A pandemic pre-health focus

Hans Khoe, Staff Writer

Health professionals are at the frontlines of this crisis and the risks they face fighting the virus are large and tiring. While COVID-19 is the current crisis, there will be others to be handled by the next generation of health professionals, many of whom are currently here at Westmont.


What is Pre-Health Club?

Westmont’s pre-health club is an important resource for students hoping to enter the medical field. As described by club president Zion Shih, Pre-Health Club “guides community conversations to connect students and healthcare professionals, directs alumni advice, and provides pre-med guides/resources.”

Medical school admissions are looking for ‘decent human beings in their applicants.’”


Officer Christian Kim, a member of the club since his freshman year, stated, “It’s been really good to have a place to connect with other pre-meds and have that space to share our experiences of our schoolwork and other medically related activities. It’s nice to know that there are other people going through/have already gone through the same hurdles and that they are available to give wisdom and tips.”

Recently, the club hosted an informal panel discussion with Westmont alums Alex Bush and Charis Darnall, who are currently attending medical school for osteopathic medicine degrees (D.O.). According to officer Bryan Dionisio, who moderated the event, “The panel discussion went very well; there were many pieces of advice that Bush and Darnall gave to the questions that many of the pre-med students had.”

One student at the event asked, “What qualities are medical school admissions looking for in their applicants?” Dionisio recalled how Alex Bush responded: “Contrary to popular belief, it was expected that medical school admissions look for applicants with academic excellence and significant extra-curricular activities; however, Bush responded that medical school admissions are looking for ‘decent human beings in their applicants.’” 


What’s it like to be pre-med during COVID-19?

During COVID-19, pre-med students have had a hard time acclimating to the changes in schedule especially because of their internship programs and their lab experiences. Kim is a COPE Health Scholar, which involved interning at a hospital over the summer. “My internship …  consists of basic patient care and nurse/CNA assistance. I would say a good amount has been exposure to hospital operations, patient interactions, and conversations with nurses. Overall, it’s been really helpful to verify it’s what I want to do in the future. COVID has really hindered the different floors that we can shift on, but the program has still allowed for scholars to shift.”

You have to remember that we have our own strengths and weaknesses, and our perspective on success is subjective; if you know you did your best, then that is all you can do.”


Learning from home, Dionisio spoke to the challenges he’s faced as a student: “Remote learning, the lack of sociability and time spent with friends because of social distancing, and the overall worry of contracting COVID produces a combination that, in my opinion, is not the best. Trying to effectively learn upper-division science courses such as Biochemistry and Physiology remotely remains arduous, especially, since the material covered on these classes will show up on the MCAT.”

There have been positives, though, as Dionisio reflected, “I am grateful for the time I am able to spend with my family: the time spent with them cultivated a more positive and supportive relationship that could have only been possible with the excess time spent at home.” 

Tips for Pre-Med Students:

Kim acknowledged current pre-med difficulties: “I’d imagine that some of the typical hospital volunteering positions and shadowing opportunities had to be postponed for many people to protect themselves or their family. Having that unchecked box of medical experience lingering for pre-med students is stressful.”

That being said, those in the pre-health club still hope to share advice with other pre-health students, especially when it comes to the stresses of getting into medical school. Dionisio offered, “More often than not, I have seen many pre-med students, including myself, compete against each other; many of them are so focused on ensuring that they get a higher grade than a particular someone in their class, and they end up beating themselves up for it if they don’t. However, you have to remember that we have our own strengths and weaknesses, and our perspective on success is subjective; if you know you did your best, then that is all you can do.”

Shih ended by saying, “Studying really relied on God, family, and people who have gone before; finding spaces and places to renew joy in learning about God.” Students should have this focus despite the times, despite their major, and despite the circumstances they are put in.         

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