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Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Program Meet Kate Williams
IHS Program Class of 2022

Kate Williams, Drexel Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Program Rising Star, Class of 2022

Hometown: Woonsocket, RI
Undergraduate: Providence College, BS in biology, BS in psychology, certificate in neuroscience
Student's next step: Currently applying to medical school.

Tell me a little bit about yourself before you came to Drexel.

After graduating from Providence College, I worked as a medical scribe in an emergency department. This experience solidified my interest in medicine and increased my understanding of the profession. I volunteered for several years at an inpatient hospice facility sitting with patients and providing respite care to primary caregivers. I was fortunate enough to share my experiences as a hospice volunteer with the Drexel University community last spring during the annual Explore and Serve Day, which showcases students’ contributions in community service and research.

What drew you to the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) program?

I was looking for a program that would challenge me academically, backed by a community that would support me. I found exactly that with the IHS program.

The coursework is rigorous, but the support received from the program advisors, professors and peers alike is truly what makes the IHS program a special one. It was evident from the students I spoke to during my interview for the program and is even more apparent now as I experience it each day as a student.

How is the program going so far?

Since day one, I knew that the IHS program was special. From an academic standpoint, you are exposed to a broad variety of courses that challenge you and help you grow as a student. From a community involvement perspective, the city of Philadelphia is a great place to volunteer, which I’ve seen in the numerous and diverse organizations with which IHS students work.

However, the thing that really makes IHS special, and what has made this such a truly positive experience for me are the people. The students in the program are one of a kind. We all come from differing backgrounds and ranging experiences, but are united by our shared interest in becoming future health care providers who wholeheartedly want to make a difference in society. This is apparent in the topics chosen for our research and in our community involvement. Each student in the program is actively working to make a difference, and it is both humbling and inspiring to learn alongside them—inside and outside of the classroom.

What organizations, extracurriculars, research or community service experiences have you been involved in at the College of Medicine? How have they impacted your experience here?

Looking to get more involved with the Philadelphia community, I began volunteering with the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center last December. As part of their Project Happy Birthday Wishes program, I make telephone calls to local veterans on their birthdays. The project started at the height of the COVID pandemic, recognizing that birthday celebrations might have looked a little bit different because of social distancing practices. The program has continued as a way of checking in on the veterans and letting them know that they are on volunteers’ minds on their special day.

This semester, I was accepted into the Drexel Community Scholars program. I was fortunate to be paired with The Center, a local organization on Broad Street, and to serve each week as a host for their daytime services program. The program provides access to showers, laundry services, case management and other programming to the local community, many of whom are experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. Each week, I help to distribute new outfits to our guests and assist with computer questions, whether I’m helping someone access an email account or helping them submit a job application online.

On campus, I serve as a teaching assistant for the Career Development course required of all first-year students and am also part of the mentoring program for new students. I have truly enjoyed getting involved both on campus and in the local community, and my involvement has only added to the positive experience I have had at Drexel.

Can you tell me more about your research experience here?

Currently, I am conducting research in the division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. I have a strong interest in the field of palliative care because of my time spent as a hospice volunteer back home in Rhode Island, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from the palliative care team at Jefferson.

Right now, I am assisting the department’s social worker with a project evaluating the assessment of bereavement and complicated grief risk factors within inpatient palliative care consultations. The study will help establish ways to identify and provide support for patients and their families who exhibit risk factors for complicated grief, and to build a stronger support network for bereavement after a patient passes on during the palliative care service.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering the IHS program?

I would encourage prospective students to look for a program that aligns not only with your current goals, but also with the goals (and dreams) that you hope to achieve after the program. Ask yourself: are you looking for something just to bolster your transcript? Are you hoping to gain more research experience? Like many things in life, this program will be what you make of it. If you come in with an open mind and work hard, you can not only achieve your goals, but things that you thought would be unattainable will also come into reach.

Other programs might offer research experience, some may offer record enhancement, but if you are looking for both academic and personal growth, look no further than the IHS program. I remain truly grateful for this program, and for the people in it who have helped achieve my goals and strive for even larger ones moving forward.