Archive for September, 2019

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!