Month: October 2021

Alexa Destrampe: Pathway to Occupational Therapy School

My name is Alexa and I am currently an Occupational Therapy student at Concordia University Wisconsin.

As an undergraduate student at Michigan Tech, I studied Exercise Science and also earned a minor in Psychology. As a pre-Occupational Therapy student at MTU, I was able to learn about the human body from many different perspectives. In addition to kinesiology and psychology classes, I also took courses in biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, neuroscience, epidemiology, neurology, mindfulness & meditation, psychopathology, & archaeology. Every course I took at Michigan Tech helped me become the occupational therapy student I am today, as OT is a holistic medical profession that highlights all branches of human health. That said, having a focus on movement science was especially helpful when learning the basics of the human body.

I chose occupational therapy as my future profession because it combines science and creativity effortlessly. For example, if two different clients came to see me for carpal tunnel treatment, their treatment plans would look very different from each other, even with the same diagnoses. Each patient requires treatment based on their unique occupations; things you need, want, and are expected to do in society. I was drawn to the vastness of opportunity that this career holds. I will never be bored and will always be helping others live their life to the fullest as an occupational therapist. Additionally, being an occupational therapist will require action through advocacy. Advocating for the profession as a whole, future clients, populations, as well as myself is something I am passionate about. 

I went into my first semester at MTU nervous to get involved but quickly shed that fear. While I was at Tech I spent a lot of my time in the athletic training room, in the sleep research lab, and out in the campus & local communities promoting healthy habits & lifestyle changes. I invested time into experiences that I was passionate about. Through these experiences, I gained confidence in professional and medical language, developed interpersonal skills, and sharpened my analytical skills. 

None of this would have been possible if I did not network with my professors, academic advisors, and mentors. The people at Michigan Tech are what sets my experience apart from what “could have been”. I truly don’t think I would have had the opportunities I did at MTU had I went elsewhere. The class sizes are small, the librarians and tutors are helpful, and the community that Michigan Tech creates is a safe one. 

I applied to Concordia University – Wisconsin’s program right on time. CUW’s OT program was one of the only post-baccalaureate programs in the country to have a January start. I just so happened to graduate in December and knew if I had the choice, I wanted to head right to OT school. If I hadn’t been accepted, I would have applied to other schools and took the next few months to take a breather. But, it was fate, so I packed my bags and headed South to Milwaukee! Concordia’s OT program is a great fit and the view of Lake Michigan even reminds me of home. 

My number one piece of advice is to take initiative when planning for your desired successes. When applying to OT school you should stay organized and be intentional about the choices you make starting your very first semester of undergrad. Talk to your pre-health advisor to plan both your academics and extracurriculars. I would also highly suggest shadowing practicing occupational therapists throughout your undergraduate career. This helped me directly learn about OT and stay excited about my future even when I was overwhelmed with the common stresses of school. 


Cassie Cecchettini’s Advice for Pre-Meds at MTU

I graduated from Michigan Tech in 2018 where I majored in Biological Sciences (emphasis in pre-professional/pre-med) and minored in Psychology. I liked that this major allowed me to easily get in all of the prerequisites for medical school plus made me take some classes that, while not required, I HIGHLY recommend including immunology, microbiology, and anatomy & physiology. I also believe this major made me more well-rounded because we had to take classes that I probably never would have otherwise, such as ecology, and I tried to think of these classes as a way to gain more outside knowledge rather than just getting educated in strict biology/medicine. 

The sheer number of opportunities available at Michigan Tech set me up for success in addition to the faculty. Professors were always willing to answer questions and make themselves available. I only had Nicole for one year, but she is amazing and helped me immensely even after I graduated. At Tech, I participated in research, was the president of the Pre-Health Association, secretary of MEDLIFE where I went to Lima, Peru twice, co-founded Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Professional Honor Society Michigan Theta Chapter, and was an undergraduate teaching assistant for Anatomy Lab. I also shadowed through Tech’s Job Shadowing Health Professions class and volunteered through the clubs I was involved in and at a hospital in my home state over the summers. During my gap years, I worked as a medical scribe in the emergency department and an oncology/hematology clinic and volunteered at an animal rescue. 

As I’ve learned happens to a lot of prospective medical students, I did not get accepted the first time around. This was a very defeating feeling, but I worked hard to improve my application which included adding non-healthcare experiences (very important!!!), and I reapplied. I received several interviews and several acceptances during my second cycle which ultimately landed me at the University of New England in Maine. The location was a big draw for me as I wanted to get out of the Midwest and explore other areas of the country. Outside of location, I liked UNE because they have an integrated curriculum and a really strong anatomy program. UNE is also one of the more established DO programs with a lot of connections and good match rates. 

A big tip I have for premed students is to take the classes I recommended above! Especially immunology and anatomy & physiology. Having a foundation in those has been critical for my success thus far. Get involved in activities you really enjoy and stick with them. Don’t feel obligated to get involved in a million extracurriculars. Shadowing and volunteering is a must, but as I mentioned earlier, volunteer in a non-healthcare setting to show that you have interests outside of medicine as well. My last piece of advice is to pay attention in class. That may seem silly but getting a good grasp on organic chemistry now will help you when you have to study for the MCAT and helps you establish good study strategies. Oh, and take a gap year! Or 2 or 3. This is a really long journey that will always be here for you. Take time to travel and do things that you love before school starts.