My drive to become a medical doctor was triggered at an early age; my father was the influencer. To fulfill this need, I had to chart several courses of action. I received a biochemistry degree from Knox College and tutored at community colleges. I presented research at academic conferences, shadowed doctors and volunteered in hospitals.
But there was one step that really tipped the scales for me. During my junior year at Knox, my pre-medical school advisor sent out an email informing me and my classmates of the UICOMP Pre-Med Immersion program at the Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center in Peoria, Illinois.
I applied for and received a scholarship through my school to take part in the experience. This two-week program, led by OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP), solidified my intent to apply for medical school at UICOMP.
The perfect mix of difficulty
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I entered the UICOMP Pre-Med Immersion program. In college, I learned about the human body, took various science classes and participated in animal dissections. How different could this Jump course really be?
From day one, we were treated like medical students. We sat in classes taught by UICOMP faculty. We shadowed real clinicians in multiple health care settings. We learned to read EKGs to detect heart pathology. We studied how to interpret basic labs and how to create an assessment plan for patients. And we used virtual reality to get a better look at anatomy.
Then there were a number of hands-on opportunities I never thought I would get to do until medical school. These included suturing a wound, taking histories from patients, conducting physical exams and getting an up-close look at neurosurgery residents performing a laminectomy on a human cadaver.
Our two-week program ends with a day’s worth of testing to ensure we walk away with the skills needed to get a head start in medical school. I found it the perfect mix of difficulties, understanding that this was just a glimpse of what medical school could be like.
A precursor to medical school
In 2020, after completing my bachelor’s degree, I was accepted into UICOMP, and I am now finishing up my first year of medical school. Some of the experiences I had in the UICOMP Pre-Med Immersion program have been helpful in a number of ways.
I knew the lecture structure going into school. I had a foundation in reading EKGs. And when we got the chance to assist physicians in taking patient medical histories, I was prepared.
Heading into my second year of medical school in the fall, I’ve already chosen to stay in Central Illinois. While I am not ready to choose a specialty, I know that I want to be in rural medicine. As the president of the Rural Medicine Interest Group at UICOMP, I tour area high schools to discuss opportunities in health care.
With a shortage of physicians across rural America, it is my goal to encourage students to pursue medicine, apply for the UICOMP Pre-Med Immersion program at Jump, go to medical school at UICOMP and practice medicine in their communities.