Paging Dr. (Insert SAU Alum Here)


12/07/2018

Averi Wilson '14, MD, sees a real connection between sticky notes and her medical degree.

When she was a St. Ambrose undergraduate pursuing dual majors in chemistry and biology, each with a biomedical science concentration, she'd scribble a sticky note for anything she didn't understand.

Then, she'd sit down with a professor and start asking questions. She never was turned away.

"I had the grades I needed for medical school because of the individual attention I received at St. Ambrose and the recommendation letters I needed because my mentors knew me so well. I was very prepared when I got to medical school," Wilson said.

Now, after graduating from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in May, Wilson is an internal medicine and pediatrics resident at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. "St. Ambrose prepared me perfectly for what I wanted to do," she said.

St. Ambrose's biology program and biomedical science concentration specifically prepare students for competitive professional graduate programs in health care fields. And it is extremely successful.

Biology program alumni have attended medical, dental, optometry, pharmacy, physician assistant and veterinary programs across the US, including at the University of Iowa, University of Illinois, University of Colorado School of Medicine, A.T. Still University, and Southern College of Optometry.

Amy Blair, PhD, chair of the Biology Department, said students are guided by a faculty advisor from day one to ensure they graduate in four years, are ready to take a graduate program admissions test, and complete all prerequisites.

The biomedical science concentration requires additional courses, such as anatomy and physiology, and St. Ambrose is one of few universities in Iowa offering undergraduates access to cadaver labs.

"Most people who go to med school have never taken an anatomy course because most colleges do not require it for a biology degree," Wilson said.

"Having prior experience with dissection when I got to UIC was really helpful."

Matthew Kraciun '13, DO, earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from SAU, then graduated in the top 20 percent of his class at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in 2017. He is now a second-year resident with Genesis Family Medical Center.

"I did not struggle in medical school, and SAU is a huge reason why," he said. "My foundation in biology and science was very strong. The program gives you a broad curriculum and education that prepares you to do well in any medical field you choose."

Blair said student-driven, inquiry-based labs help prepare SAU students for challenging graduate-level health care programs. Pre-health care students also complete an internship or year-long research project. "This builds strong critical thinking skills, which is important for any career a student may pursue. We want them to think like scientists when they leave us," she said. "They are challenged by and strongly supported by faculty."

Sarah Treat '17, now a student in the SAU Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, said the biomedical science concentration refined her critical thinking and time management skills.

"After balancing a rigorous academic load with extracurricular involvements for four years, transitioning to the extraordinary demands of PA school was less of an adjustment. The skills, coursework, and experiences acquired as a biology major ingrained in me a tireless work ethic that has served me well as a PA student," she said.

Keegan Steele will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a biomedical science concentration. He applied to 12 medical schools and interviewed for programs this fall. "The biomedical science concentration really pushes you to your limit. It has been hard, but what makes it special and unique is the help you get from the biology professors," he said.

Paul Cagle '04, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, associate residency program director and professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, New York, chose the SAU biology program because he wanted a career in medicine.

"I've told many people it is a fantastic and very well-balanced program, and now, it is so much further ahead than when I was there. The infrastructure and resources have been built up and there is a large network of people who serve as mentors and allies," Cagle said.

– Dawn Neuses '94

doctor with stethoscope

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