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Why I Chose Prehealth

Grant Steele ’18

Major: Biology, minor in Spanish | Destination: Harvard Medical School

Why do you want to be a doctor? 

I think medicine is an amazing mix of scientific knowledge, impactful mentorship, research pursuits, and, most importantly, caring for other human beings. All of these aspects drove me to medicine, and I hope to find a position that will allow me to pursue all of these passions. As for a specific medical specialty, I am trying to keep my options open and am excited to rotate through the different specialties during my time at HMS. 

What did you do during your gap year?

During my gap year, I worked as a clinical research coordinator in the Infectious Diseases division (editor note: through the Sagehen network) at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) at Harbor UCLA. In this position I worked closely with researchers, physicians, and other care providers to conduct clinical trials. I was responsible for recruiting, screening, and consenting patients for studies. As patients' primary contact, I also coordinated the patient’s care throughout their treatment and follow-up period. 

How did you get there?

Pomona was absolutely critical in my path to becoming a medical student at HMS. I am especially thankful for the community at Pomona, from the professors to the administration and support staff to the student body at large. I feel that Pomona challenged me to think critically and with an open mind, and I hope to continue to do so in the future. And finally, please reach out if you have any questions related to prehealth or Pomona overall. I am always happy to help out a fellow Sagehen.

Aseal Birir ’18

Major: Chemistry| Destination: Harvard Medical School

Why do you want to be a doctor? 

When we came to America as first generation immigrants 15 years ago, my family struggled a lot. This, along with observing the work my mother did as a social worker helping low-income families obtain housing for the Oakland Housing Authority, made me very aware of the ways in which one’s social position affects one’s opportunities. At Pomona College, I was able to stay connected with these challenges of people from low income backgrounds through my volunteer work with Young Mens Club.  Additionally, due to the direct relationship to the sports I had excelled at from an early age, I found studying the human body and science in general very interesting. Through research at Pomona College, I was able to deepen these scientific interests and discover how research actually leads the way for innovation within the medical field. A career as a physician lies at the intersection of my humanistic and scientific interests and it is why I pursued medical school. My specific interests are in the practical ways research can create technological innovation within medicine. 

Read more about Aseal’s path from Pomona to medicine.

Briana Grether ’18

Major: Biology, minor in Spanish | Destination: UCLA’s Master’s Entry Clinical Nursing Program

Why do you want to be a nurse?

When I entered college, I had only the vague idea that I wanted to help people. I was drawn to the medical field, but, at first, no particular career really stood out to me. I found nursing almost by process of elimination: I shadowed surgeons and medical technicians, worked at a physical therapy office, did research (both in the field and in the lab), and volunteered with nurses in four departments of the hospital. I spoke with people in all the different roles about their day-to-day work, patient interaction and work-life balance. I began to realize that, of the people I encountered, nurses seemed to have the most patient interaction and the best rapport with their patients. I saw how essential nursing is for patients’ recovery, and met compassionate, caring nurses throughout the hospital. I interviewed many nurses and found they enjoy job stability and flexibility, which for many equates to a reasonable work-life balance. I also learned that opportunities within the field of nursing are diverse, and that there is room for career growth in many different directions.

I wish I could say that one day I just woke up and knew that I wanted to be a nurse, but the truth is that it’s an evolving decision. My pursuit of nursing has been based upon the combination of my experiences and the decision to find a career that fits my other life goals as well as my career goals. I would love to eventually become a nurse practitioner, possibly in geriatrics- an area I think will continue to develop in order to meet the needs of our growing elderly population.

How did you get there?

Once I decided that I wanted to be a nurse, towards the middle of my junior year of college, I threw myself into researching how to become one. I spent many hours on the internet, reading about the different degree levels within nursing, and the many ways to get there. At first, I wanted to find a program that would prepare me to become a nurse practitioner (NP) right away, but over a period of months realized that there were not very many options for that kind of career leap, nor was it very smart to become a NP without previous experience as a nurse. Once I decided I would become a registered nurse first, my options opened up and it became easier to determine what to do next. I decided to apply to Entry Level Master’s Programs and Accelerated Bachelor’s programs, for which I took 6 prerequisite courses that were not offered at The Claremont Colleges (over the summer, online in my last semester, and also after I graduated).

If I’m going to be honest, it was a difficult transition. But now that I have committed to a program, I am excited again. To anyone struggling with deciding what to do for their next step, I will just say this: sometimes you can only find what you like by first eliminating what you don’t like. In that process, ask yourself what aspects of your life are most important to you, and make sure you don’t lose track of those when choosing a career. Also, for anyone interested in pursuing nursing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me; I’d be happy to help!

Cierra Howard ’18

Major: Psychology | Destination: University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Why do you want to be a doctor?

In addition to patient care, I'm also very much interested in conducting research and teaching/mentoring students. During my medical career, I intend on combating health disparities that particularly impact Black and low income communities, and helping underrepresented students enter the field of medicine, through mentoring, giving advice, increasing exposure, etc.

How did you get there?

I knew from the beginning of college that I was premed and didn’t spend much time exploring other options, until my junior year. That year, I dropped the premed track and decided to explore other careers that fit my many interests. I volunteered at a non-profit women and children's shelter, completed a SURP in psychology, and volunteered at a substance use treatment center. I also had many mentoring experiences at Pomona where I worked to ease the college transition for students from backgrounds both similar and different from my own (OBSA Mentor, Posse Foundation Mentor, Resident Advisor, Prehealth Liaison). When finally deciding my career plan, piecing together my experiences at Pomona and my time away from the premed track is actually what lead me back to my pursuit of medicine. I spent my final college semester completing prerequisite courses and studying for the MCAT before applying that same summer. Since being accepted, it has been really important for me to act as a resource to other students who are now entering the same application process. 

Ellelan Degife ’18

Major: Public Policy Analysis/Global Health | Destination: Yale School of Medicine

Why do you want to be a doctor?

I’ve always been interested in medicine, but one reason I’m drawn to becoming a physician is because they help others live their lives unencumbered by pain, illness, and fear. I’m not sure which specialty I’ll choose yet, but I would like to complete an MPH or MPP alongside my MD.

How did you get there?

I used the template of prerequisite courses shown at the Premedical meetings in my first few years to ensure I took all the necessary classes, and I sought advice from older students and professors at Pomona (arguably the college’s best resource)!

Prisca Diala ’18

Major: Economics | Destination: University of California, San Francisco

Why do you want to be a doctor?

Coming to my first economics class in college, I quickly learned that economics is not just about money. There’s a social component to it that is very powerful. I want to use knowledge of that component to become an OB-GYN who will serve low-income and underrepresented women.

Read more about Prisca’s path from Pomona to medicine.

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