Matt Saunders, UVM ’20, didn’t anticipate that working as an outdoor educator while studying Environmental Sciences would lead to a career in medicine. He had plenty of exposure to healthcare through his mother who is a physician, but he intended to pursue a different path as an undergraduate student at UVM. However, a wilderness first-aid training course sparked his interest in medicine. He followed that certification with an EMT course during his senior year at UVM and was hooked. “That was when the switch was truly flipped, and I realized what I needed to devote my energy to,” said Saunders.
When Matt decided to focus on a career in medicine, he researched post-bacc pre-medical programs and realized that UVM’s program was the perfect fit. “It was the ideal option for me to complete the science requirements that I didn’t get through my undergraduate degree. UVM was the only program I applied to, so it was a smooth transition back into classes on campus.”
Matt’s undergraduate degree in environmental science is not uncommon for medical students. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, applicants with degrees in fields other than biology gain acceptance at fairly high rates into med school. For example, 40% of students applying to medical school with a degree in math and statistics gain admission. Other undergraduate majors such as humanities (44%), physical sciences (42.5%), and social sciences (35%) are also popular degrees among medical students today.
Supporting New Post-Bacc Pre-Med Students as a Peer Ambassador
Matt was able to utilize his experience as an undergrad student to help new post-bacc pre-med students acclimate into the UVM environment. As a Post-Bacc Pre-Med Peer Ambassador, Matt along with other current students and program alumni, share best practices and offer support. “It’s really great to help those new post-baccs coming in from other areas and help them get a sense of their surroundings. And share information about UVM’s class structure, how the labs work, and help new students to know what to expect.”
Access to Direct Patient Care Experience
When he wasn’t studying or helping new students find the best local restaurants, Matt was gaining more direct patient care experience to build a strong candidacy for medical school. He found ample opportunities through job boards and postings in the Post-Bacc Pre-Med Community Hub. He worked as a COVID screener at the McClure Respite House and most recently took a full-time position as a medical assistant at the Riverside Community Health Center. “As a medical assistant, a lot of my work is one-on-one with the provider, I work with a family physician. In my role, I room patients, do intakes, figure out why they are coming into the office, and take their vitals. I also do other tasks like immunization, and blood draws… that’s actually one of my favorite things is drawing blood.”
Matt’s also learning the ins and outs of the administrative side of medicine. “A lot of the behind-the-scenes administrative stuff too that pertains to a career in medicine, such as paperwork, calling pharmacies, refilling medications.” While studying and working, Matt has kept his eye on his end goal of gaining acceptance to medical school. The direct access to the Robert Larner College of Medicine at UVM and daily interaction with medical students has been an invaluable aspect of UVM’s program.
“Having exposure to Larner and the surrounding environment of a medical school is a huge advantage. Just working in the community, at the health center, we have a lot of third-year medical students coming in on their family medicine clinical rotations, so I talk to them quite a bit. On a weekly basis, I’m asking them what their classes are like and what life is like at Larner and that’s one of the best exposures you can get. Also having the visual reminder of the actual medical school building itself, causes me to say, wow that would be amazing to be in that building one day learning.”
Post-Bacc Pre-Med at UVM
UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program boasts a high acceptance rate into medical school and has helped students pursue medical, dental, veterinary, pharmacy, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, physical therapy, and other health professions. The program is designed to provide students with the prerequisite coursework and access to research and direct patient care experiences prior to applying to health and medical school.
Learn how a Post-Bacc Pre-Medical program helps students like Matt achieve their dream of medicine today.