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Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) Meet Rody Alexis IHS Program Class of 2018

Drexel Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program Rising Star Rody Alexis

Hometown: Randolph, Massachusetts
Undergraduate: Boston University, BA in Biology, Cellular and Molecular Genetics
Student's next step: Entered Tulane University School of Medicine, Fall 2019

Can you tell me a little about yourself before you came to Drexel?

I'm originally from Boston, Massachusetts. I went to Boston University (BU) for undergrad where I studied biology, cellular and molecular genetics, and minored in economics. After graduating in 2014, I worked in a hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for two years, as a clinical administrative support specialist. I wanted to gain more experience in the health care field, so I volunteered at various hospitals in Massachusetts and took additional science classes at Harvard University Extension School.

Why did you decide to enroll in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program?

I enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program because I wanted to learn more about medicine. In undergrad, most of my knowledge came from my pre-requisite classes and volunteer work. After I graduated, I wanted to gain more hands-on experience, and learn more about healthcare before applying to medical school. While at Dana-Farber, I worked alongside doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, as well as the administrative office. That really opened my eyes to the various roles and aspects involved in patient care. It furthered my passion and decision to pursue it. What I really like about the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program is that it promotes this type of collaboration. Interdisciplinary Health Sciences accepts students with different career interests and backgrounds, and allows them to work together.

When did you first become interested in medicine?

It was a growing process. I first got introduced to medicine through my grandmother. She came over from Haiti to live with us in Boston when I was younger. At times, it was challenging for her because she couldn't speak English. Whenever she had to go to her doctor appointments, I would go with her to help translate and offer my support. From there, medicine started to mean something more to me. As I grew older and got more involved in her care, I could see how much of an impact it had on both us. It meant a lot to my grandmother that I was always there by her side. For me, I wanted to continue helping people like her. That experience sparked my interest in volunteering at local hospitals when I was in high school. I went to Boston College High School, which is an all-boys Jesuit-Catholic High School. They taught us the motto, “Be a man for others” so that was the basis of my volunteer work and career aspirations. Since I really enjoyed volunteering in hospitals, I decided to major in Biology to learn more about medicine and that's where I found my niche.

What attracted you to Drexel's Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program?

After working for two years and completing my classes at Harvard University Extension School, I wanted to enroll in a master's degree program that would prepare me for medical school. I specifically looked for a program that would offer the opportunity to take rigorous courses and a chance to do research. The flexibility the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program allows when choosing classes was intriguing. It was also the first time I was going to live somewhere outside of Boston. It was exciting to think about experiencing a new city while starting this new stage of my life.

How do you like Philadelphia?

I love it. It's very similar to Boston. They're really passionate about their sports here, which is something that's really big in my life, too. There's a lot to do in the city. The food and the people here are amazing. It was really easy to make friends.

In the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program, what is your relationship with the faculty like?

Everyone has been really supportive, from my initial phone call to learn about the program, to now as I prepare to graduate. Within my lab, my mentors, Dean Elisabeth Van Bockstaele and Dr. Beverly Reyes have taught me so much about research. In terms of counseling, Dr. Anita Gaurnier-Hausser and Matt Sanuck are great. They are honest with you and are committed to providing you with everything that you will need to succeed. The professors are very passionate about what they teach and are willing to take the time to help you have a better grasp of the material. I am very grateful for all the guidance and encouragement that I receive from the Drexel faculty.

What is your relationship with your classmates like?

We're really close in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program, whether it's calling one another up to go study or to hang out on the weekends we are always there for each other. All my classmates are incredibly talented and smart. I am very fortunate to be friends with so many bright and compassionate individuals.

Can you tell me about the research you are doing?

I didn't get to do research when I was in undergrad, so the opportunity to do it in my second year was another thing that was appealing to me about the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program. For my research, I'm studying the relationship between stress and Alzheimer's Disease. A major hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques on the brain tissue. Currently, we are looking at how stress induced norepinephrine release regulates amyloid beta expression and further promotes the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Are you involved with any extracurricular activities or volunteer work?

Yes. I volunteer at PALS, which is at Spring Garden Elementary School down the street. I work with seventh and eighth graders, helping them with math and science. Because it's in the city, you get to help them with other aspects of life too, like preparing to go to high school and helping them discover what they would like to do afterwards. I also play intramural sports in University City. Several of us got together to form a team, and we're currently in the playoffs for basketball. Along with that, I am part of the mentorship program in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. For the mentorship program, we help the incoming first-years with their adjustment to graduate school. We place a special emphasis on camaraderie and providing everyone with the support they need to meet their personal and professional goals. We answer questions they may have, help them select classes, prepare for the MCAT, and give them advice on how to find research and shadowing opportunities during the summer.

What do you plan to do after you complete the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program?

I plan to attend medical school and continue to cultivate myself as a future physician.

What advice would you give to future and current Interdisciplinary Health Sciences students?

My recommendation to incoming students and first years is to reach out and support each other. Build a connection with the faculty and your classmates, even the ones from other programs. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Medicine is about teamwork and learning how to help others. Collaborating with other students gives you a chance to learn new skills and to network. Everyone at Drexel is very talented, and is here for a reason. This is a great opportunity to learn from each other, and create bonds that will help you in your future career.

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Graduate students in a Interdisciplinary Health Sciences lecture at Drexel University College of Medicine.