herman’s main points, number one, consider work, full-time or part-time or volunteering in clinical setting. That reminds of an episode that I recorded with Dr. Nate Enoki, a hand surgeon, Episodes 8 and 9 of this show. He talked about how he worked as an EMT and paramedic before even applying to medical school. Number two is informational interviewing of physicians and virtual volunteering. Number three, virtual shadowing.

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Those are four wonderful speakers and pre-health advisors from across the country giving advice that could be very pertinent to you, especially if you’re considering a career in pre-health or even wellness. For me, after having listened to these four pre-health advisors from across the country, there are two take-home messages that I would like to share. Number one is being creative. You have to be creative in your approach to gaining the experience and have a deeper understanding and knowledge of a career that you might be interested in. You have to think about that and explore that.

Number two is take initiative. Taking that first step, making that phone call or phone calls, sending out emails and being persistent to the people or organizations that you’d like to learn more formation from. Maybe utilizing a friend or a teacher or a family member that knows people that can help get you some deeper and stronger understanding of a career or a specialty or a profession that you’re interested in.

Previous episodes prior to this one was all about what people are doing in their careers and how they got there. This episode was different because it talked about what you can do to get to your career or a profession of your choosing. If you’re a student or pre-health advisor, or someone very interested in pursuing a career in health or wellness, and you want to get answers from other pre-health advisors and you like this episode, let me know. If you’d like this episode or loved it, let me know. What I can do is replicate another version of this, but maybe with a different question. I can reach out to other pre-health advisors to get their perspective in a similar episode like this for the future. The best way to do that is to go to my website, HealthCareersWithDrMarn.com or HCWithDrMarn.com. Check it out, go to my Contact page, send me an email, or put your question in the inquiry portion of the contact page. Let me know what your question might be. Let me know if you liked this episode. I will try to reach out to other pre-health advisors and see if they can provide wonderful advice like we did in this episode. My goal is to make this a wonderful resource to you as a student. Feedback of any sort would be appreciated and how I can make it better for you.

Before we sign off on this episode, I’d like to give a big thank you and special recognition to our four pre-health advisors that participated in this episode. That’s Dija Selimi from the University of Wisconsin, Kiana Shiroma from the University of Hawaii, Jo Scullion from the University of California Berkeley and Carolyn Herman at Washington University in St. Louis. Thank you so much. It’s meaningful and a big thank you. If you’d like to learn more about these speakers, reach out to them and also learn more about the schools that they are at. I’m going to leave their contact information on my website and you can go there to look it up. That wraps up this very unique episode. I’m glad you were able to tune in. If you’d like to learn more about these guests, speakers and other pasts guests, then check out my website, HealthCareersWithDrMarn.com or HCWithDrMarn.com. Thank you so much for reading. I’ll catch you on the next episode.

Important Links 

About Dr. Dila Selimi

I work with students preparing for health professions programs through direct advising. I develop and maintain learning management system tools (online courses) to supplement the direct advising services of our office and help students prepare and apply to programs. Finally, I lead the data analysis efforts of our office by organizing qualitative and quantitative data from our office, institution, and professional programs around issues of preparation, access, inclusion, application and matriculation.

About Jo Scullion

I started my career working in the dietary department of a retirement home, then a hospital in San Francisco. After 3 kids and working together with my husband for 25 years, a divorce left me

wondering where to go next. As an admin assistant at Mills College in the chemistry department I began to work with their Post Bac-Pre Med Program and discovered that I loved working with these students and developed a program for helping them understand the intricacies of preparing and applying to health professional schools and became the coordinator of the program. I was then hired as Program Director for the UCB Extension Post Bac program. Discovering that the corporate model was not a good fit, I was lucky enough to find myself working at UCB Career Center with pre-med/pre-health/bio students and here I hope to stay at my dream job!

 

 

About Carolyn Herman

As associate dean and director of the pre-health program, Carolyn works together with her fantastic team of colleagues to ensure that all pre-health students have the resources and support to achieve their goals.

She also teaches in the WashU Prison Education Program, teaches chemistry in the First-Year Summer Academic Program, and is the faculty advisor for the Minority Association of Premedical Students. She is also a faculty associate for Wheeler and enjoys this chance to connect with students informally.

She lives in near North County where she and her husband, Rick Gregory—the WashU Peace Corps recruiter—raised two daughters.  Off campus, she enjoys camping and hiking, local music, and as much travel she and Rick can find the time and money for.

About Dr. Kiana Shiroma

Dr. Kiana Shiroma is a Director of the Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, since 2014. In 2010, She became an Academic Advisor of the Honors & Regents & Presidential Scholars Programs.