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 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!