Introduction to Health Professions

Prehealth is a broad term that includes students pursuing entrance into medical, dental, optometry, podiatry, chiropractic, physical therapy, physician assistant, veterinary, or pharmacy school.  Admission into these health professions programs is very competitive thus students must be committed and methodical planners in order to achieve this goal.

Note:  If you are a student interested in learning about nursing or allied health professions such as dental hygiene, respiratory therapy, or radiologic sciences, please contact Deborah Reece.  

There are many important things every prehealth student must do in order to be a multi-dimensional student and a good candidate for professional school.  Students should be involved in the community, including volunteering in healthcare related ares and exercising leadership skills.  They must gain exposure to the profession they are pursuing, including shadowing healthcare professionals. They must pay attention to what is going on in the world.  They must be academically successful, including participating in research and earning good grades.  This requires careful planning and dedication to those plans throughout the undergraduate years

The rest of this website is designed to help you plan what you need to do to be a successful applicant to professional school in the future.  If you ever find yourself in need of more help, please visit our advising office.

Every prehealth student must consider the demands of a healthcare career and see if it is right for them.  When choosing a career, or deciding whether a health career is appropriate for you, there are several points that you should consider:

(The following questions are excerpts from Strategies for Success, NAAHP, National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions)

  1. How much do you wish to deal with people? A great variety of skills, interests and personal characteristics are needed for various health professions. For many people, such as nurses, pediatricians, or occupational therapists, a warm and caring personality is one of the most desirable attributes. Others, such as medical laboratory technologists, pathologists, or medical illustrators, have little or no contact with patients. For a surgeon, it may be more important to have good manual dexterity and be calm under pressure than to have an outgoing personality. One of the first questions you should ask is how much you wish to deal directly with people.
  2. Are you comfortable with science? You do not need to be a science “whiz” for all healthcare areas. Some programs demand much more science study than others, however preparation for all health care careers involves some laboratory and science study.
  3. Are you prepared to enter an area where you will have to spend time and effort keeping up with developments in your field? Competent practitioners have an obligation to their patients to give the best care available. If you are not willing to continue studying throughout your career you will not be a competent health care provider, thus compromising your malpractice insurance and/or your license.
  4. Are you comfortable in a health care setting? Some students fail to anticipate the effect of spending much of their life in the company of sick, disabled, or dying people. With the aging of the American population, much of your work may be with the geriatric population. Many students assume that they will be working in a comfortable, middle-class setting. However the greatest health care needs are in inner-city neighborhoods and isolated, impoverished rural areas. Do you have a spirit of service? Are you emotionally able to deal with a wide variety of people? You should consider exploring your future career and gaining a better understanding of the discipline by pursuing relevant extracurricular activities. For example, volunteer your time in a hospital, research laboratory, public health agency or clinical setting. You will gain insights that will permit you to make a more informed decision about the health career you wish to enter. Not all health care is as glamorous as sometimes portrayed on film and television.
  5. Are you a team player? Health care is increasingly becoming a group activity where a successful outcome depends upon each member of a medical team performing his/her specific function.
  6. What lifestyle do you envision? Some health care careers include many emergencies and long hours.  Different specialties have varying levels of responsibility. Do you wish to deal with life-and-death situations? A career that involves long hours or high stress leaves you less time and energy for family life and leisure activities.

Many of you have just graduated from high school and might not know the answers to these questions. Is that a problem? Of course not, but it means that you must find numerous activities and experiences over the next two to three years that give you perspective on what it means to be a health professional. Not only must you determine how and why this profession is right for you, but additionally you will need to articulate for the professional school admissions committee why you are the best choice for a seat in their entering class.  Decisions about the acceptance and admission of applicants to professional school are based upon multiple criteria that are developed by the faculty of each school. In general, all schools admit applicants who, on the basis of materials presented during the application process, have documented that they possess the personal characteristics desired in future health professionals, the ability to successfully complete the academically rigorous curriculum, and the potential to fulfill the institutions’ mission and goals.