So You Want to Become a Doctor?

March 12, 2015

Grinnell College is a perfect springboard for students who plan to become future physicians, veterinarians, and other health professionals.

Grinnell students receive expert guidance from faculty and staff and rigorous courses that help them enter the nation’s top medical and graduate school programs. Factor in Grinnell’s liberal arts focus and diverse research and learning experiences here and abroad — Grinnell students are well prepared to enter the competitive programs of their choice.

“Sometimes prospective students and their families think that there is some great advantage to going to a big university where there’s a medical school, but there’s really no demonstrated evidence that’s the case,” says Dack Professor of Chemistry Jim Swartz.

Ninety percent of Grinnell graduates who applied to M.D. and D.O. programs with a grade-point-average of 3.6 or higher are accepted into medical programs within five years of graduation, according to data from 2002-2014.

Queenster Nartey ’16 is a biological chemistry major. Last summer she helped with the development and design of the user interface for an app that will allow Type 2 diabetics to learn how certain changes to their diet or exercise could affect their blood glucose levels. She enjoyed studying in Denmark where she worked with doctors who introduced her to hands on exercises like suturing, inserting and IV, and other techniques. She has also enjoyed working with a professor on a Mentored Advanced Project about the effects of copper alloy surfaces in minimizing the growth of bacteria in hospital settings.

“I have truly fallen in love with research and hope to pursue it with a combined M.D./Ph.D. program after graduation,” she says.

Grinnell faculty and staff begin working with students as soon as they show an interest in a health profession to help them get the most out of their four years at Grinnell.

  • Students receive an introduction to the Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC), which assists students who are considering a health career and need an advanced degree.
  • Faculty help students plan which courses to take.
  • Students interact with the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, which offers preprofessional advising, job shadowing, internships, graduate school guides, dedicated computers that contain medical school requirements, and career preparation books.

A peer student network, Students on Health Oriented Tracks (SHOT) works with students and collaborates with the HPAC.

  • SHOT leaders strive to know the program entry requirements to medical, dental, and pharmacology schools. They explain to students how to get recommendations and how best to navigate the process.
  • SHOT regularly brings experts to campus such as veterinarians, midwifes, and others.

So You Want to Become a Doctor, Veterinarian, Physician Assistant or …

There’s an abundance of graduate programs in a variety of areas beyond just medical school. Selective programs look favorably upon students who take rigorous courses, study abroad, and have a liberal arts background, says Shannon Hinsa Leasure, associate professor of biology.

Medical schools and graduate level programs want well rounded students who engage in diverse learning experiences here and abroad, Hinsa Leasure says.

  • Students can apply to Off Campus Study programs to gain field experience and work with health professionals in Denmark, Costa Rica, and beyond.
  • Grinnell College students can participate in the Master of Public Health Cooperative Degree program while at Grinnell. The cost of the program completed while at Grinnell is covered under tuition. For the remaining year, students will pay tuition at the University of Iowa.
  • Students can become certified nursing assistants and work in local facilities in Grinnell to obtain the number of patient contact hours they need for some health graduate programs.
  • Research opportunities abound in campus laboratories.
  • Alumni generously offer their time to advise students about program requirements and provide them with real-world information.

“It’s important to be open-minded when thinking of health professions — students likely have not been exposed to all of the options available and it is important to find the right fit for each student,” says Hinsa Leasure. “The experiences you have in your classes here and doing research may change your mind about your future career. We try to prepare students for things that they do not anticipate upon arriving at Grinnell, but get interested in along the way.”

Artemis Gogos ’14 is pursuing an M.D/Ph.D. in a medical scientist training program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She says laboratory experience at Grinnell solidified her plan to pursue a career in research, and participating in an off campus study program in Costa Rica convinced her also to pursue a medical degree.

Prospective students who are considering a career in the health professions should focus on getting a wide variety of experiences during their four years at Grinnell, Gogos says.

“Accept all opportunities that come your way. Every decision you make will shape your perspective in a new way, and you will start to see a multitude of possibilities in the field of health care,” she says.

Artemis Gogos ’14, Lincoln, Neb.
Queenster Nartey ’16, Chicago, Ill.