Spring 2013
The road to medical school

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Megan Hellum

Megan Hellum, outreach coordinator, conducts a workshop for potential applicants during preview day. Photo by Matt Lush.

Prepare to apply: School of Medicine offers introductions for perspective students

By Anne Pershing

Potential students come to the University of Nevada School of Medicine with different backgrounds and levels of preparation. The medical school reaches out to those potential students with a variety of programs designed to help make the application process more transparent and comfortable.

While many may have the desire to attend medical school in the Silver State, there is a rigorous process in place to recruit the best qualified students and make sure they are amply prepared for the four years of study. The following four programs illustrate different paths students may take to prepare for applying to the School of Medicine.

Pre-Med Conference and Tour

According Ann Diggins, recruitment director for the School of Medicine, applying to medical school is very high stress.

"Nearly 70 freshmen are admitted each year so we try to make our admissions process as transparent as we can so students know what the expectations are. These types of programs provide an opportunity to give great information on our process and showcase our school's students, faculty and innovative programs."

The all-day pre-med conference and tour in January of this year was one path to showcasing the medical school to potential applicants as 65 students from across Nevada visited the school's Reno campus.

Those attending the conference visited the anatomy lab, learned about medical school admissions and interview preparations, listened to advice from a medical student panel, learned about medical team building, clinical experiences, dual degree programs, strategies for the MCAT and toured the medical school and University of Nevada, Reno campuses.

Gina Sella, education outreach coordinator in Reno, said that the pre-med conference and tour is a tremendous opportunity to bring Southern Nevada students to the Reno campus and allow them to see first-hand where the first two years of medical school are administered.

"In addition, students have the opportunity to learn from first- and second-year medical students about their experiences at our medical school. This tour is particularly beneficial in increasing awareness about what we have to offer statewide."

Megan Hellum, outreach coordinator in Las Vegas who, along with Sella organized the event, explained that while the majority of students attending the conference and tour were UNLV undergraduates, students from the University of Nevada, Reno and other Nevada institutions participated.

"This is an excellent opportunity for pre-med and undergraduates from Southern Nevada to experience the medical school environment on the Reno campus. They get an in-depth look at the medical school's curriculum, culture and admissions process," said Hellum.

Preview Program

Sella likened the preview program to speed dating.

"Students rotate through six tables and are presented with a brief overview of information on financial planning, admissions and faculty and student perspectives on medical school. The program offers students who are just beginning to think about a medical career the opportunity to gather information and network with faculty and staff at the School of Medicine."

And Diggins added: "These are annual events we hold at UNR and UNLV for pre-med students to begin learning about the admissions process and how to make themselves competitive to apply to medical school. We want to increase the number of Nevada students considering medicine as a career path."

Nevadans Into Medicine

Diggins explained that Nevadans Into Medicine is a week-long residential program for undergraduate sophomores, juniors and seniors that allows them to interact with faculty, physicians and medical students on both the Reno and Las Vegas campuses.

The program is competitive and up to 25 students are selected each year.

"It's a prep program and mini-medical school crammed into six very active days," Diggins said.

"Nevadans Into Medicine program includes several clinical experiences, including two full days of shadowing third-year medical students and residents, which is a highlight of this program," she added.

"It is incredibly valuable to see a ‘day in the life' of a third-year medical student on campus and this is the only program where this happens for prospective students. It inspires the students, energizes them and helps confirm their desire for a career in medicine."

The program is offered at no charge for those students who are selected. All travel, food and program expenses are funded by the School of Medicine.

Sella said the program has been a hit with pre-med students since its inception in 2001.

"This program is specifically designed to showcase the medical school for Nevada's pre-med students to assist them in finding success in the admissions process and also highlights what the School of Medicine has to offer over the four years of medical education."

Post-Baccalaureate Program

When the post-baccalaureate program was in development, there was much discussion on how it should look, what the program should accomplish, and what the outcome should be in respect to students, according to Sella.

Those working on the program decided to create one designed to help pre-medical students who needed additional academic preparation for the rigors of medical school.

One of the major hurdles that all pre-med students must conquer is the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT. The post-bacc program provides MCAT preparation and test-taking skills to help prospective students achieve better success with the exam.

"The post-bacc program also offers a sweet deal in respect to admissions to the University of Nevada School of Medicine. Students who meet the academic and MCAT criteria for the program are placed in a pool to compete for set-aside seats here. Students who are not selected from the pool or who do not meet the minimum criteria for the pool are still placed in the traditional applicant pool for consideration. This is an amazing opportunity and provides tremendous motivation for these students," said Sella.

Hellum explained that the post-baccalaureate program is designed for students who have big dreams of becoming a doctor, but need a second chance.

"Our hope is that this program will open the doors to more low income and first-generation students who perhaps didn't have the support they needed during their undergraduate experience. This is the second year of the program and interest has been very positive throughout the state," she said.

Diggins pointed out that some potential medical students have hit some barriers along the way or had a non-traditional path to medicine, but this program gets them on track and ready to apply and start medical school.

"It is important to these students to help them understand the ‘culture' of higher education and medical school. It helps them become more competitive and successful with more information and support they receive through the process," Diggins said.