Pre-Health Club readies students for grad school

 Katie Ribbens—Staff Writer

Dordt University students spend hours toiling over taxing coursework, breathing in lab fumes, crunching for exams, and puzzling over convoluted graduate school applications. 

Imagining admittance into graduate school makes the sleepless nights worth it. But what if an error in course planning or a mistake in accumulating observation hours prevents them from attending the program of their choice? This fear ensures students check, double check, and triple check their credentials. But at the end of the day, doubt remains. 

Many Dordt students in pre-professional health programs struggle to identify the best path toward admittance to graduate school. A prevailing theme emerges: students feel like they have to figure things out on their own. They turn to the internet, their peers, and their mentors. As of Feb. 14, they have a new option: the Pre-Health Professions Club (PHPC). 

Beginning last fall, Dordt pre-medical senior Rachel Heynen collaborated with professor Joseph Keryakos to bring the club to fruition. 

In the short time since its formation, the club has gained 140 members. The club’s goals include creating a supportive community for pre-health students, forming mentorships, offering volunteer opportunities, and creating a learning environment. The club also plans to offer awards for members, so their applications can be comparable to students from other universities. 

“I’m just super excited about the club because I feel like it’s something that has been missing from Dordt for a long time,” Heynen said.  

The club faced some challenges early on. Previous clubs existed that catered to specific tracts like medicine or physical therapy. However, students’ busy schedules prevented them from organizing events, and these clubs became inactive. The division of each pre-health program also limited the number of students in a club. Heynen thought by combining the majors, students would feel less isolated and develop interprofessional skills in collaborative healthcare.  

“Doing it is hard,” Heynen said. “Doing it alone is harder.”

Heynen saw the club as complementary to student advisors. The club helps by advising for graduate school applications, studying for entrance exams, writing competitive essays, and sharing important dates. Advisors remain helpful for class planning and scheduling. While many Dordt professors have PhDs, those who attended graduate school in a health field share their experiences and offer advice to students at the club.

“Our professors will even say, ‘I only know what I know through what I’ve heard. I haven’t experienced it,’” Heynen said. “To have someone who has those experiences has been really exciting.”  

Flyers around campus, advertisements from professors, and emails alerted sophomore Lucy Borkowski to the club’s formation. She joined the club to immerse herself in pre-health occupations to prepare herself for physical therapy school. She now serves as PHPC’s Communication Vice President. 

“Before the club, I felt very overwhelmed,” Borkowski said. “As a freshman, I didn’t really know what classes to take.” 

The club addresses the gap in knowledge and experience that students require for graduate school. It also functions as a support group. 

“The club’s role is more about reaching out and being there for students,” Borkowski said. “Classes were preparing you to get the material you need to know, but this is more of life skills.”

The PHPC Executive Committee consists of a President, President-Elect, Finance Vice President, Communication Vice President, Secretary, and a Faculty Advisor. Heynen decided not to sit on the committee, handing the baton to other students so the club continues after she graduates in May. 

 “I’m really hopeful that this is going to bring opportunity, but also unity to this group of people,” Heynen said.  “And the ability to feel like there is more guidance out there and they’re not so blind in their progression towards whatever field they’re going into.”

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