Under the skin of a medical career

BY JONATHAN CARRIGAN | Evergreen reporter

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Hoping to figure out how to begin the next step in their journeys, dozens of pre-med students filled the CUB Junior ballroom Monday evening for the sixth annual Health Careers Expo.

The expo, which was hosted by Multicultural Student Services and Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), the pre-health honor society at WSU, featured tables from various health-related departments at WSU, as well as the School of Dentistry from the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest University of Health sciences.

Dr. Saul Valencia gave the key note speech, emphasizing how pre-health students should take the next steps in their education before becoming any kind of doctor.

Valencia, who grew up in Yakima, graduated from WSU in 1998 with a degree in microbiology and from UW in 2006 with his M.D. He said his original plan for college was the complete opposite of where he ended up.

“I quite literally had bigger dreams than microbiology,” Valencia said. “I wanted to be an architect. I wanted to build giant skyscrapers.”

As some undergrads tend to do, Valencia avoided taking any required science courses. It was not until the spring semester of his sophomore year that he took Biology 103, and decided to “shrink” his dreams.

“I was reading chapters that were not assigned for fun,” Valencia said. “I didn’t know that I had such a passion for the subject.”

After talking about the work he did outside of the classroom before he started medical school, Valencia noted that having a full resume is not everything when applying for a program.

“Everyone that you’ll interview with for any medical school program has the same type of qualifications, work experience and grades as you,” Valencia said. “You must portray yourself as a compassionate, intelligent, highly motivated and empathetic individual. You must demonstrate who you really are as a person, not just as a hopeful medical school student.”

Jason Breithaupt, President of AED, hosted a panel of five doctors from various departments at WSU after Valencia’s speech.

George Barrington, a professor in the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital who currently serves on the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine Admissions Committee, reiterated Valencia.

“Keep up on current events, but not just for interviews,” Barrington said. “Do it to be a sincerely well rounded person. If you are and you have a 3.5 GPA, you have a better chance of being admitted than someone with a 4.0 GPA that isn’t well rounded.”

Ed Robertson, a physical therapist at Pullman Regional Hospital, ended the panel by reminding students to pursue their careers for the right reason.

“Don’t do it for the prestige or the money, do it to help people,” Robertson said: “The people you help will never forget you whether you saved their life or just made them feel better. That will continually humble you.”