Thanks to the “Fauci effect” and the COVID-19 pandemic, applications to med school are at an all-time high and more and more undergraduate students are expressing an interest in pre-medical programs. While this goal is both admirable and attainable, adequate support and guidance are essential to achieving this end result.
In the case of many Stevens Institute of Technology students in the various programs in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB), this support was vital to their post-undergrad success.
“Many students say, ‘I want to go to medical school.’ But students are individuals with different personalities and different backgrounds,” said Nuran Kumbaraci, CCB associate professor. “As you talk with them, it is amazing how much you find out about the unique strengths that will help them succeed in their chosen career path. With time, their interests may change!”
Stevens offers key resources for pre-med students in any department to help them prepare for their future, including numerous student organizations that provide invaluable support to assist them in taking practical, actionable steps toward the future they envision. Of particular note are the Stevens Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC), Alpha Epsilon Delta, the National Health Preprofessional Honor Society (AED), and the Stevens Health Professions Club (SHPC).
Michelle Gnidash, a senior studying biology, says she’s grateful for the strong support of the Stevens community. “The various pre-health organizations have provided an amazing outlet for me to stay connected, foster my passion, and continue to grow.”
“Students have goals and aspirations,” Kumbaraci said. “But they need to focus and channel their potential to reach these goals. They need guidance to support them along their journey. When we get directly involved with our students, we find out more about them and advise them in achieving their goals.”
Kumbaraci, as the chair of HPAC, established the SHPC in the 1980s and the AED in 1992, along with a group of highly motivated undergraduate students. Now she is still the faculty advisor for both clubs and the co-chair of the HPAC.
“These organizations support students who are interested in pursuing careers in the health professions such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, etc.,” she said. “Many of the students in CCB want to go to medical and dental school or another healthcare related field.”
The Health Professions Advisory Committee
The Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC), co-chaired by Kumbaraci as well as Patricia Muisener, teaching associate professor and associate chair of CCB, consists of faculty and staff members in various schools and departments across Stevens. HPAC members advise students who intend to enter medical professions, from the first day they arrive at Stevens. Members advise students regularly; and every spring they meet with applicants for a panel-style mock interview process. This multipurpose experience serves as an advising session and helps participants practice for their professional school interviews.
Additionally, the committee compiles information and writes letters of recommendation to support their applications to professional schools. In 2020, the interviews were held on Zoom, due to social distancing protocols.
There are other benefits of student involvement in clubs and organizations. “Students can gain leadership experience by organizing events,” Kumbaraci added. “Students also receive tips and advice to improve their CV/resume and credentials.”
The Stevens Health Professions Club
The Stevens Health Professions Club is a student-run organization that provides educational support and volunteer opportunities for the Stevens premedical community. The club also organizes visits to medical schools and coordinates MCAT preparatory opportunities and other events, and has established a peer mentor program this year. “Students with similar interests can get together, organize events, participate in activities, and share on- and off-campus experiences for their future careers,” Kumbaraci said.
Olivia Schrieber, a 2018 chemical biology graduate, is pursuing an M.D. degree at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, located in Camden, NJ. Schreiber, a member of both the SPHC and the AED, noted that Stevens provided a helpful support network that was crucial in preparing her for medical school.
“Knowledge will only get you so far,” she said. “To me, it was the people of Stevens that truly supported me and ensured that I was ready—intellectually and mentally—for the rigors of medical school… Successfully matriculating at a medical school in the United States requires significant mental fortitude, but for me, I needed a network of support in order to be successful.”
Alpha Epsilon Delta
Another resource is the pre-med honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED). This national health pre-professional honor society and service organization aids students who are committed to healthcare. The chapter, advised by Kumbaraci, organizes events that provide students with experience in philanthropy, scholarship, and social causes with the goal of promoting the importance of healthcare on campus and throughout the Hoboken community. Over 300 Stevens students have been inducted to date.
CCB alumnus Joshua Ross graduated from Stevens in 2018 with a degree in chemical biology and is currently a medical student at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine—where the acceptance rate is just 1.6%, as compared to the national average medical school’s acceptance rate of 7%. He joined the SPHC as a freshman and was later inducted into the AED as well. With his Stevens education, he felt well-prepared for medical school.
“Being so young and having the ability to learn from amazing professors, as well as collaborating with world-class hospitals in the northern New Jersey area, really made a difference in my life and helped me see the different possibilities in medical research and what could be accomplished,” Ross said.
Kumbaraci and her fellow Stevens faculty are proud to support the students in their department and provide them with everything they need to succeed in their future careers.
“Communicating with young minds interested in pursuing careers in the health professions, advising them throughout their college years and afterwards is quite rewarding,” Kumbaraci said. “It is very exciting to see them get accepted to professional schools, advance and succeed in their careers—you may even run into them while they are practicing as physicians!”
Learn more about chemistry and chemical biology undergraduate programs at Stevens: