Want to get ALL this information sent to your email address?  Email Deborah Duncan at duncan@roanoke.edu and ask to be put on the HPAG mailing list.  Please put HPAG in the subject line when you email Ms. Duncan.

1.) SICH (A club for pre-health students): If you are interested in a career in pre-health and want to learn more about health careers, have connections with health care in the community, interact and make friendships with people who are also interested in a healthcare career, then this is the club for you. If you are interested in this club please email Eddie Dixon (ejdixon@mail.roanoke.edu) for more information and to let him know you want to join!

2.) Clinical Research Experience: A course is being offered this upcoming semester (spring 2020) for students who are interested in doing clinical research or learning more about it. ROA-300: Theory and practice of research in a clinical setting is the course being offered. The lecture takes place on Tuesday’s 8-10am and there is a 4 hour/week lab that will be determined once you meet with the carillion instructor. If you are interested in this course contact Dr. Grant (grant@roanoke.edu).

3.) Salem VA Hospital Research: This opportunity is for students interested in joining a medically-oriented research lab. Students will be working with current medical research as it relates to veterans. Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA to be considered. To apply for this opportunity in research submit a cover letter (with research interests), a CV, unofficial transcript, and two letters of recommendation to the Director of Undergraduate Research (Dr. Lassiter at lassiter@roanoke.edu) by February 28. For more information email Dr. Lassiter.

4.) Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Career Fair: This event will interest any students looking to go into a veterinary profession. This event will take place Sunday, March 8th from 1pm-5pm at the Hyatt Regency Washington. For more information on this event contact Dr. Jorgensen (jorgensen@roanoke.edu).

5.) Radford University DPT Information Session: Radfords doctor of physical therapy program is offering an information session on March 24th from 6-8pm at the community hospital in Roanoke. Students will have the opportunity to meet current students and faculty. Students should look at admission requirements before going and bring questions that they would like to ask.

Are you a Roanoke College student who is thinking seriously about a healthcare career?  Are you a prospective Roanoke College student who wants to know more about how we can help you with healthcare post-graduate training opportunities?

Follow this blog to stay posted on workshops, visits to and from healthcare programs, opportunities and the all-important deadlines.  Check pages for the various faculty to learn more about them and watch for posts about successful alumni and the advice that they have for you as you continue on your journey.

For the official Roanoke College information page about HPAG, go to https://www.roanoke.edu/hpag

Mackenzie and fellow UVA OB/GYN alum Marie Bangura

Mackenzie by the Charles River.


Mackenzie Sullivan graduated from Roanoke College in 2015 with a double major in biochemistry and music.  He then proceeded to medical school at UVA.  He’s now a resident at Harvard Medical School and is crazy busy, but took the time to answer a list of questions we had for him.  Enjoy!  Dr. Sullivan is quite willing to answer individual questions: you can contact him at mwsullivan@bwh.harvard.edu.

What program are you in/did you complete?  What motivates you to go into this area?

I went to medical school at UVa and now I’m doing my OB/GYN residency at Harvard Medical School. My mentor in medical school is a gynecologic oncologist, and working with her made me want to pursue specialty training in OB/GYN with the goal of completing a gynecologic oncology fellowship.

What specialty or population interests you?

Gynecologic oncology is particularly special because we have the opportunity to take care of women in some of the most trying times of their lives, from diagnosis to end. We have longitudinal relationships with our patients, providing both their surgical and chemotherapeutic care, in addition to seeing them in follow-up for surveillance.

What classes or experiences (research, shadowing, extracurricular) at Roanoke College do you think were helpful to you in getting into your program, or helped you succeed once you got there?

The opportunity to have meaningful research as an undergrad was huge not only in the application process but also in terms of being independent enough to pursue research as a grad student with far less guidance. The extracurricular that always stands out from my time at Roanoke was the College Choir—lots of lessons to be learned about teamwork, dedication, punctuality, all of it. Definitely the thing I miss most from my days in Salem!

How did coming from a liberal arts background help you (or not)?

I think having studied two disparate fields in college (biochem/music) in the liberal arts model sets you up for having the mental flexibility to make it through rigorous graduate training. Being in a small school setting allows you to develop a lot of skills both in the research and interpersonal realm that translate to success in grad school—something you don’t necessarily get from a big school environment.

How did your major(s), minor and/or concentration help you prepare for your program or career?

Majored in music—was a benefit as a conversation starter on the interview trail. There’s also something to be said for being trained to have the mental flexibility to switch between fields easily—something Roanoke intentionally fostered.

What advice do you have for students who are hoping to get into and succeed at a program like yours?  Is there anything that you wish you’d known then that you know now?

Reach out to alumni! Even if they can’t be directly helpful, I got a lot of helpful advice from alumni just in terms of interview prep, choosing programs to apply to, etc. Work hard at being well rounded at Roanoke—almost all the serious applicants for medical school will have great grades and scores, etc. so work on setting yourself apart by bringing more to the table.

I sat down to talk with Dr. Kayla Mullins on October 5 about her path to dentistry.  Dr. Mullins graduated from dental school in 2017 and bought out a dental practice in Radford, so she’s been a working dentist for a couple of years now (and full disclosure, some of that work has been on me).

Her interest in dentistry emerged from a long-held desire to work in medicine. Having parents whose work involved being accessible 24/7, she also wanted a career with a fairly regular schedule.  Her own dentist suggested that she spend a day shadowing him to see what the work was like, and she was sold: “I knew from then on that was what I wanted to do”.

What made her fall in love with dentistry?  She spoke warmly of seeing families grow up and interacting with people that you know and develop relationships with, interactions that grow over time.  “I never expect someone to love going to the dentist” but it is gratifying to see people grow in their confidence and to be able to make them more comfortable.  An advantage to practicing in Radford is that she’s a Radford native, and provides these services to people she knows, which is a nice benefit…”it makes me feel really good”.  Clearly, dentistry is a good choice for someone who really values contributing to one’s community.

After four years at Roanoke College, she graduated with a B.S. in biology in 2013 (“the first year without the Bittle tree”) She spoke very highly of how Roanoke College, particularly biology, prepared her for dental school and she went back more than once to her college notes: they were often were better or clearer than the same material from dental school faculty.  Next stop: WVU dental school where there were plenty of challenges such as a day of classes that went from 8 am until 5 pm and a LOT of information.

Dr. Mullins offered several tips: In terms of getting into a school, contact the schools of interest early on and find out what classes they require or recommend, then work them into your schedule early enough that you’ll have a grade in them when you apply.  And don’t be afraid to email or call people at the school: there is something to be said for having one’s name recognized as interested and involved when the applications are reviewed.  Be prepared to translate the INQ curriculum to something the school recognizes.  And take advantage of the great resources that are the Roanoke College professors!

Once you’re in a dental school: find what kind of studying and note-taking works for you and stick to it, and don’t worry about what the other students are doing.  She was a big fan of getting solid sleep and having a strict bedtime, and doing something for herself each week that she could look forward to, and exercise.  The first two years were the toughest…after that, there was much more clinic work and contact with patient, which was much more gratifying than drilling plastic teeth in class.

Other questions about getting into dentistry? Dr. Mullins would be happy to talk with you…shoot an email to allen@roanoke.edu to be put in contact with her.

Congratulations to Dr. Kayla Mullins!

A beautiful setting near New Castle, Virginia.

We have to remove all the knots in the rope without actually letting go of it. What?

When you have a lot of students who are interested in careers that require a lot of teamwork, it seems appropriate to spend a beautiful day near New Castle having fun with team-building exercises.


One group had the job of getting 18 people to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” without standing directly on the ground.  It was not that hard at first.  Then the allotted standing space got smaller.

The overlook was a great setting for the teamwork activities.Four groups vied to see who could be the fastest to toss a much-used soccer ball to the end of the field and back…using a sheet.

Untangling the rope

Another game

A beautiful day for team-building

Dr. Hollis ponders how this situation can be related to organic chemistry.

Rock, paper, scissors?

A team is formed!


We talked with Elaine Lydick on July 31, 2019.  Elaine had a more circuitous route to the healthcare field than some of our other featured alums. Elaine graduated in 2010 with a degree in Sociology and Spanish.  Having studied in Costa Rico during her time here, she wanted to work further in South America and pursued a master’s degree in Global Health at George Mason.   She then realized that nursing would be a good fit for her goals and entered a nursing program at George Mason that was specifically designed for people who already held a degree.  Today, she is a public health nurse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Elaine specializes in the baby care program and is a field nurse, meaning that she goes out to see women who are pregnant and/or have new babies.  A lot of her work involves educating these new mothers and providing resources so that illnesses and problems can be prevented, which is obviously far preferable to treating an existing disorder (to use Elaine’s example, a person with diabetes who lost a leg can be treated to control blood sugar, but that’s not going to bring the leg back).  Many of her patients are immigrants from Central America and thus Elaine’s Spanish-speaking ability and her experience in Costa Rica have been invaluable.

What is the rewarding aspect of nursing?  Nurses are very trusted and in many settings  they spend a lot of time with patients, far more than does a physician.  They can get to know a patient and advocate for that patient when necessary.  Elaine noted that in her experience, physicians respected nurses and their experience with patients and frequently asked for input or opinion.  What kind of person might be suited to nursing? Elaine pointed out that the skill set needed depended very much on what kind of nursing one was doing: office nurses, hospital nurses and field nurses have pretty different work experiences.  So there is a range of “sweet spots” for someone who wants to pursue nursing.

Most of the science classes that Elaine took were in nursing school, so what did skills or knowledge did Roanoke College provide?  Elaine credits RC with helping her develop critical thinking skills, and the emphasis on classroom discussions and writing were very useful as well.  Often in nursing one needs to “think on your feet”; she’d gotten good practice with class discussions and essay exams.  Plus, the variety of classes that she took and the engagement with professors was also really helpful.

Best of luck to Elaine Lydick in continuing her career in nursing!

We talked to Rebecca on August 21 at Mill Mountain Coffee.  Rebecca was visiting before returning to the University of Connecticut for her second year of medical school.  Rebecca graduated in 2017 summa cum laude as a valedictorian with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry and music and a concentration in neuroscience.

Rebecca has been interested in medicine for a long time but came to it as a culmination of multiple other interests: engineering, biology, wanting genuine human interaction…all adding up to a keen interest in surgery, maybe general or maybe a specialty.  She found that the range of classes she’d taken at Roanoke helped her stand out and impress upon interviews that she is a well-rounded person.  The music minor particularly so: she was asked to beat-box in her interview at U-Conn!

We talked about the fact that she had pushed her medical school application too late for the expected application cycle (she was a candidate for a Rhode’s scholarship her junior year when one would have completed the application process), and thus she took a gap year before starting medical school.  She was not happy about it at the time but now says that it was one of the best things she could have done: She did interesting research on Alzheimer’s disease, took a much-needed break, thought carefully about what kind of program she wanted, and worked on applications during that period AND saved up some $$.  Thinking about the program led her to one of the things Rebecca was most enthusiastic about regarding U Conn:  it has a pass-fail system for medical school.  Rebecca feels strongly that the pass fail approach made for a much more cooperative and mutually helpful cohort group of students, which she found invaluable.  And it helped prime the students for teamwork, which is essential in medicine.

That first year:  It was very challenging, and a lot of material she’d never encountered before with a steep learning curve.  But the flip side is that it’s really interesting to learn all that new material and very rewarding to have mastered it.  When asked about advice for prospective medical school students, Rebecca talked about the need to know what a person’s most effective way of working and studying, because you’re going to need to maximize effectiveness.  And it’s important to set high but reasonable expectations because -there’s that firehose/waterfall analogy – there is just no way you’ll get every bit of the information the first time around.  Similar to some of the others we spoke with, Rebecca emphasized applying early, especially the secondary applications, and to have some idea of what appealed to her about specific programs so that she could mention them.  And remember that there are other areas in medicine other than being a physician; if you want to care for people, there are lots of ways to do that.    Rebecca was confident in her decision to be a physician but she also learned a lot about other professions that are part of a medical team: professions that might be better fits for some people.

Thanks and best wishes for the soon-to-be Dr. Hudon!

We had a chance to talk with Patrick Dowling on August 9, 2019, who graduated with a degree in history in 2016 and took a couple of gap years.   Patrick is in his second year of medical school at VCU and is still contemplating specialties.

So how was the first year?  Patrick says that it was very challenging, but he had expected it to be so and said that “if you put your head down and do your work” it’s very doable.  It probably helped that he’d been very active in college and he worked hard.  He held several leadership positions, including as president of his fraternity, and was an EMT for seven years and did some research.  He also scribed during his gap years.  And he spent a summer teaching English in China and embraced the cultural experiences that came with it.

We asked about how the history major contributed to his success in applying to medical school and in medical school itself.  In many ways! First, his application stood out from the majority of those submitted by hard science majors…and he mentioned having classmates who also majored in non-science fields involving study of religion and study of music.   He was very clear that at least at VCU, non-science majors who met the criteria are welcome.  He also mentioned that there is a lot of writing in history and that helped quite a bit in preparing his personal statement and other written aspects of the application.  He also learned skills and a way of thinking that worked well for him.

Any advice for students who want to go to medical school?  He encourages you to “Get involved” so as to do something different that will make you stand out and give you an interesting topic in interviews.  His major in history and summer in China were moves in that direction.  And he emphasized applying as early as possible.

Patrick believes that he wouldn’t have gotten into medical school if he hadn’t gone to Roanoke College.  The guidance and support of the faculty, the experiences, the connections he made were all a big part of getting him to the point where he could be a successful applicant and student, and in a few years a successful physician.  He especially credited Dr. Bucher in the History department for guiding him to a love of history, helping him find opportunities, and ultimately learning all the skills that worked not only in a history major but afterwards.

Good luck and best wishes to soon-to-be Dr. Dowling!

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