In addition to the academic preparation required for a career in medicine, pre-medical students also need to prepare themselves experientially. Prospective health care providers benefit from having a wide variety of experiences, both in and outside of health care settings, including involvement in extracurricular activities, community service, volunteering, internships, research, and post-graduate jobs.
There is not one right path to a career in medicine; students should seek experiences that fit their interests and skills as well as those that allow them to develop new skills and insights or even to step outside their comfort zone for personal growth. Such experiences are a great way to develop the Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students that are valued by medical schools. Experience in health care settings, especially those that include interaction with patients, not only help students to make an informed choice about a career in health care but also to develop the attributes for becoming an outstanding health care practitioner.
Students interested in medicine often spend one or more summers conducting research in the sciences. Hamilton College offers extensive opportunities for funded research, and each summer over 90 students receive grants to conduct collaborative science research with Hamilton faculty. The on-campus selection process begins in late January but interested students may want to reach out to faculty in the fall semester.
Not every student heading toward the health professions chooses to focus on science. Social science research is important to understanding the socio-cultural determinants of health. Grants from the Emerson Foundation and the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center offer opportunities for collaborative research with Hamilton faculty on any topic of particular interest.
Summer research opportunities are offered through many medical schools as well as foundations such as the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. To get you started in your search for summer experiences, check out the listing of Pre-Health Summer Internship Opportunities.
Students who have a very specific research interest can go to the web page of the university/medical school where they would like to work and send an email with attached resume to the researchers doing work in the desired field.
Clinically-oriented opportunities can be more challenging for college students to obtain since most positions involving patient interaction require specialized training and/or licensure. Short-term, summer opportunities are most likely to be volunteer experiences. There is a greater variety of options for those seeking post-graduate work, especially if willing to invest in some formal training and/or classroom work.
Serving the community shows that an individual values helping others. Service can be done in your hometown, at Hamilton, and/or in the surrounding area of Oneida County. Graduate schools look for students who volunteer in service to their communities even if unrelated to healthcare. The Community Outreach and Opportunity Project (COOP) houses many opportunities for students interested in service and can be found on the third floor of the chapel. The COOP oversees a variety of opportunities and organizations such as the Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach, and Charity (HAVOC), A Better Chance (ABC) Tutoring, Hamilton Reads and many more. For more information, visit the COOP website. Additionally, the majority of these programs will send out all-campus emails at the beginning of each semester regarding descriptions of upcoming volunteer opportunities and instructions on how to become involved. Service opportunities range in interests and time commitments in order to attract a diverse body of student volunteers. For further information regarding service, visit the COOP online or in person to learn about the many avenues in which a Hamilton student can get involved.
Most hospitals and healthcare organizations have volunteer programs that can be found on their website. Often hospitals have minimum volunteer requirements and all will require medical clearances, which will take several weeks to complete; it is important that you seek out these opportunities early (winter or early spring before the end of second semester) because you will need to submit paper work. There may also be a mandatory orientation, so make sure to check dates.
A way to open the door for yourself is to simply walk in or call a local hospital, emergency care center, or clinic and ask the front desk staff if there are any opportunities for volunteering available at their facility. Volunteering is also a great way to build connections that may help you seek out more clinical experiences.
Students interested in volunteering at Utica Hospitals should check HamNET for more information. Note that some hospitals require a 4-hour weekly commitment.