Non-Traditional Pre-Health Society: You’re not alone on this path
JOSE PAPA - GUEST WRITER
I was a junior at UT Austin when I received one of the most lasting, albeit, indirect advice from a college crush: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Although he was just quoting the elegant and revered Eleanor Roosevelt and we never went past a first date, the phrase still resonates with me today. It’s quite funny and serendipitous how ordinary interactions can leave a mark that slowly or abruptly transforms your outlook on life.
Constantly inspired by my pediatrician growing up, I always knew that I wanted to pursue medicine since childhood. The path was laid out for me, and I was on track until my junior year of college. Then life happened. Like most college students from a small town venturing to a large university, my college experience was an awakening. My interests broadened after each semester, and I began to question my identity, goals, and inspirations. I started to embrace the unknown. While this narrative personally led me to shift from a typical pre-med biology major to business, this path is like one of many “non-traditional” applicants. Whether to find reaffirmation or to pursue another passion, we have taken a step back, reevaluated, and followed our curiosity outside of the health professions field. On the flipside, there are other stories of people that discovered their calling for medicine without any prior experience in or knowledge of it––like the first sight of a lighthouse beacon. The common thread though is that our collected, unique experiences guided us to the healthcare path.
When I decided to pivot back to the medical field in 2016 after several signs and conversations, I realized the daunting task of pursuing this journey alone. When I was in college, I was surrounded by numerous pre-health students and clubs. However, now in the corporate world, my colleagues and friends could only empathize to a certain point. In January 2017, I decided to reach out to my alma mater connections, which sparked the first of many conversations to understand the world and path of a “nontraditional” applicant. As a result, the Non-Traditional Pre-Health Society (NPS) emerged. It is supported by Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service, and various sites across the state are already growing––from San Antonio to Lubbock.
The nascent, “startup” organization has a lofty but focused vision: To become the primary resource for non-traditional, pre-health applicants nationwide. We understand that the healthcare industry is changing, and therefore, the upcoming––and even current––generation of clinicians need to adapt accordingly. Healthcare, technology, and various academic disciplines are becoming more intertwined and systems-based. What better way to execute on the shifting role of future healthcare leaders than to gather a diverse group of people with eclectic, real-world experiences?
While the Austin NPS community is currently 80-85% UT Austin affiliated, we aspire to be as inclusive as possible. In addition to UT Austin, we plan to create a network of colleges that include Austin Community College, St. Edwards, Concordia, Huston-Tillotson, and Texas State. On October 7th, NPS groups from Austin and San Antonio had tables for the first Texas Medical and Dental Roundup in San Marcos. It was inspiring and humbling to see numerous people and schools support the organization. Several non-traditionals also sought feedback on how to pick up the NPS momentum for their own cities.
The most memorable moments were when current college students––from sophomores to seniors––came to our tables and left feeling comforted and reassured that taking “enrichment years” prior to professional school is normal and even encouraged. After all, every person has his or her own path to the healthcare field. To reiterate the words of Mr. Filomeno Maldonado from TAMHSC College of Medicine, “medicine is not a job; it is a vocation, a way of life.” In order to truly embrace this mantra, I believe people must recognize how to make healthcare their own by integrating it with their other passions and experiences––some of which are not realized until after graduation.
If you’re interested in learning more about the organization, please follow the Austin NPS Facebook page and/or contact the UT Health Professions Office (Painter Hall 5.03). They have advisors excited to answer any questions regarding a non-traditional plan––or even if you're just curious about a career in healthcare. Austin NPS will be launching a new website this fall and will also be sending out a monthly newsletter starting in November; reach out to the Facebook page or the UT HPO to get on the email list. You're not alone on this path, so remember to look out for upcoming events to meet your fellow non-trad peers!