By Kate Whitney
Students in UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they all tend to share a similar motivation.
“It’s a passion for helping people,” said Jennifer Lian, M.Ed., Senior Pre-Health Advisor at UVM’s Continuing and Distance Education Department. “That’s the common thread we see with all applicants.”
UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program is a 12- to 24-month, intensive, and fully customizable program allowing students to complete the prerequisite coursework for admission into medical school and other health professional and advanced science degree programs. Lian, who has worked for the University of Vermont in a variety of roles since 1996, has been advising Post-Bacc applicants and students for more than ten years and has helped hundreds of students advance toward their goal of a career in healthcare.
According to Lian, there is no typical Post-Bacc student, but she sees a lot of applicants deciding to apply after unfulfilling job experiences. “It’s a career-changing program,” Lian explained. “Maybe the life in New York City or the hustle and bustle of an 80-hour-per-week finance job isn’t really fulfilling you in the way you thought it might. I’ve got students now, for example, who have come into the program who have completed a Masters in social work with an undergrad degree in English and another student with an MBA—not from UVM necessarily– but we often see students in the Post-Bacc who have advanced degrees, but they realize they want to change careers. We have a split of more seasoned students and those who are fresh out of undergrad.”
“And certainly when most of us graduate from college, we know ourselves better than when we started,” Lian continued. “The applicant’s personal statements explain why they want to come into the program. Most often, we see students who didn’t really know what they wanted to do. They rushed off to undergrad, thought they were majoring in something they loved. In fact, they may have been very interested in their major, but something seemed to be missing, or maybe there was always this call to pursue this, so then when they learn about UVM’s Post-Bacc, they think, wow, I can actually do this even though I got my undergrad in something that was non-science. There’s still a chance.”
UVM’s Post-Bacc Premedical Program Stands Apart
According to Lian, UVM’s Post-Bacc program has grown from only a handful of students in the first cohort nearly 20 years ago to numbers ranging from approximately 60 to 100 students per year. High acceptance rates into medical school and program benefits are a huge draw for applicants, as is UVM’s flexibility when it comes to maximizing transfer credits—an option not offered through most other Post-Bacc programs.
For many undergraduates, part of their general education requirements included taking some of the courses needed to apply to medical school. “So, when they start the Post-Bacc program they don’t have to retake those courses if they choose not to,” Lian said. “The plan is tailored based on what they want to do, which has financial benefits. Some do want to take, say, Chem I again because they can’t remember, especially if they took it a long time ago. We try to strategize on what would help make the student feel the most successful. It’s very collaborative and team-oriented approach to student success – from our office, student accessibility services, academic support services, and departmental support.”
However, Lian said that most students are drawn to the program’s access to the UVM Medical Center and Level 1 Trauma Center, as well as integration with the UVM Larner College of Medicine.
“When you apply to health professional schools you need more than the prerequisites,” Lian said. “You need to demonstrate the 15 core competencies—that’s very, very important. Medical School applicants must have a good MCAT score, demonstrate that you’ve had exposure to clinical research opportunities, direct patient care experiences, shadowing and a demonstrated commitment to community service. UVM allows the opportunities for these students to completely immerse in the clinical side of things as they want to and as their time permits. There are so many research studies going on here, so many opportunities to serve and volunteer—not only in the hospital—but in this community. We have Post-Baccs serving this community everywhere. We’re very fortunate, and so are they, that they can use this time to get their prerequisites done, round out their candidacy, and maximize their exposure to the clinical side.”
“Plus, we have wonderful, wonderful faculty,” Lian said. “I was just hearing from one student about her chemistry professor and how supportive he is. These faculty take the time to stop and talk with these students. It’s just wonderful. Not just that, but Post-Bacc students integrate with and take classes from professors in the College of Medicine. So that really helps them build confidence, make connections, and feel like they’re moving in the right direction. That support is really important for students and part of what makes them feel so successful.”
Jennifer has a passion for learning and helping others as well, though in an educational setting. She has worked with a wide variety of student populations through her 24 years at UVM. “It has been such a privilege and honor to work with the pre-health student population. They are high achieving, highly motivated students who know what they want and are committed to achieving it. Post-baccalaureate pre-health students are bright, savvy, and up to date on current affairs, national and global health issues, passionate about making healthcare accessible and helping underrepresented patient populations. They work hard in the program to not only immerse in the science curriculum but also to understand the bigger picture of healthcare systems in the US and beyond. I am fortunate to work where I have an opportunity to learn from students every day in my role as advisor.”
“It’s so fun to see students come in, build their plan, and then seeing them at the end of the program, getting their applications together, taking the GRE or the MCAT—everything rolling up—and going through their process of getting invitations for interviews and acceptance offers and things like that,” Lian continued. “It’s really exciting.”