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Diagnosing a Healthy Education
Posted 11/26/2014 11:25AM

Last spring we caught up with a dozen Rowland Hall alumni who are at various stages of medical school training at the University of Utah, and we featured their stories in the 2013-2014 Annual Report. We asked these alumni about their Rowland Hall education and their motivations to go to med school. The resulting article generated a lot of interest, so we've reprised it here.

The latest—Jerica Johnson and Chris Bossart—were matched with their respective residencies at the University of New Mexico. Check out this Fox 13 news story about University of Utah Match Day 2015.

After we published our Annual Report, our director of College Counseling pointed out that only one of these excellent students and future physicians completed an undergraduate degree at an Ivy League institution. In fact, most of them attended either large universities or private liberal arts colleges.

We'd like you to meet:

  • Neel Patel, Lawrence University '12
  • Isha Gupta, University of Utah '09
  • Jerica Johnson, University of Utah '11
  • Lindsay Hunter, Grinnell College '11
  • Noelle Teske, University of Notre Dame '06
  • Tim Mulvihill, Boston College '10
  • Katie Pavia, Wellesley College '12
  • Michael Chen, University of Southern California '12
  • Nicholas Larsen, Colby College '05
  • Chris Bossart, University of Puget Sound '09
  • Liz Schackman, Stanford University '08
  • Michael Sotiriou, University of Wisconsin '08

Medical School: What does it take and how do you get there?

The challenges and responsibilities of preparing to become a doctor are far more complex than memorizing a few thousand facts or functioning while sleep deprived—although those skills certainly help. According to our grads, it requires independent and critical thinking, handling the unexpected, making good decisions under pressure, and building trusting relationships.

It might come a as surprise that:

  • Writing is extremely important and highly valued in medicine.
  • The Rowland Hall teachers our med students identified as most influential taught all these subjects: music, world languages, literature, sports, psychology, science, and math.
  • Just three out of 12 of our featured alumni went directly from undergrad to medical school.
  • Many important skills for success in medicine are abstract: performing, decision making, trust building, delayed gratification, and open-mindedness.

In their own words, our grads recall the knowledge and skills they learned early on that helped them through the rigorous academic and personal challenges of medical school. At Rowland Hall they learned to: advocate for themselves, apply their acquired and intrinsic knowledge to work and life, become ever more efficient and organized, appreciate their families and educational opportunities, and embody the very qualities we all seek in the physicians of the future.

Nicholas Larsen '01
Undergraduate degree, Colby College '05; master's in marine biology, James Cook University, Australia '07

"I recommend that anyone headed for medical school take a few years off to experiment in other fields, travel, and enjoy life before launching into the rigorous program of medical school. Rowland Hall and college laid the groundwork for my academic success, and I particularly benefited from Peter Hayes's biology classes."

Noelle Teske '02
Undergraduate degree, University of Notre Dame '06; MSc in Psychological Research, University of Oxford in the U.K.; employed with the Sundance Institute/Sundance Film Festival for two years

"I always loved science and had some great teachers at RH, including Peter Hayes, whose energy was just infectious, and Keith Pankow, who really led me to love and be confident in my abilities in more mathematical science like physics. This was invaluable for my college courses like physics and organic chemistry to get me into medical school! I didn't decide until years later that I wanted to do medicine, but the science and math curriculum at RH definitely prepared me well. I'm actually even more grateful for the wonderful humanities preparation, as philosophy and psychology were my first academic loves, and my writing ability and analytical thinking have really served me well both in medical school and succeeding in this field."

Michael Sotiriou '04
Undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin '08, worked in a dermatology lab at the U, volunteered and shadowed physicians, worked at a restaurant

"I set a goal for myself to attend medical school at the University of Utah. When I was rejected my first go around it surprised and disappointed me. I had never experienced a set back of that magnitude. It was quite eye opening, and I realized I had to work harder for this than anything else in my life. I'm a goal oriented and driven individual, so I sought advice from the admissions office and set in motion a plan to strengthen my application. I felt research was already a strength, so I chose to focus on increasing my volunteer work and physician shadowing during my year off. The U seeks out balanced applicants that have strengths in several categories: research, leadership, volunteer work, patient exposure, and physician shadowing in addition to the applicant's MCAT score and GPA."

Liz Shackman '04
Undergraduate degree from Stanford University '08; master's degree in biology, Stanford University '09; worked for three years as a research assistant in the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at Stanford, traveled

"My time at Rowland Hall and Stanford definitely prepared me for the hard work of medical school. I still make the same types of study guides in med school that I started making in high school, just with 20 times more information in them."

Natasha Kwendakwema '05 (not pictured)
Undergraduate degree, University of Pennsylvania '05, ABC4 news intern

"I first thought about becoming a doctor while on a mission trip to Peru with (RH Spanish teacher) Matt Burnett and a few students from Rowland Hall during which we got to work with physicians. After college, though, I interned at a news station because I also thought I might want to go into broadcast news. After that experience, I decided to finish my premed prerequisites and apply to medical school. My family members were great mentors for me, especially my mom, who encouraged me to apply to medical school even though I hadn't followed a traditional route."

Chris Bossart '05
Undergraduate degree, University of Puget Sound '09; year off to work in a lab at the U, coach sports teams, and work in a restaurant

"I have decided on emergency medicine but liked every single rotation during third year, making the decision difficult. I would suggest to RH students to do what interests them the most in college, do your best, and keep all your doors open. Medical schools prefer students who have broad interests and experiences. Rowland Hall teachers Mr. Hayes, Jo Edwards, and Coach Derek Bunting helped shape my ideas about life."

Tim Mulvihill '06
Undergraduate degree, BS in economics, honors BS in biological chemistry, University of Utah '11; M.D./Ph.D. program; two years off and worked in a research lab at the U

"Diane Guido is the Rowland Hall teacher who had the greatest impact on my decision to go into medicine. I had never found biology classes to be that interesting, but it was fascinating to learn about psychology and the way that people think. Advice? Make sure you follow your interests through many different fields until you find the one you love."

Lindsay Hunter '07
Undergraduate degree, Grinnell College '11; conducted genetics research through a joint position with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Program and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

"Looking back at high school, the experience that I think prepared me best for the rigors of medical school was actually Mr. Wortham's French class. His class continues to be one of the hardest classes I have taken to date. Mr. Wortham encouraged us to push our abilities and taught us to not be discouraged by minor missteps. That mindset is vital when dealing with the challenges of medical school."

Jerica Johnson '07
Undergraduate degree in Exercise Physiology, University of Utah '11

"I just completed my third year of medical school. I want to specialize in either family medicine or internal medicine. The joy of building relationships with patients has ignited my interest in primary care. All my classes and experiences at RH helped to reinforce my desire to understand the 'why' behind how the world works."

Michael Chen '08
Undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, minor in music and chemistry, University of Utah '12

"It's important to know why you are interested in medicine, yet keep an open mind while exploring other fields. For me, medicine is the only profession I want to go into. Doctors have told me if I am interested in anything else, then I should pursue that because of the sheer amount of training involved in becoming a physician. Also, take time to do extracurricular activities. The well roundedness of my entire class amazes me and shows me that people who want to become doctors also have lives outside the profession."

Katie Pavia, '08
Undergraduate degree, Wellesley College '12; a year as a small-group interventional tutor at an inner-city middle school in Boston

"There are lots of places where you can learn good content, so pick your school based on the people you'll be spending your time with. Having the support of colleagues and family is critical to surviving and thriving in med school. I am grateful to all my RH teachers for building and fostering a love of math and science but also teaching me that the people you work with are at least as important as the content you're learning. Nancy Peterson, Sally Shepard, Peter Hayes, Janice DelMar, Mason Kjar, and Jo Edwards all shaped my thinking as a scientist."

At Rowland Hall's fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies this June, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories with those in attendance.
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When Carol Blackwell took the helm of the Beginning School in 1996, the division did not have a cohesive identity. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Carol spent the past 22 years building a model for early childhood education, one that parents, faculty, and students often describe as magical.
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As we wrap up Rowland Hall's 150th anniversary, I look back on the year's celebrations with joy and satisfaction. The kickoff party last September gathered more alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students, and community members—in total, over 1,400 people—than any event in our school's history. Just a few weeks ago, we had our culminating event on the Steiner Campus, the Jubilee, which was a fantastic party full of dancing, great food, and friends.
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