On call: Health care professionals lend students a helping paw
Clemson University pre-med student Shivani Desai made professional connections that will undoubtedly advance her career, some of whom are on the admissions committees of medical schools.
But her conversations with Clemson alumni and other professionals at the second annual event “Tigers on Call: Making Connections in Health Care” stretched far beyond career planning, networking and applying for medical school. The conversations were informal and honest and personal.
“We talked about being a woman in medicine and balancing work and family,” said Desai, a Florida native and biological sciences major on track to graduate in 2017. “It’s just so valuable to speak to them and get their perspectives.”
The 2nd Annual Tigers on Call event brought 35 alumni and health care professionals to campus to share advice with pre-health students, along with stories of perseverance and success. They were physicians, dentists, pharmacists, physicians’ assistants and occupational and physical therapists with a common bond: Clemson.
“It’s a chance to give them the advice I was thirsty for when I was in their shoes,” said Dr. Shea Tolbert, a 2004 Clemson graduate and a partner at Family Dental Health in Taylors. “Clemson can really help plug you in and connect you to a career.”
The event included a panel discussion followed by small-group, informal discussions between professionals and students. Tolbert showed students photos and videos of his use of computer-aided design for dental procedures.
“It’s so important that they see what we do day-to-day and that they see it now, when they’re deciding what to study in medical school, rather than later when it is too late,” Tolbert said.
Nearly 200 pre-health students from across campus attended the event.
“I really learned a lot about the different specialties in medicine,” said Adrina Patterson, a language and international health major from Columbia. “I’m thinking of going into primary care and I’m really interested in health disparities. This event has really helped me understand the medical school application process and the importance of job shadowing.”
Patterson is interested in becoming a primary care physician and hopes to study abroad at hospitals in Peru.
The event is sponsored by Health Professions Advising, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, the College of Science, Alpha Epsilon Delta, and the Center for Career and Professional Development.
“This is a perfect example of how our alumni give back in a very special way,” said Brian O’Rourke, vice president for development and alumni relations.
“Tigers on Call aims to foster an environment of teaching and learning by bringing pre-health students at Clemson together with our alumni and partners in healthcare. The connections made here reach beyond the walls of the Hendrix Student Center by way of continued encouragement, mentoring, and even eased nerves on interview day,” said Jessica Owens, health professions advisor with the College of Science.
“The beautiful thing about an event like this is that there is a genuine interest and benefit on both sides of the table,” Owens said. “The providers attending this event are eager to share their stories and pass along insight gained through experience to our students, and our students are eager to hear them. We simply provide the space in which that exchange can take place.”
Dr. Clay Lowder shared a story of rejection, perseverance and the power of networking. He was not initially accepted into medical school, but a colleague he met while at Clemson gave him a strong recommendation.
“I just felt like a whole swarm of people backed me to where I want to go,” Lowder told attendees. “That’s what you have here. Get to know the people in this room, network and you’ll make the connection that will get you to where you want to go.”
During informal roundtable discussions, professionals shared stories of patients who had lifted them up in times of struggle, of lifelong learning and of job choices that affected their career paths. They helped students hone their career expectations after school
“I hope students leave here with a sense of hope,” said Dr. Trey Chandler, a cardiologist in Greenville. “They’ll have some insecurities along the way, but I want them to know that if a small-town guy like me can do it, they can do it too.”