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SMC alumnae in healthcare panel

| Friday, November 14, 2014

Five Saint Mary’s biology alumnae discussed their careers in healthcare in a panel Thursday evening to answer current biology students’ questions and share the alumnae’s experiences in medical school.

Dr. Anne Dudley, class of 2004, is now a pediatrician after attending Des Moines University in Des Moines, Iowa. Dudley said she is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, or a doctor who uses her hands to treat patients.

“The main philosophy is that the body has an innate ability to heal itself and that structure and function work together for healing,” Dudley said. “We learn how to use our hands to treat patients instead of only doing testing.”

Krystal Holtcamp, class of 2012, will be graduating as a Physician’s Assistant (PA) from the University of Toledo in December. Holtcamp, who was Saint Mary’s co-valedictorian in 2012, said she was familiar with the profession because of her dad’s experience.

“I came into Saint Mary’s thinking I wanted to go to medical school but wasn’t sure,” Holtcamp said. “My dad is a PA, [and had] been for 40 years … so I knew what the profession was. A PA is a midlevel provider. We can diagnose, treat, give therapies but will always be under the supervision of a primary care doctor.”

Holtcamp said she knew she wanted to be a PA after completing many job shadows.

“I shadowed a lot, that’s how I decided,” Holtcamp said. “I shadowed a lot of female physicians and asked them their opinion if they could do it all over again what would they do, would they stay in the type of practice they were in, and how their family life was because that was really important to me.”

Michelle Smith, class of 2011, is now a physical therapist at a clinic after graduating from Central Michigan University in May.

“I work in [an] outpatient clinic,” Smith said. “My clinic is more of lower functioning patients, like traumatic brain injury, stroke and elderly patients. We have pediatrics, but I don’t work with them.”

Val Gillis, class of 2003, is now a Physician’s Assistant after graduating from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Illinois. She later got a job at Northwestern University in Chicago, where she is a PA for urology and works with infertility patients.

“Urology, much to my mother’s dismay, is what I love and I’ve been doing it for nine years now,” Gillis said. “I ended up getting involved with the guy who does all infertility, and you’re thinking, well, urology and fertility, well, 50 percent of infertility is male infertility, so that’s sort of what we do. A subset of that that I do, that I am very passionate about, is I do fertility preservation for cancer patients, which is my favorite thing about my job. The youngest we’ve seen is a 13-year-old boy who was about to get chemotherapy and then up to 70-year-old men.”

Class of 2008 alumna Beth Belock is now a veterinarian after graduating from Michigan State University’s veterinary school. Belock said Saint Mary’s prepared her for graduate school better than Michigan State’s pre-veterinary undergraduate program did.

“Saint Mary’s prepared me very, very well for vet school,” Belock said. “Getting into that first year, you have a lot of basic science classes to get started with and even the people who had gone to Michigan State as the pre-vet program, in some instances, I felt that I was more prepared than some of my classmates. They were asking me questions about stuff, so I was like, ‘Yes, this isn’t even technically a pre-vet program, but I am definitely doing very well with these courses.’”

Holtcamp said attending a liberal arts school puts an applicant ahead with regards to medical school applications and acceptances. It is much more interesting that the applicant didn’t just take biology classes, she said.

“Saint Mary’s has so many opportunities, like study abroad,” Holtcamp said. “Do something that you think you will really enjoy and talk about. And school-wise, you will be so prepared. Most [medical schools] have had some Saint Mary’s students, so it’s known that science-wise, you will be so well prepared that they’ll know academic-wise you’ll be prepared. So just show how great, personality-wise, Saint Mary’s girls are.”

Belock said it is important to have experience with people skills when applying to veterinarian school.

“As much as you think you’re going in to deal with animals, there’s always a person at the end of that leash that you have to deal with,” Belock said.

Gillis said being well-rounded is a big factor when applying to medical school.

“You’re going to be having awkward conversations if you want to do medicine, and it’s going to be awkward and you can’t blush,” Gillis said. “You have to be able to relate and communicate.”

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About Alex Winegar

A junior at Saint Mary's, Alex is a Communicative Sciences and Disorders major. She serves as the Saint Mary's co-associate news editor. Alex enjoys traveling, food and spending time in "The Mitten."

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