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Meet five doctors – all Whitworth biology/chemistry
alums – who specialize in excellence and empathy

> Amy Harker-Murray, '94
> Ara Balkian, '95
> David Flesher, '81
> Jennifer Ratcliffe, '86
> Taryn Clark, '09

Before Whitworth formalized its pre-med program in 2004, the medical school acceptance rate for Whitworth students varied widely – from 50 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2002. Since then, the university has maintained a 100 percent acceptance rate for pre-med students who perform all of the prescribed activities in the pre-med program. About 20 students in the program apply to medical, dental and veterinary schools each year.

In the last three years, students have been accepted to some of the top med schools in the country, including the University of Washington, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University, Loma Linda University, Boston University, Chicago Medical School, Mount Sinai University, and Oregon Health & Science University, among others. Last year marked the first time that two Whitworth students got into the UW's School of Medicine in the same year; this year, seven students have already been accepted to that highly competitive program. There are currently 59 Whitworth alumni from 2007-11 enrolled in medical school.

Whitworth's interdisciplinary pre-med program consists of advising, counseling and optional seminar classes. Freshmen start the program by taking Introduction to the Health Professions, a seminar-style course in which students meet with guest speakers representing a variety of health fields. This course also introduces students to the "Big Seven" of the program: seven tasks that students are strongly encouraged to accomplish before graduating. Those tasks include earning a 3.7 GPA, obtaining a specific minimum MCAT score, logging a minimum of 500 hours of medical experience, serving a minimum of 500 hours of community service, completing at least 50 credits of science classes, gaining experience with diverse populations or other cultures, and applying "early and well" to medical schools.

Whitworth Professor of Chemistry Karen Stevens, who oversees the pre-med program with Associate Professor of Biology Mike Sardinia, '87, says one of the program's biggest strengths is that it draws on information she and Sardinia have learned as members of the National Association of Advisors for Health Professions. Deans of medical schools have spoken at NAAHP meetings and explained the application process from their end, which she says helped her and Sardinia build a pre-med program based on what medical schools are looking for in applicants. They also have instituted a year-long pre-application process that prepares students for the med-school application process. The process includes a committee letter system for submitting student reference letters, in which pre-med advisors hold informational interviews with each applicant, prior to collecting reference letters, and then prepare a cumulative committee letter using all of that information.

The new Robinson Science Hall, due to open for classes this fall, also will help give students a leg up for medical school, Sardinia says. The facility will house the chemistry and biology departments, and will include a dedicated anatomy and physiology lab with state-of-the-art equipment and a walk-in cold room that will support student and faculty research projects.

 

 

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