Staff Writer and pre-med first-year Chloe Gong attended a pre-health summer opportunities panel organized by the Office of Preprofessional Advising.

At 5:57 PM on Wednesday, I finished putting away the last of the dish-washed graduated cylinders back on their shelves and started walking briskly toward Lerner from my work-study lab in the Engineering Terrace (on the very opposite end of campus). I made it to Lerner 401 just two minutes after six and scrambled to take a seat in the front row, still out of breath. Directly in front of me sat the five panelists who were soon going to impart their wisdom upon a group of attentive audience members.

Megan Rigney, the Associate Dean of Preprofessional Advising, started off the information session with a brief presentation on how to look for pre-health summer opportunities and an overview of some cool Columbia-affiliated programs. She prefaced the presentation by saying, not everything a premed student does has to be directly related to health or medicine; in fact, many medical schools appreciate students who have diverse interests or who have explored other fields in the past so they can be sure that premed is the best option for them. Next, she introduced a great resource to find pre-health opportunities—if you go to the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships website and click on “Find an Opportunity,” you will be directed to a list of various programs which you can then filter through. Some other notable resources include CCE-LionShare (for jobs and internships), Columbia Experience Overseas, the Presidential Global Fellowship (for first-years looking to study abroad during the summer), etc. 

Then, the five student panelists began to share their own summer experiences and how they have benefited their pre-health journeys.

Faria Islam (CC ’22): currently a participant in the Northeast Regional Alliance (NERA) Academy HCOP Academy, a three-year summer enrichment program that prepares New York City college freshmen and sophomores for medical school. This past summer, she took biology and physics at the academy which prepared her for the classes she’s taking this semester. During the second summer, she will do clinical shadowing and complete an intensive MCAT prep course, and the third summer, she will be conducting her own research. One big takeaway: you do NOT need to be a STEM major to do premed! In fact, Faria is a Women’s and Gender Studies major.  

Collins Mokua (CC ’21): participated in the Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship Program. In the summer of 2018, he worked in Kenya on a public health research project sponsored by the Program for Global and Population Health and the Laidlaw Scholars Program. In the summer of 2019, he worked on a mental health project at the Africa Mental Research and Training Foundation. He found his research mentors by cold emailing a bunch of professors whose work interested him (take notes!!).

Tope Akinade (SEAS ‘19): participated in the Gateways to the Laboratory Program, a 10-week summer program for those interested in pursuing an MD-PhD. During the program, she participated in journal clubs, prepared research presentations, experienced clinical shadowing, and partook in professional developmental activities. She also participated in two summer research fellowships working with global health and women’s health.  

Paul Spezza (SEAS ‘21): participated in the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), a free, 6-week long summer enrichment program for students interested in health professions. As a native New-Yorker, Paul chose to attend the program at the University of Iowa, one of the program’s 12 sites, for a change of pace. Other than the medicine track that he was on, there are also dental, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, and public health tracks. Paul also conducted research in the Dartmouth (MPUS) Fellowship program.

Walker Magrath (SEAS ‘19): participated in the Bellevue Project Healthcare, a 10-week patient advocacy internship at Bellevue Hospital. During the internship, he volunteered at multiple divisions, including the Emergency Departments, Urgent Care, Operating Room, etc. He also took part in the Columbia Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), a Columbia-sponsored program that offers funding for current students (typically already working in a lab) to complete a 10-week summer internship in biomedical research.

Overall, the panelists agreed that these summer experiences were extremely memorable and give them many interesting stories to tell—which especially comes in handy during med school interviews. But most of all, they had fun doing the things they were passionate about. 

As a pre-med student myself, I found this info session extremely informative. I realized that there are so many great resources at Columbia that I didn’t even know existed before. So, if you’re interested in doing a pre-health program or research experience this summer, it’s not too late to start looking! 

Image via Bwogger Chloe