Texas Tech pre-health students share stories on what changes COVID-19 has brought to their pre-health journey and how they plan to approach the uncertain climate of healthcare.

“I knew I wanted to be a physical therapist in 7th grade when I had to go for some hip and knee problems, and I had formed a nice relationship with my physical therapist,” Abigail Rose, a sophomore kinesiology major from Burleson and president of the Pre-Physical Therapy Club, said. “I realized I wanted to do the same thing with kids in pediatrics.”

Abbey Calabrese, a sophomore kinesiology major from Oklahoma City and the vice president of the Pre-Physical Therapy Club, said the pandemic has not changed her goals.

“I would consider a non-clinical career on top of a clinical career, like research opportunities, but the goal is to be on the field," Calabrese said.

She said she has interest in working in other countries, regardless of the pandemic’s longevity, saying she likes the aspect of traveling PT’s and is interested in learning how medical treatments, technology and terminology differ in other countries.

Despite COVID-19’s heightened health threats, pre-health students continue to persist in the field of healthcare, Calabrese said. There has not been a drastic decline of students joining the Pre-Physical Therapy Club.

“I’m surprised that there were so many freshmen who’ve been coming to our meetings. I would go check, and there would be 30 students in our Zoom meetings,” she said. “I’m glad that they’re all passionate and want to be there." 

Still, although the positive outlook students have had so far, COVID-19 has inevitably brought some not-so-positive changes especially crucial to pre-health students, such as the switch to online classes, Yvette Franco a senior speech-language and hearing sciences major from Odessa and the president of the Pre-Speech, Language, and Hearing Student Organization, said.

“Our professors tell us, ‘You can use your notes, or we prefer you use your notes’ but that’s exactly why we are not learning, because we have so much access to our resources that it’s like, ‘Why to try when I can just look it up during the exam?’” Franco said.

Students who hold themselves accountable and take the course material upon themselves should do well, in their future plans Franco said. She acknowledges that graduate schools are still upholding their expectations for incoming medical students, and it is still their responsibility to rise to the standards, regardless of the new surge of challenges pre-health students face due to the pandemic.

 “I think people interested in medicine have some personal aspect to it, like a calling, because to be successful in medicine, you really have to know that there is nothing else out there that would satisfy your soul the way medicine would. Once you really know it’s for you, the thought of getting sick isn’t as big of a deal because you know that you’re doing more good by helping other people,” Delaney Malm, a junior cell and molecular biology major from La Vernia and president of the American Women’s Medical Association, said.

Malm said the American Women’s Medical Association has a diverse team of pre-health students that continue to work on making sure they do just that- helping other people through participating in three to four social and volunteer activities a month. The Association has worked for Hugs for Soldiers and Caleb’s Closet, to name a few of their volunteer works. 

For clinical setting opportunities, the Association uses its platform to inform their members of clinical opportunities they can individually sign up for instead of participating as a single group due to the technicalities it entails, She said.

“We partner with the Sick Children’s Clinic, and we’ve had enough members sign up that the clinic is no longer taking volunteers because we have filled all their spots,” Malm said.

She has a desire to end to the perpetuating sex-based stereotype that female physicians are subordinate to their male counterparts, she said.

 “I want to break the stereotype of asking female physicians, ‘How do you manage your work-life balance?’ and yet never asking a male physician that. I want to break this stereotype of, ‘You’re too young to be a doctor’ or ‘You’re too pretty to be a doctor,’ because you would never tell a male doctor he’s too young or too handsome to be a doctor,” Malm said “I also would like to never be assumed that any specialty is too hard for a female or that only females are going into nursing and not males. Nurses are fantastic; they are a vital part of the healthcare system; however, it’s not limited to gender. There can be male nurses, and there can be female nurses.”

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