Research & Innovation

A Stepping Stone to a Career in Medicine for Stevens Students

A first-of-its-kind clinical experience program at Stevens exposes students to clinical, research, and operational activities in a hospital.

Photos of Michella Chiaramonte '24  and Ashley Muliawan '23
Michella Chiaramonte '24 and Ashley Muliawan '23

It is understandable if Michella Chiaramonte '24 and Ashley Muliawan '23, chemical biology and biology students at Stevens Institute of Technology, were tired at the end of the day after having completed their 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shift at Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC) last summer.

During their rounds, they helped new mothers deliver their newborns, took patients' temperatures, retrieved medical equipment to assist patients in busy operating rooms, and lent a helping hand wherever needed.

On some days, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the hospital by 5:45 a.m. on time for rounds was not easy, but Chiaramonte was glad to do it. "Starting the day with a clear understanding of what was to come helped me understand the procedures and made it worthwhile," she said.

Chiaramonte and Muliawan were able to experience first-hand what a clinical rotation in a hospital would be like as a medical student. They had direct exposure to research, clinical and operational activities.

They even wore scrubs and shadowed surgeries.

"During my time at JCMC, I spent around 30 observation hours in the OR and experienced a total of 20 deliveries," said Chiaramonte. "The highs were plentiful in this specialty—seeing that first moment of each baby's life as they met their mother was an extremely heartwarming and emotional experience that I could never forget."

In addition to some incredible moments experienced at JCMC, Chiaramonte and Muliawan had the opportunity to interact daily with the full-time faculty, residents and fellows, as well as medical, nursing and EMT students from Rutgers.

As the first students to participate in this clinical experience pilot developed by Stevens in partnership with JCMC, Chiaramonte and Muliawan helped break ground on a first-of-its-kind program focused on helping Stevens students find diverse career pathways in the healthcare industry.

Born out of vision and collaboration

Patricia Anne Muisener, teaching associate professor and associate chair of undergraduate and graduate education at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB), helped develop the program with Woo Lee, professor and department chair for CCB.

Muisener, the co-chair of the Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC), has always envisioned and wanted to establish a program like this for Stevens students. HPAC is made up of faculty and staff members in various schools and departments at Stevens who advise students intending to enter medical professions.

The internship program at JCMC that Chiaramonte and Muliawan experienced was initiated after Lance Bruck, the Residency Program Director and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women's Health at JCMC, contacted Lee to discuss setting up a program for Stevens students to interact with medical students, residents and attending physicians.

Soon after, an affiliation agreement between JCMC and Stevens was signed to provide in-person clinical experiences to Stevens students. With the number of in-person clinical experiences for students reduced due to the pandemic, Chiaramonte and Muliawan were fortunate to have this opportunity to learn what would be expected of them if they decided to become medical students and practice medicine in the future.

"Many hospitals were not allowing volunteers to enter. This experience gave students a chance to have an in-person clinical experience that truly allowed them to experience first-hand what life as a medical student would be like," noted Muisener.

In addition to providing real-world experiences, the pilot is also a critical component for the creation of a campus-wide pre-health program at Stevens.

"As part of the strategic plan, developing a campus-wide pre-health program is a substantial initiative. The Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women's Health (under my leadership) and the Department of CCB (under Dr. Lee's leadership) developed and finalized an institutional agreement to have pre-health students spend a month rotating in the hospital with direct exposure to clinical, research and operational activities," Bruck said.

Bruck is a charter member and the interim chair of Stevens' External Advisory Board (EAB) of CCB at Stevens, comprised of a diverse group of distinguished individuals in their careers and recent alumni from a spectrum of fields. The role of the committee is to provide guidance and feedback related to the implementation of the 5-year strategic plan developed by the CCB faculty at Stevens.

Another level of value from a Stevens education

This fully immersive experience allowed Chiaramonte and Muliawan to learn new terminology, build professional relationships in the medical community, and understand the procedures doctors were performing in a clinical setting.

Muisener explained that intensive clinical experiences like this make students more competitive when applying to medical school because of their direct exposure to clinical, research and operational activities in a hospital.

"These experiences further cement their ability to decide if they want to pursue medicine and give them more information, skills and knowledge that will be crucial both when applying and attending medical school," she said.

For Chiaramonte, the opportunities also taught her to stay engaged, observe what was unfolding around her, and speak up when she had questions.

“I took advantage of my time at JCMC to understand the procedures the doctors were performing and fully immerse myself in the experience. Most importantly, I learned about my determination and enthusiasm for becoming a doctor,” she said.

Reflecting on the internship program, Muisener further said,"To be able to create a program that will impact students' future careers and lives is both amazing and rewarding. As faculty members, we strive to help students have impactful learning experiences that will prepare them for their future careers."

Stevens graduates are already a tier above competing medical applicants with strong preparation in science, research and hands-on learning. This program adds further value to a Stevens education by giving students direct clinical experience.

For Stevens students, the clinical experience program provides another avenue for growth and learning, supporting them in their quest to discover more about careers in healthcare, according to Muisener.

Bruck added, "The program was a success as rated by the students and the faculty/residents involved in teaching the students. Our goal is to have these students continue to interface with the department throughout the remainder of their undergraduate studies in order to assist them in building the strongest CV (resume) in which to apply to professional schools for healthcare study,”

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