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New minor at APSU to help pre-professional health students prepare for graduate school

10/5/2011

         CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When a student comes to Austin Peay State University wanting to be a doctor, he or she can pretty much major in any field. Typically, students enroll in biology, chemistry or psychology programs, but a few have been known to get degrees in subjects such as English or history.

            “But they have to fulfill a number of prerequisites in order to go to med school,” Dr. Cindy Taylor, professor of biology, said.

            Those prerequisites include several courses in science-related fields, such as biology and chemistry, and many professional health graduate programs mandate that students complete a certain number of volunteer hours and job-shadowing experiences before they apply for admission. 

         The sooner they figure all this out, the more likely they are to find the right track and succeed in their goal of becoming a medical professional. That’s why Taylor is encouraging incoming freshmen who are interested in applying to a graduate-level health program after graduating from Austin Peay to consider the new pre-professional health minor, now offered through the APSU College of Science and Mathematics, when mapping out their next four years of college.

          “When they come in as a freshman, we want them to start thinking about what they need to do every semester to prepare for their goal of getting into a professional school,” Taylor, the minor’s coordinator, said. “It’s another way of getting students on track early.”

         Students can declare the new minor anytime in their academic career at APSU, via OneStop. They can also use OneStop at that same time to declare their specific pre-professional health program area.

            The new pre-professional health minor was created earlier this year with the goal of providing guidance to students looking to specialize in the pre-professional areas such as pre-medicine, pre-pharmacy, pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy, pre-physician’s assistant and pre-veterinary. By discussing the minor with their academic adviser, students may also discover more information about other medical profession options they might not have previously considered.

            “So many students come in and say I’m pre-med, but there are so many other options that might fit more of the lifestyle they want or the time they want to dedicate to a professional health school,” Taylor said. “There are a lot of different health career options they’re just not aware of. Instead of just giving up and saying, ‘I can’t do anything,’ we want to assist them in finding their best fit.”

            The APSU Department of Allied Health Sciences also offers a course, AHS 1010: Introduction to Healthcare Professions, that is structured to assist students in understanding career options within the health care field.

            And if a student takes the unlikely path of majoring in a field outside the sciences, such as history, the prerequisites they’ll have to take to get into a professional graduate program will count toward their minor.

        “A lot of the students going into the pre-professional programs will have taken these courses as prerequisites, so why not have them earn a minor for doing all that extra coursework,” Dr. Karen Meisch, associate professor of biology, said.

        Students associated with Veterans Affairs that have an interest in professional health programs are encouraged to also look into declaring this minor.

            A new student organization, the Pre-Health Professional Society, was also formed earlier this year to help provide a support network for these students. At club meetings, members will mingle with like-minded students and learn what they need to do to prepare for graduate programs.

            “Some of these students have no clue you really have to start your freshmen year to prepare,” Meisch, the club’s adviser, said. “We try to get them as early as possible to make sure they’re aware of what they need to be doing, rather than waiting for when they need to be applying, and they say, ‘oh my gosh, I need 120 volunteer hours.’ Some of the students will wait until application time.”

            The organization will provide workshops for members on everything from preparing for graduate entrance exams to writing personal statements when applying to professional health schools.

            Information on the new minor, including a planning guide instructing students on what courses to take, is available online at www.apsu.edu/cosm/preprofessional-health-minor.