Hometown: Fleetwood, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate: DeSales University, BS in Biology
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself before you came to Drexel?
I grew up just outside Reading, Pennsylvania, and studied at DeSales University where I graduated with a degree in biology in 2019. I was involved with the campus ministry department there and worked as a residence advisor. During undergrad, I participated in several internships, shadowing and doing research with surgeons at Reading Hospital. I was accepted to Drexel University College of Medicine in 2019 and deferred my acceptance for two years to serve as a campus missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). In my free time, I enjoy running, reading and spending time outdoors.
What drew you to medicine in general, and to the College of Medicine specifically?
With my immediate family full of nurses, a nurse practitioner and a family therapist, medicine was something that always was an interest for me. I always loved learning about science, especially the intricacies of the human body and disease. In college, I got to add to this a love of service as I attended several trips and led a club on campus. Meanwhile, many of the doctors I got to shadow during college modeled the compassionate care and leadership that I desired to pursue in medicine. Most recently, during my time as a missionary before medical school, I came to see medicine as a way to live out my faith and encounter God through those I serve and with whom I serve.
I chose to attend the College of Medicine because I really got the feeling that they cared about forming well-rounded doctors. I was lucky enough to interview in person since I applied before the COVID-19 pandemic, and I felt that the students and faculty genuinely wanted each other to succeed and form skilled and compassionate physicians. The supportive and collaborative environment reminded me a lot of my undergrad. That environment was one of my favorite parts of the campus. The College of Medicine's devotion to serving the community was also a part of my decision to attend there (especially now that we get to do so in West Reading).
How do you think your undergraduate studies, and any work or continuing education experiences you had prior to medical school, will prepare you for this next step in your academic career?
I studied biology at DeSales University and with strong health science programs, I was able to get an education that went beyond the normal material one would expect from a science course. From biochemistry to microbiology to molecular cell biology, my professors prepared me well to take on challenging courses in the sciences and regularly tied their material in to medical examples. My opportunity to do undergraduate research, testing the effects of potential chemotherapeutics on breast cancer cell lines, gave me great experience in quantitative research and presentation that will carry me far in my time at the College of Medicine. All the leadership and service opportunities I had through residence life and campus ministry have equipped me to be the compassionate and confident med student and physician I want to be in practice.
You spent two years with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. What kind of work did that entail? How you think that experience will shape you as a medical student and future physician?
Being able to serve as a missionary with FOCUS was simply life-changing. Most people thought I was foolish to defer my medical school acceptance for two years to do a job where I agreed to fundraise my salary, go on a dating fast, and travel anywhere in the country. However, I knew then and even more so now that I had to take this opportunity to give back to other college students who needed to encounter God in their life just as I was blessed to receive during my undergrad. With FOCUS, I had the privilege to serve with a team of missionaries at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, where we shared the hope and joy of the gospel with students. This ranged from building friendships on the sports fields or over a meal, to leading Bible studies or spiritual mentorship, to going on mission trips and attending conferences. I was able to make an impact that made all the sacrifices of deferring medical school worth it.
My time as a missionary changed me in so many ways. My team and the support of FOCUS helped me to grow in my personal holiness and virtues such as patience, humility and generosity. I had hard conversations with students, led in ways I never thought I would, and gave of my time and energy in ways that stretched my limits. Serving the social, emotional and spiritual needs of my students has given me the heart to bring that same compassion as I serve the physical needs of my patients. My perseverance and clear vision through my mission work with FOCUS will be key to me succeeding in medical school and as a future physician.
What advice would you give to a prospective medical student who wants to engage in a long-term service experience prior to medical school?
Go for it! I know for me that it has completely changed me as a person and will heavily influence how I will live as a med student and physician in the future. I know there can be a lot of fears surrounding deferring, too: Won’t med school be harder after taking time off from my studies? What will my family, friends and professors think, when they have invested in my education up to this point? What if I have to reapply or take my MCAT again? What if med school won’t let me defer? These are all valid concerns, but you have to be willing to stand up for your decision if you believe it is where you can serve. If this is an experience that you cannot do once you start medical school, then don’t feel guilty or afraid of taking a break to do it. Yes, it may require sacrifices and push back your medical schooling timeline, but the years of experience can be so much more valuable for the future physician that you are striving to be.