Health professional schools seek well-rounded applicants. In addition to a strong academic background, applicants must also demonstrate core competencies through non-academic experiential learning. This can include clubs and community service, clinical healthcare experiences, research experience, enrichment programs, and cultural competence. To generate a compelling narrative, we recommend sustained commitment and continual self-reflection. The AAMC is a good place to start researching opportunities that align with your medical school interests.
*experiences spreadsheet linked below only available to Pomona students/alums using Box (see Box directions at bottom of page if you haven't set up your Box account at Pomona)
Prehealth Gain Experience
Student Clubs and Community Service Opportunities
Pomona College has a diverse spectrum of student-led organizations and offers multiple programs for you to selflessly serve others, such as the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. Look outward-exercise your citizenship by contributing to college life, advocating for voiceless community groups, and becoming a student leader. Join your peers to support a cause that you value. Access the full list of student clubs and organizations here.
Clinical Healthcare Experience
First-hand experience in a clinical setting is essential for you to make an informed decision about choosing a health career. By shadowing healthcare providers and actively serving patients, you will gain meaningful insight. Further, many health profession schools require clinical experience. Veterinary schools typically require 200 or more hours of veterinary experience, and physician assistant programs require an average of 500-1000 hours of direct patient exposure.
Being HIPAA Certified may you find opportunities for shadowing experience. Check out the AAMC shadowing guidelines.
For specific opportunities nearby, use the Excel spreadsheet in Box to explore local patient care opportunities [xslx]* on the sheet titled "Local opportunities". These may be service oriented organizations in addition to patient care volunteer sites.
There are several allied health professions that require minimal training (less than 1 year), making them an ideal paid position for prehealth students looking to gain experience during school breaks or gap year(s). These professions allow individuals to gain hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. To explore additional healthcare jobs that require minimal training, visit the Explore Health Careers website.
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs): EMTs provide first-line medical or emergency care for sick and injured people at the scene. All states require EMTs to be licensed. EMTs usually complete a course that takes between 120 and 150 hours to complete. To obtain certification, individuals must complete an accredited Emergency Medical Services-Paramedic education program and pass the national exam. Education programs typically take less than one year to complete. Connect with the 5C's EMS club to find out more.
- Phlebotomists: Phlebotomists collect blood for donation or for testing so the blood can be analyzed in a clinical laboratory. Phlebotomists work in clinical laboratories, hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, blood donation centers and other health care facilities. To become certified, you must complete 200 training hours and pass the national certification exam. More information: Phlebotomy Certification.
- Medical Assistant: Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices and clinics of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and optometrists running smoothly. Many employers prefer to hire Certified Medical Assistants, however some clinical practices hire assistants and provide on-the-job training. To become certified, you must complete a formal training program and pass the CMA Certification Exam. To find a training program, visit the AAMA website. You can search for certificate-granting programs, which are generally shorter in length. For more information, see the Explore Health Careers website and check out the Medical Assistant Student Resource Guide.
- Nurses Assistant: Nursing assistants help patients perform basic daily tasks. They work under a licensed nurse’s supervision, and since they have extensive daily contact with each patient, they play a key role in the lives of their patients and in keeping the nurse up to date on vital information about the patients’ conditions. To become certified, nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program. Find CNA programs in California.
- Health Care Interpreters: Health care interpreters facilitate communication between patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians and other health care providers. Minimum requirements for the profession vary greatly from state to state. Most healthcare institutions prefer certified interpreters who have completed a training program. There are two national certifications for health care interpreters.
Research is not a requirement for a competitive application unless your career interests are more focused on academic medicine rather than on patient care (ex: MD-PhD, DO-PhD, DVM-PhD). Conducting research is a valuable academic experience, as it develops your dexterity, tenacity, critical thinking and analytical skills. If you are interested in research, be sure to explore the Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP), and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). REU Finder and AAMC are also valuable resources. Explore more local and national research programs during summer [xslx]* under the Experiences tab (check the Research option in the "Internship type" column if interested primarily in research options).
Prehealth Enrichment Programs for Diversity
For students from backgrounds underrepresented in health professions, many schools offer summer enrichment programs as their recruitment pipelines to increase institutional diversity. These programs often include test prep, research, admissions 101, shadowing and networking opportunities. Please check eligibility and APPLY EARLY. Explore more enrichment programs [xslx]* under the Experiences tab in the spreadsheet (and select"enrichment programs" in the "Internship Type" column).
Interested in being a Veternarian, PA or dentist? Check out the "Other health Prof experiences" tab in the above-linked spreadsheet.
Learn more about resource supporting diversity in health professions under the resource tab.
Develop Cultural Competency
AAMC defines “culture” as integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, actions, customs, beliefs, and institutions of racial, ethnic, social, or religious groups. “Competence” implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual or an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, practices, and needs presented by patients and their communities. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies highlights that "students need to understand that cultural competency encompasses language, customs, values, belief systems, and rituals that patients bring to the medical encounter.” To develop your cultural competency, check out this crash course developed by Stanford School of Medicine. Also consider this advice:
- Participate in Community Engagement programs with a public health focus [xslx]
- Participate in the STEP program through the AARC, Health Bridges and Hunger and Homeless Initiative through the Draper Center, or Project Horseshoe Farm. These are just a few of the enriching and meaningful programs serving the local community
- Take sociology/anthropology courses that will enhance your cultural understanding and experience
- Study abroad is highly valuable experience and also highly recommended; just be sure to plan carefully and seek advice from the Study Abroad Office early
- If interested in a science or health specific study abroad ask about DIS, SIT, and the University College London Molecular Biology and Neuroscience Programs
- Before engaging in health-related experiences abroad, read the AAMC Guidelines for Clinical Experiences Abroad. You can also prepare using the University of Minnesota Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety Workshop.
BOX Login Instructions
Sign up for your Pomona Box account to access the Excel spreadsheet(s).
To sign up for your Box account:
- Log into the campus portal.
- Under the “Computing and Email” tab click on the “Box” link
- Check the “I have reviewed and agree to Pomona College’s Acceptable Use Policy”
- Click on the “Activate My Box Account” button.
- You will receive an email on how to log into and use your Box account.