Cailly Howell ’12

Major: Public Policy Analysis, concentrating in Chemistry

Profession: Pediatric Resident Physician, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, Kalamazoo, Mich.

Hometown: Middleville, Mich.

What are you doing now?

I am a resident physician at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

I am involved with several advocacy projects relating to the intersection of healthcare and education, specifically targeting literacy in the community. I initiated a project within the inpatient unit at Bronson Children’s Hospital so that patients receive a book at admission and will have access to other academic support during their hospital stay.

Along the same lines, I created another program at Western’s outpatient clinic called “Healthy Kids Read,” which provides books to all children 6-18 years of age at their annual checkups. I developed the program with the assistance of faculty in the Pediatrics Clinic and medical students from Western’s School of Medicine.

In addition, I’ve published two peer-reviewed articles in conjunction with Western Michigan University School of Medicine faculty during this past year, the first on an atypical organism causing a febrile urinary tract infection and the second on sports participation recommendations for patients with a bleeding disorder.

How did you get there?

After graduating from Pomona in 2012, I continued my education at Ross University School of Medicine on the island of Dominica and then completed my clinical clerkships in Chicago.

I learned so much living in Dominica. I didn’t always have running water or the grocery store wouldn’t stock some things if they didn’t come in on the boat that week! Small annoyances – a short power outage, traffic jams, spilling coffee on my shirt – don’t bother me so much anymore. I am a more resilient person because of that experience.

I studied healthcare policy and history in my free time during medical school. I looked up the reading lists for graduate public health programs and read all the titles. This has fueled and supported my interest in pursuing a career in which advocacy and policy review are major features.

How did Pomona prepare you?

I received a tremendous education in Public Policy Analysis during my time at Pomona.

A couple of highlights:

  • Professor Lorn Foster’s American History class. No class has prepared me better to discuss the history of politics in this country or given me broader understanding of major political issues in this country and their long-felt consequences.
  • Professor David Menefee-Libey’s Policy Implementation and Evaluation class. I simply couldn’t have developed a program and successfully implemented it without the tools I learned in this course.
  • Daniel Gluckstein, a physician I worked with for my senior internship and thesis work. Little did I know, this would become the work that I would build my life upon. It was invaluable experience to work on this project and complete thesis work on immunization protocols in California.
  • Associate Director of Public Policy Analysis Hilary LaConte is the greatest mentor a person could have. There were times when I felt so lost or so frustrated and going to her office to discuss my plans or thoughts was so helpful. Even when I felt I had been defeated, she could turn that into a victory I just hadn’t realized yet. Many of the other students and I would joke that going to her or Prof. Menefee-Libey’s office was for a therapy session; the advice and support we received was certainly not a joke.

My academic background in chemistry and the other pre-medical requirements were also instrumental in preparing me for my future ahead.

Pomona also taught me a lot about advocacy and speaking up for issues that you are passionate about. At any time, there is a group of students on that campus dreaming or organizing about making someone’s experience a little bit better, about having a little more opportunity. That vision was supported during my time at Pomona and I continue to pursue those dreams.

I often think about the gates too – “Let only the thoughtful, eager, and reverent enter here.” When I was just beginning, President Oxtoby said something to the effect of: “Well, maybe a little bit of irreverence.” I learned and continue to believe that a little irreverence is a good thing.

I also met many of my best friends in the PPA department and outside of it and in the other Claremont Colleges. I continue to be close with many of these individuals and they too continue to shape who I am today.

Advice for prospective and current students

Study hard and take advantage of the opportunities around you. Being in an academic environment, while sometimes constraining, is a fantastic luxury you will miss as you move further into your future. I know it’s hard to appreciate now.

Advocate for yourself. If you aren’t getting the attention or help that you need to succeed or to find your way, ask for it. If the first person you ask can’t help you, go to the next.

If people tell you that you can’t do something, don’t take it to heart. I was told in my first semester of medical school that I would have difficulty making it through school; after that semester (with some seriously hard work) my grades improved substantially, I passed my licensing exams on the first attempt, and was recently recognized as an outstanding intern. Listen to the many, many people in your life who tell you that you can do it.