Pre-health students explore careers and network with alumni at 2019 Tigers on Call event
CLEMSON – An aspiring physician, Biological sciences sophomore Aimey Jimm knows how important the MCAT exam will be someday for getting into medical school. What she didn’t realize until recently was the role the interview will also play in medical school admissions.
“I never really thought about what happens after the big exam,” said Jimm, who participated in a mock interview as part of the fifth annual Tigers on Call: Making Connections in Healthcare event on November 1. “I learned a lot in that 20 minutes, especially since I’d never really been in a professional interview before.”
The mock professional school interviews, which were conducted in partnership with Clemson’s award-winning Michelin Career Center, were just one of the activities designed to help pre-health majors achieve their goals of pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, physical or occupational therapy, and other health professions.
This year’s networking event brought more than 50 Clemson alumni and friends who work in healthcare fields together with more than 200 students at the Hendrix Student Center on campus for panel and roundtable discussions, a mock MCAT exam, and casual networking opportunities. Students could also learn about professional and graduate degree program opportunities from regional schools attending the accompanying pre-health fair.
Pre-med student Habib Rafka, a biological sciences major attending his third Tigers on Call event, was inspired by the interactions with alumni.
“Tigers on Call is a great way to meet Clemson alumni who are at the place in their careers that I’m striving to achieve,” said Rafka. “The providers set a great example for what a Clemson future health provider is supposed to be.”
In fact, Rafka has been able to parlay his connections from Tigers on Call into shadowing three physicians since attending his first event two years ago, including a stint with 1997 Clemson alumnus Ted Swann, a family medicine doctor in Clemson.
Biochemistry junior Aaron Sedler, who aims to attend dental school in the future, valued the advice he received from the alumni present.
“The dentists I talked to helped me think through the benefits and drawbacks of going to certain dental schools,” said Sedler. “They also helped me think about the benefits of different specialties or not having a specialty.”
Junior Anna Milford, a biological sciences major with a pre-rehabilitation sciences emphasis, appreciates how the event enables students to learn how to talk and engage with professionals.
“If you know you might want to go into a particular area, this event allows you to get multiple opinions about applying to a professional health program later or get general knowledge about different areas if you’re not sure what you want,” Milford said.
Physician assistant Travis Kirby, a 1992 Clemson psychology graduate, enjoys participating in Tigers on Call and thinks the networking is very valuable. In his third year as a volunteer, Kirby shares a unique perspective with the students since he is both a practicing healthcare professional and medical school faculty member.
“A lot of students have questions about how to matriculate into a PA program, what to expect, what the stressors are, and so on,” said Kirby, an associate professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “Clemson holds a very special place in my heart, so I love to circle back around and keep giving back.”
According to Kirby, the conversations with students continue throughout the year. In fact, several students he met at Tigers on Call in the past contacted him recently for advice or to let him know they’ve gotten into a particular professional program.
Bioengineering senior Shelby Storm learned a lot about work-life balance from physicians she’d met at Tigers on Call and subsequently shadowed.
“I emailed with them later to see how they balance their personal life and work,” Storm said. “When you’re shadowing you don’t have time to ask a lot of those type of questions.”
Alumnus Chad Richardson, who earned two degrees at Clemson (2015 BS health sciences, 2017 MS Educational Counseling, Student Affairs) and once served as interim director of Clemson University Health Professions Advising (HPA), attended this year’s event and shared his perspective as a medical student.
“I’m glad to be able to mentor current students and see what challenges they’re facing,” said Richardson, who is in his second year at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). “You never know the impact you could be having by just talking to them, hearing what they’re doing, and sharing advice.”
HPA hosts Tigers on Call in collaboration with the College of Science. HPA Director Harolynn Williams was assisted in organizing the event this year by undergraduate leaders Shelby Storm, Anna Milford, and Habib Rafka.
“Tigers on Call is such a shining example of how very special our Clemson Family is as our alumni continue to give back, helping our current students navigate their own unique paths forward,” said College of Science dean Cynthia Y. Young.