Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two EC Alumni Serve Up Success in Health Care

EC alumni, Ryan Appelgate and Rob Korsch, were fast friends after meeting as undergrads. As chemistry majors and student athletes on the tennis team, their common interests made for a strong connection. Both have gone onto great success in the health professions; Ryan as a physician assistant and Rob as a physician. Below they share a little bit about their time at EC and in professional school.

 Ryan Applegate (left) and Rob Korsch (right)


1.)What experiences did you have at Elmhurst that helped prepare you the most for professional school?

Ryan: Being a Resident Advisor (RA) for 3 years helped teach me leadership skills and responsibility. Being on the tennis team during college gave me an outlet to keep me sane during my long nights of studying as a Biochemistry major.  Those Chemistry professors are no joke! They demand a lot of hard work from their students. They will give you a very difficult exam or assignment, but be the first ones there to pick you up right after it as well!


Rob: To succeed academically in any graduate program, it requires dedication, hard work (and lots of it), and a well-tuned, functioning internal clock that we all call time management. These are the qualities everyone states as being necessary to succeed. And it’s true.  They are.  The didactics at Elmhurst College, most notably the science department, had undoubtedly set the bar high. In order to perform well, I was forced to hone these qualities and really push myself further than I thought I could, or than what I was use to. Anyone that went through Elmhurst College’s Chemistry program can attest to that.  Participating in a few on-campus organizations, while concomitantly managing academics, proved extremely valuable as I pursued a career in medicine.  Believe it or not, the social activities and opportunities continue beyond college, and I found myself even more involved than I was in undergrad.


2.)What did you appreciate most about your Elmhurst experience?

Ryan: Definitely the amount of different opportunities a small town kid like me could have while going to the school. I was very grateful for my childhood upbringing by two loving parents. The environment fostered by EC was very similar in many ways. Anything I wanted to do or create, they usually gave me the avenues to do it.  I had several jobs while I was there such as working in Admissions, tutoring for the Chemistry department, being a Resident Advisor, and being a Conference Housing Assistant for the summer. I was also the president (and creator) of Ping Pong club during my junior year. However, perhaps, I am most appreciative for the strong friendships I made while I was there.  I still keep in very close touch with the majority of my friends from college and could not imagine a life without them.  For instance, I do not know what I would do without my “brother,” Rob Korsch. We’ve been there for each other at every event since we met, starting with the tennis courts and science labs at EC.  I know, that will continue forever.


Rob: There were two main activities that required most of my time while attending Elmhurst College: academics and tennis. My experience with the science department and the incredible faculty on staff as well as my experience playing on the Men’s Tennis team were two things that, to this day, I still cherish.  I appreciate the opportunity I had to be part of a group of guys that I still keep in contact with today.  It’s not always something you think about in the moment, but retrospectively, I am so appreciative of the Chemistry Department faculty and their incredible abilities to teach and form bonds (no pun intended) with the students. It will be a lifelong memory of mine.


Ryan and Rob enjoying a game of tennis.


3.)What were some of the best aspects of attending University of Iowa/Midwestern University?

Ryan: The University of Iowa PA program and Elmhurst College had a lot in common for me.  At EC, there were not more than 20 people in hardly any of my classes, which meant a low instructor to student ratio.  The PA program here at the University of Iowa takes on 25 students each year. The program quickly takes up the majority of your life for the duration of the didactic months. Those “other students” quickly become your family by the end of week one.  Everyone helps where they can. No one wants to see anyone struggle and no one is left behind.  The faculty at the University of Iowa is also undoubtedly top of the line. From the secretaries to the Director of the program, each one has a very specific function within the program and is definitely worth their weight in gold.  I could go on forever about how great of a program it is, but the last thing I will say that makes it so amazing is that our program is intertwined with the medical students.  We take many of the same courses with them, and even join several of their clinical rotations. It is nice to work alongside them, as it shows cohesiveness to the healthcare team right from the beginning of training. My favorite rotation while at school was my Wilderness Medicine rotation. We stayed in the Colorado Mountains and did exercises such as sliding down a mountain at a steep incline and using an ice pick to flip ourselves over to stop from falling into trees or off a cliff.  We also did a 3 day canoe trip during this time; we learned great lifesaving outdoor skills.

Rob: Midwestern University (MWU) is an incredibly diverse atmosphere.  It is a health care based institution and offers many professional programs, including the founding school “Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine” (CCOM). Located in the western suburbs of Chicago, it offers unmatched clinical rotations and is well known for its strong didactics.  You form a number of connections throughout the Chicago-land area that definitely have an impact on your future.  As a recent graduate of CCOM, I can report first-hand of the great opportunities I’ve had and how well I was prepared to enter residency.

Rob and Ryan supporting the Hawkeyes.

4.)What are you doing now since graduating from professional school?

Ryan: Now that I graduated from PA school I am going on my third year working as a physician assistant for the UI Quickcares in Iowa City.  We are affiliated with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and act as an urgent care facility.  It has been great to “get my feet wet” since starting as a PA.  My wife, whom I met during school as she was a medical student while I was a PA student, is finishing up her dual MD/PhD degree and will start residency June 2015.  Who knows where life will take us next as she is currently interviewing for her residency placement. Now that I have a few years under my belt, I will probably look to become a little more specialized after we move in either pediatric endocrinology or urology. I’m excited for the next new adventure in both my career and life! 

Rob: Since graduating from CCOM, I am a first year Urological Surgery Resident Physician at Franciscan St. James Health in the southern suburbs of Chicago.


5.)Are there recommendations you have for current undergraduates as they are preparing to become health care professionals?

Ryan: Do what you love and are passionate about.  Don’t do any career for the money. Shadow and gain as much hands-on experience as you can in different fields/specialties.  There is no better way to rule something in or out than having knowledge and experience in the field. Talk to and make as many friends and colleagues as you can.  Ask questions and be as inquisitive as you were when you were five years old!  Don’t settle for anything less than your best.  Give it your all, and if the first time you don’t get into the field or program you wanted to—try, try again!


Rob: Have fun! It is obviously very important to do well academically when entering into any health profession; I don’t have to tell you that. But sometimes we forget the importance of a social life and there needs to be a balance.  More specifically to those applying to medicine, study hard, prepare well for your MCAT, and apply early.  It is a long process and can be very draining, but with persistence, you will do great! EC has some very helpful resources for pre-med students, and I highly recommend you take advantage of them!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Leo Congenie '10 Shows How Strong Foundations Lead to Success

Elmhurst College Alumnus, Leo Congenie, graduated in May 2014 from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Leo took time recently to answer a few questions for us about his experiences before and during vet school that led to his successful completion of a very rigorous academic program. 




1.)    What experiences or courses at EC prepared you most for vet school?
I drew from the information I learned in all of my biology and chemistry classes. If I had to choose the class that prepared me the most, especially for first year, it would have to be Advanced Cell Biology. Not only did I draw from exact mechanisms studied in the course, it taught me how cells behave aiding me in understanding pharmacology, disease mechanisms, toxicology, and many other subjects in the veterinary medicine program. As I recall, that class taught me to interpret studies, which continues to be an invaluable skill to this day.


2.)    What was one of the most meaningful or interesting experiences you had during vet school?
Although there were many great experiences, I would have to choose my time spent working in Nicaragua. It was my first clinical rotation, and I was bathed in the responsibility of being a doctor. I was given surgery after surgery. Most surgeries were routine, such as spays and neuters, but others involved more complex, disease curing skills. Not only was it my first experience with turning knowledge into medicine, I was introduced to a world that had little to no resources. I had to learn to trust myself instead of relying on machines, and it gave me a great appreciation for what we have at our disposal in the United States.

Leo is shown here in the operating room while in Nicaragua.

3.)    What are your plans now that vet school is over? 

Now that I have graduated I will be starting my practice in small animal medicine at the Banfield in Naperville, Illinois. I hope to develop as a veterinary professional and to open my own hospital within the next 5-10 years. 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Preparing for Med School: Amy Du '11 Shares Her Insights

Amy Du is an Elmhurst College (EC) alumnus who is in her second year of medical school at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to enrolling at Penn State, she completed a master’s degree at Northwestern University in epidemiology and biostatistics. Since graduating from EC, Amy has pursued her interest in global health initiatives by taking service trips to Panama, Peru and Nicaragua. Below she answered a few questions for us about her experiences and shared some useful advice for other students.




1.) What experiences did you have at Elmhurst that helped prepare you the most for professional school?

My research experience with Dr. Stacey Raimondi on metastatic breast cancer was a great introduction to evidence-based science. Our team had the opportunity to present our research at conferences and publish our work. These experiences were foundational in guiding me through my master’s thesis. Additionally, the Advanced Human Anatomy course taught by Dr. James Berry was right on target in preparing me for my anatomy class in medical school.  


2. What did you appreciate most about your Elmhurst experience?

I definitely appreciated the personal relationships I formed with my professors and with the staff in various departments at EC. By the end of my four years at EC, I felt so at home. Whether it was scholarships or professional development, I received a lot of support from EC staff and faculty to help me thrive after graduation. Of course, this included the PCHP, especially Erica Ashauer, who assisted me throughout the medical school application process. I am truly grateful and proud to tell others about my alma mater.


3. What are some of the best aspects of attending Penn State for medical school in your opinion?

Penn State's emphasis on the humanities is a highlight for me. The curriculum is not only training me to become a knowledgeable and component physician, but also a socially responsible and compassionate care provider. Many of the physicians are personable and willing to take time to meet with students and encourage students to shadow them. The administration is also very responsive to student feedback. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie within the student body. Upper-class students are always willing to provide advice and we share helpful resources with each other through social networks.  


4. What are your plans after graduating from medical school?

I have some idea of what I enjoy within the medical profession. However, I cannot say for certain which specialty I will choose until my clinical rotations during third and fourth year. Global health will definitely continue to play a large role throughout my training and career. I hope to match to a residency that will support my passion for global health. One thing is for certain, I am ready to move to somewhere with warmer climates.


5. Are there recommendations you have for current undergraduates as they are preparing to become physicians or other health care professionals?

In retrospect, I would have taken microbiology and Dr. Raimondi's cell biology classes. These topics appear throughout the medical curriculum and are clinically relevant, so setting that foundation in college would have been helpful. I would advise medical school applicants to become knowledgeable about the application process earlier rather than later. Getting the insights from reliable sources informs you of what your options are and how you can avoid common pitfalls. It is important to be sincere in your application and your interviews. If medicine is truly the profession for you, your passion will shine through. Getting accepted to a US medical school is more challenging for international students. I encourage international students to speak to international medical students who have been through the process about their experiences. Finally, it is okay to take time off between college and medical school if it is the right fit for you. I deferred my enrollment to Penn State to pursue a master’s degree at Northwestern University. Getting a degree in epidemiology and biostatistics has enriched my medical school experience and enhanced my understanding of evidence-based medicine. I also studied Medical Spanish during that year, which helped tremendously with my international service trips over the past 2 years. I wish you a good journey as you continue to pursue your passion in medicine. It is not an easy path to take, but certainly a rewarding one.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Turning a Triple Into a Home Run: Bukowski Scores with Three Internships



Clare Bukowski is an exercise science major at Elmhurst College with minors in psychology and coaching. As captain of the Bluejay softball team, Clare naturally has an interest in sports, health, and fitness. She is pursuing a career in sports administration at the collegiate level with hopes of becoming an athletic director. To prepare for her professional journey, Clare held internship positions at three different sites. Below she shares some of her experiences and what she learned being an intern.

The three internships I have completed have prepared me for both graduate school and graduate assistantships.  Last summer I interned with the Chicago Bandits professional softball team.  I did on-field promotions, interactions with fans, teams, and players while using a microphone on the field and in the stands.  I also worked with the public selling merchandise, tickets, creating promotional material and working as a guest relations specialist as well as a team liaison. This internship also allowed me to work with Olympian Jennie Finch during her two day camp hosted by the Bandits.  I experienced the amount of work needed to run a small professional sports team. 

 Clare (right) shown here with Olympic softball player, Jennie Finch.


I also worked with Benedictine University Athletic Department during the fall of 2013.  I worked first hand with a college athletic department.  I assisted with on field promotions as well as learned how to run live statistics during college games.  I sat in on meetings and discovered the work that went into planning weekly home athletic contests.  I became an integral team member with other members of the athletic department, specifically with the director of sports marketing at Benedictine.

Finally, I interned with Immaculate Conception College Prep Athletic Department.  I created game day media guides for the fall home tournaments, worked as an official scorer for both volleyball and basketball games, and helped the assistant athletic director and the athletic director with a variety of tasks.  I continue to help ICCP during their winter sports season.

My three internships not only have taught me skills I cannot simply learn in the classroom, they have also put me in the best position possible to enter graduate school and hopefully earn a graduate assistantship.