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Medical Science Meet Student Eric Haljasmaa

Eric Haljasmaa, Drexel Medical Science Program Student


Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate: University of Pittsburgh, BS in Bioengineering
Graduate: Drexel University College of Medicine, MS in Medical Science


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

I'm from Pittsburgh, and I went to the University of Pittsburgh. My undergraduate major was bioengineering. Then I came here for the premed program.

What was it about the MS in Medical Science (MMS) program that interested you?

I'd heard that it had a good success rate of students getting into medical school afterwards. I applied to the Interdepartmental Medical Science (IMS) program. When I started IMS, I struggled. I had some difficulty in IMS, but I learned to overcome my weaknesses in Medical Science.

Were there resources for you here when you were struggling?

I think the main issue was me. Since my undergrad major was engineering, it was a very different transition to the programs here. I had to learn how to take exams more effectively. I struggled with finishing exams on time. Near the end of the first year, I started learning how to do that well. There were definitely resources if I needed them. The faculty were really helpful in general.

What is your relationship like with the faculty here?

They have definitely been supportive. When I was struggling, they helped a lot with supporting me.

What has your relationship with your classmates been like?

It's been great. We have developed a lot of strong bonds by helping each other get through the program.

What has your experience been like in the program?

In the first year, you take medical school courses, which I really enjoyed even though I found them challenging. The fact that I enjoyed learning the material and found the classes interesting helped reinforce my decision to want to go to medical school. I knew I was on the right path.

Now in the second year, I am taking more classes. They are high-level, graduate and medical-level courses. I am also doing research, which is a good experience as well. It has helped show me what I like and what I don't like in the medical field.

Do you know what type of medicine you'd like to practice?

Right now it's kind of all over the board. During undergrad, I worked as a care tech and found I really enjoyed working with patients. I have a strong interest in internal medicine. As a care tech, I also got to do IVs and draw blood, and I discovered I really liked working with my hands. Performing surgeries during research has also helped reinforce this, so surgery is an interest as well.

Can you tell me about your research project?

I'm in Dr. Bouchard's lab, where he works on hepatitis B. For my project, I'm working on creating a liver model that can be used in drug metabolism and liver infection studies. A model will allow us to infect cells so that we won't have to use as many animal models. A liver model would make research a lot easier and more cost efficient.

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

I think the number one thing you need to do to be successful in this program is manage your time well. I also think getting to know your classmates is helpful. You can form study groups and help each other out throughout the program. Those are the two things that have been the most helpful to me.

Drexel University College of Medicine Medical Science program graduate students participating in a group discussion.