CHC and UMass Amherst students networked with healthcare professionals in the Student Union Ballroom on April 7 for the 5th Annual Pre-Health Sciences Networking Dinner, co-sponsored by the College of Natural Sciences, the UMass Amherst Pre-Medical Society, the UMass Amherst Pre-Dental Society, the Office of Pre-Med Advising, and Commonwealth Honors College.
Students came prepared with questions about medical school, finding jobs, the importance of science classes, and the pros and cons of taking a gap year after their undergraduate studies. "You can actually get your foot in the door at events like tonight's," said Wilmore Webley, Director of Pre-Health Advising at UMass Amherst.
The professionals gave encouraging yet honest advice.
"You've got to be good at science," said Dr. Paul Salva, a pediatric pulmonologist who practices in Springfield, Massachusetts. "You've got to be astoundingly well-rounded in the basic sciences or you won't have a shot in medical school."
Dr. Andrea Fallon, a dentist and active member of the Valley District Dental Society, told students not to worry too much about finding a job. "Finding a job isn't too difficult. There's a lot of movement in the field right now," she said.
Dr. Kevin Hinchey, Chief Academic Officer at Baystate Medical Center, encouraged students not to rush into medical school. "I'm what they call a crooked arrow," he said. Hinchey majored in art as an undergraduate, taught math, and coached high school sports before becoming a doctor. "And I wouldn't have traded being a teacher or coach for anything," he added.
After the intial networking period, a series of speakers addressed the group as a whole. UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said that though the path to becoming a medical professional is rigorous, faculty and alumni serve as excellent teachers and mentors for undergraduate students.
Diane Flaherty, Commonwealth Honors College Associate Dean for Curriculum, thanked the alumni and other medical professionals who attended the event.
"One of the most important things for students is to know people who are doing what they want to do," she said, adding that speaking with alumni can "de-mystify" the professional world and demonstrate to students that hard work pays off. She also thanked retiring pre-health advisors Brian and Karen O'Connor, who have worked with students at UMass for over 40 years. "They are an example of how all of us should treat our students," Flaherty said.
Past and present pre-health sciences students created a video thanking the O'Connors for their decades at UMass. Some shared personal stories of how the O'Connors helped them prepare for medical school. The Chancellor presented the O'Connors with plaques honoring their time at UMass.
Dr. Kevin Moriarty, a pediatric surgeon, gave the event's keynote address. "The most important thing I can talk about is teamwork," he said. "Everything we do in medical work is teamwork, and the captain of the team is the patient." Moriarty also stressed the importance of volunteering and having hobbies outside of work.
"It was really humbling to have a pediatric surgeon speaking with us," said Liz Noyes, a neuroscience major.
After the keynote address, the students stayed in the ballroom to continue networking. "Everyone is really friendly," said Anna Klouda, a biology major. "It's a great free resource."