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MD Program Meet Annie Robel
MD Program Class of 2023

Annie Robel: MD Program Class of 2023

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Undergraduate: Notre Dame, BS in Biology

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

I feel like before I came to Drexel, as far as medical specialties I was thinking about, I was actually thinking more about pediatrics because I've always liked working with kids in any capacity. I was in a College Mentors for Kids club in college, and we would bring local elementary school kids to campus to gear them toward thinking about going to college one day. We would do fun activities on campus and just let them see what college life could be like. This really made me realize that I'm pretty good with kids and I could see myself working with them. I still have to do a lot of pediatrics shadowing and looking at what being a pediatrician would really be like before I can decide.

After finishing my undergraduate degree, I went home to Pittsburgh and worked in a lab at Hillman Cancer Center, which is affiliated with University of Pittsburgh. I worked in a lab that was focused on immunotherapy for head and neck cancers. The biggest thing I tell people about that experience is that it definitely showed me I was doing the right thing by going to medical school. With my biology degree, I was never really sure if I wanted to do more of the scientific discovery part, or the medical school part. Doing research helped me hone important skills, but I also saw that I did not want to be in research forever; it reassured me that I was doing the right thing. It also allowed me to work with a mentor who was an ENT, so I got to see what that specialty involved.

What drew you to medicine in general, and to College of Medicine specifically?

For medicine, it's that when I was like a week old, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That was obviously a hectic situation for my family, because she just gave birth to me and it felt like, ‘Oh my god, what's going to happen now?' She actually got the entire tumor removed and has been clear from it for the past 24 years -- as long as I've been alive.

Growing up and hearing about that, I was always amazed at the fact that one person, this neurosurgeon, was able to give me my mom for my entire life. So I always thought it would be rewarding to be able to be that person for someone else – not necessarily by being a neurosurgeon or anything, but I've always felt drawn to the fact that doctors have this ability to change people's lives.

As for what drew me to Drexel, I just felt like every time I came to visit, I could see that people here really cared about each other, especially in terms of the students and the faculty. To me, med school was going to be med school no matter where I went: we learn the same amount of material and take the same standardized tests, but I wanted to go where I could see myself happiest. And for me, that was Drexel.

As part of your studies at the College of Medicine, you did a summer internship at Tower Health – West Reading. Can you tell me more about that?

I've been considering specializing in OB/GYN for a while. I think women's health is really important and interesting. I really wanted to spend this summer looking into that a little more, and did an internship that was half clinical shadowing in the hospital, and half doing clinical research with my mentor Dr. Jiang, an OB/GYN doctor in West Reading.

Dr. Jiang was doing this study that was comparing two types of hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women. There's an FDA-approved hormone replacement therapy and a kind called pellet hormone therapy. Pellet therapy isn't FDA approved, but is appealing to a lot of women because of a study that came out a while ago that said that traditional hormone therapies were linked to higher incidences of breast cancer, clotting diseases and issues like that. So I think a lot of women got scared and went to this pellet hormone therapy thinking it was safer and more natural. What we wanted to look at this summer was the actual safety of it, which Dr. Jiang did a prior study on and found that it wasn't necessarily safer than the FDA-approved therapy. And my job this summer was looking at these clinical guidelines implemented in 2017 to see if they made pellet hormone therapy safer or not.

What was your internship like in terms of day-to-day work?

I worked remotely for part of the week and went to West Reading a couple of times a week to shadow. Working remotely, I was going through patient charts and putting information into an Excel spreadsheet; I looked at any side effects they had, looked at their lab levels, and looked at their hormones and how those were affected by the pellets.

On the days that I shadowed, I was either in the women's health clinic, which was really cool, or in the OR for gynecology, where I got to watch hysterectomies and tubal ligations. For the other part of shadowing, I was on labor and delivery and got to see babies being born.

What was it like working with people from Tower Health–West Reading and learning from them?

I loved the environment. It felt like when I walked in, there was just like an understanding among everyone that this is a teaching hospital – it seemed like everyone just got the memo. They were committed to taking the time to teach any learners and they made sure to be welcoming and open to questions. I never felt like I was really annoying someone by asking a question even when things were hectic and people were stressed out, and that was great for me.

Having Dr. Jiang to contact when I was working remotely was definitely helpful. He's been a great mentor and is very open to me calling him at any time with questions. I could tell he was motivated to make sure that I felt welcomed and knew what I was doing. Even though I was working on the pellet study remotely, it definitely didn't feel like I was all by myself in my apartment, which was really nice.

How do you think some of the things you learned this summer are going to come into play as you get back to classes?

I think that it'll be really helpful this year, especially in the reproductive unit, because I feel like I did the work backwards in terms of learning about that. This summer, I was basically exposed to what a third-year MD student would have on an OB/GYN rotation, except that I wasn't able to do anything but observe. I've seen the clinical side of it now, and I hope it'll help me think through things and organize information better during the OB/GYN unit. I've at least learned the abbreviations that people use and the terminology.

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

I worked with admissions a lot, and last year I gave a lot of tours to applicants. I was also helping the staff in admissions develop things for Accepted Students' Day before that got canceled, due to COVID-19. This year, I'll be involved with the Pediatric AIDS Benefit Concert, on the food committee for the event – so, again, that's something that has changed due to COVID. We're not sure if we can hold the event in person anymore, but if it's a virtual event, that means no food. We're definitely having to adapt everything, but I want to be involved; I volunteered for the event last year without being on an official committee, and I loved the cause the event raises money for, as well as the atmosphere with the student performances.

I'm also going to be on the executive board of the College of Medicine's chapter of the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), helping plan events. I don't know if there was a specific thing that got me interested in women's health, but I helped a lot with the Eliza Shirley House clinic last year, one of our Health Outreach Project (HOP) clinics that's an emergency shelter for single women and families. I just always liked going there and liked working with the women there. The work wasn't always relating to specifically women's health issues, but I liked the mission of what we were doing there and trying to help empower women.

What advice would you give prospective students who are considering the College of Medicine's MD Program?

My advice is definitely along the lines of kind of why I chose to attend Drexel. I'd tell them the fact that again, med school is med school and to look for a school where you're going to be happiest. And going along with that, I'd say to take care of yourself first, especially with what's going on right now. If you're not at your best, you're not going to do your best work and succeed at school. I always try to make sure that I'm in my best headspace before I really tackle school. I think that's a pretty important part of med school.

Contact Information

Drexel University College of Medicine
Office of Admissions
60 N. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

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