Archive for August, 2019

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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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 ( 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 (

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 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 (

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.

A determined Dannielle Allen is on her way to becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

We talked with Dannielle Allen on July 1, 2019.  Danielle is a RC graduate of 2016 with a major in Biochemistry.  Dannielle exemplifies the power of determination: She didn’t get into a medical school upon her first round of application but got into several after two gap years and hard work, and is currently starting her second year at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.  We spoke to her the day before her second year of classes began.

Dannielle’s situation was particularly interesting because while she was a good student, she wasn’t quite at the usual level GPA-wise for students entering medical school.  So how did she overcome that issue? She credits both solid coursework and research experience at RC followed by dedicated shadowing of a physician, volunteer work, and scribing in getting her where she is now.  And she was very persistent in pursuing efforts to make herself a better candidate.  She actively sought feedback from the persons on admissions committees about how to make her application stronger. She took an online course in public health during her gap period and she also retook the MCAT.   These activities made her a stronger candidate, and also impressed medical school committee members with her determination.

When asked for suggestions for students who want to apply to medical school, Dannielle had several: take the Kaplan course for the MCAT and really study for it, start early on one’s personal statement, take some notes when doing research or other extracurricular activities for later reference when putting together the applications.  She also mentioned understanding how the application was formatted and how to present yourself optimally (for instance, she progressed toward describing the field hockey team in terms that would make her a more capable physician) and that she wished she’d taken a pharmacology course because medical school covered a lot of drug information.

Like other medical school students, Danielle agreed that the first year was “like drinking from a fire hose”.  Dannielle readily identified ways in which the liberal arts helped her during medical school itself: smaller classes at Roanoke helped her become more confident in speaking up and participating; because of the smaller student body she had a wide range of friends and a variety of personal interactions.

We asked her why she wanted to pursue a DO program.  “I really liked the DO philosophy of dealing with the person as a whole” rather than just the symptoms and isolated problems; after all those problems are seldom really isolated.  Some of the practices she learned were about helping the person without necessarily resorting to medication immediately, which also appealed to her (and us, frankly).

Best of luck and congratulations to Dannielle Allen!


Three Dr. Berensons: Marc, his aunt Jennifer, and his beloved grandfather

Three Dr. Berensons: Marc, his aunt Jennifer who is a professor at Roanoke College, and his beloved grandfather Murray Berenson

The busy Dr. Berenson finds some time to enjoy the Pride Parade in New York City.

We talked to Marc Berenson on July 26, 2019 about his path to medical school and residency.  While he’d long been fascinated by medicine, Marc hadn’t exactly been ready for college his first time around, and eventually left to become a paramedic. After 15 years he decided to return to college and aim for medical school.  Two semesters and two summer sessions later, Marc graduated with a sociology degree and was accepted into the medical school at Rutgers University, where he earned an MD in 2019.  Now he’s a first-year resident in Emergency Medicine at Rutgers.

In talking to Marc, the theme of making a difference in people’s lives was ever-present and the precipitating factor in his decision came from seeing his grandfather, a retired gastroenterologist, at his eightieth birthday, surrounded by former patients who spoke of how he had helped them.  Marc was touched and inspired.  Now he’s helping and supporting patients himself.

Marc identified several aspects of the liberal arts nature of Roanoke College as being helpful: first, the support and occasional push from the “phenomenal” faculty, such as Dr. Poli’s insistence that he gain some shadowing experience and Dr. Sarisky’s honor symposium on medical evidence.  Also, the critical thinking skills that he developed in various classes served him in very good stead in medical school in terms of understanding and remembering material.   Other useful decisions: while taking Organic Chemistry over the summer was, well, painful, it allowed him to hone in on the material without distractions and he found Cell Biology particularly useful.

Marc’s advice on applying to and surviving medical school: Be flexible and “expect the unexpected” as there will be many challenges of many kinds; be ready and willing to reward yourself and to remind yourself that you’re here because the faculty believe that you can do it.  That was particularly important, Marc noted, given that the amount of information in the first year of medical school is staggering: “like swallowing Niagara Falls” and it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed.

Best wishes and congratulations to DR. Marc Berenson on getting his MD and in his residency!

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.

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