Undergraduate premedical students often face a dizzying array of anxiety-producing thoughts as they make their way through school: What classes should I take? How can I get into medical school and what is it like? What should I specialize in? Should I take a gap year?
But thanks to a new partnership between a pre-med undergrad and a Weill Cornell Medical College student, some of those fears are being allayed through the Weill Ithaca Network (WIN).
James Wang ’12, a third-year student at Weill Cornell, graduated from Cornell with a degree in biological sciences but said he felt a little lost exploring health care careers as an undergrad in Ithaca.
“Having no physicians in my family, I didn’t know how to start looking for clinical experiences or even what exactly being a doctor would entail,” Wang said. “But for my colleagues from other undergraduate colleges, it was as simple as crossing the main boulevard to reach their medical school and find an abundance of clinical experience opportunities and mentorship.”
Through Wendy Aquadro, associate director of advising in the Office of Undergraduate Biology, Wang met Catherine He ’15, who acts as a biology student adviser helping students navigate the major.
“This summer we put together a program proposal, reached out for funding, and finally this fall semester we officially started recruiting mentors and mentees and running our program,” He said.
During two face-to-face meetings this fall in New York City, mentees met their mentors and worked together on undergrad goals. They also dined with faculty and medical students, toured the Weill Cornell campus and attended an annual premedical conference. And they’re encouraged to keep in touch with each other through email or Skype.
Weill mentors plan to visit campus in April, offering panel discussions open to all undergraduates, Wang said.
“Many questions that mentees have relate to finding out more about their mentor’s path to medical school and getting advice that they can apply to their own lives,” He said. “Other questions relate to the medical school lifestyle and the actual application process.”
He said she’s fortunate to have a physician in her family.
“That has been extremely helpful throughout my process of determining if I want to pursue medicine and how I can best prepare for it,” she said. “I wanted to help make these opportunities available to students who do not have medical connections; having a medical student mentor is a major way to bridge the information and opportunity gap.”
The program serves mostly sophomore and junior pre-med students, He said, so they’ll have time to take advantage of the advice their mentors offer. There are 68 undergrads and 25 mentors in the program this year.
“I love that students have initiated this Weill-Ithaca connection,” Aquadro said, adding that she, Wang and He hope the program could expand to provide mentorship for graduate students, including those in the physician assistant program.
For more information on the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.