Summers are important to pre-health students. According to Liza Thompson, a medical school admissions consultant and former director of Johns Hopkins University, “Admissions committees want students who are used to being very busy and maximizing time with enriching, informative, educational experiences.” In other words, students who spend too much recreational time might be viewed as not being mature enough or not being wise stewards of their time.
Medical schools and other professional programs are looking for students with practical experience and observation hours in diverse clinical settings. We advise students to do the following throughout the summers of their college years:
- Shadow and volunteer in community clinics (this comprehensive list is focused on Western Washington).
- Attend an immersive summer internship.
- Conduct medical research in the region.
- Volunteer in a community-based organization.
- Get a global health perspective with CFHI (Child Family Health International).
- Hone your writing skills through reading and writing narrative medicine.
More importantly, summer engagement in the clinical and professional environments enables students to gain a greater awareness of the interpersonal and intraprofessional competencies necessary to thrive in the health professions. Interpersonal competence includes a service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, and oral communication. Intrapersonal competence includes ethical responsibility to self and others, reliability and dependability, resilience, and capacity for improvement. Our conversation on these matters begins in our Health Care Seminar: PPHS 1800.
There are many opportunities for summer research and internships. Most opportunities have application deadlines between January and March.
PPHS 1800 is required of all continuing pre-professional health sciences (PPHS) students, incoming transfer students interested in PPHS, or SPU students new to the PPHS program. All students intending to pursue the PPHS-sponsored committee interview process for medical, veterinary, or dental school applications at any time in the future must take this course. Students enrolled in the course are required to shadow a professional over the summer prior to attending PPHS 1800 during autumn term. PPHS 1800 discusses the real-world requirements for professional careers in the Health Sciences with health care providers in the fields of Medicine, Dentistry, Physical Therapy, Pharmacy, Physician Assistant, Optometry, Veterinary Medicine and Graduate Nursing. Job shadowing, an informational interview and/or volunteering, and a summary paper are required.
Because the seminar is based on SPU’s vocational initiative, it explores health care careers through the lens of Christian vocation. As we encourage continued reflection, students in the course read Gordon T. Smith’s Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocations.
- What on earth is God doing?
- Who are you?
- What is your life stage?
- What are your life circumstances?
- What is the cross that you have to bear?
- Who are you afraid of?
These questions lead students to one core question: What is the good work to which I am called? Our goal is to move students to a deeper level of knowledge about health care and the health care system connected to their calling. Hence, second-year and transfer students continue to develop a sustaining vocational narrative through 1) shadowing, 2) volunteering in underserved communities with Urban Involvement at the John Perkins Center, and 3) journaling in narrative form about their experiences. In addition, students can take advantage of medical mentoring opportunities through SPU’s mentoring program housed in the Center for Applied Learning. After completing PPHS 1800 and co-curricular requirements, students are assigned a PPHS advisor.
PPHS Advisor assignment follows completion of PPHS 1800. Students must complete the following activities in order to receive a PPHS advisor:
- Pass PPHS 1800.
- Document a minimum of 20 hours of shadowing.
- Document a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer work through a non-profit in the United States.
- Students should provide their documentation on letterhead stationery.
Meet with your assigned PPHS advisor. Individual pre-health advisors on behalf of SPU’s pre-health students, providing an honest evaluation, including both strengths and weaknesses, of the student interviewee. Without this formal appraisal, professional organizations would not give credit to the Committee Letter that becomes part of your application. As you begin working with your advisor, it is essential to refrain from prematurely asking for an interview until your application represents your best effort. Medical and dental schools are aware of SPU’s committee structure and expect your recommendation letter packet to conform to this interview and recommendation structure.
Apply to summer internship programs to continue building, in an incremental fashion, your sustaining narrative in regards to vocation. The allied health sciences consist of numerous options (clinical practice, community health, medical administration, health policy, teaching, research, and more). Most PPHS students focus on allopathic medicine or osteopathic medicine, but they must have good reasons for pursuing one path rather than others. We believe that students develop a sense of calling through ongoing experience in clinical and non-clinical settings. In doing so, students begin to refine their sense of mission to solidify their calling.
Register for PPHS 3400 if you plan to complete your professional school application at the end of your third year (you need the director’s approval to do this).