Author: nmseigne

The Next Chapter: Physical Therapy School

I’m Emma DeBaeke, I graduated in spring 2021 from MTU with a Bachelors of Exercise Science and a minor in Psychology. The research and the anatomical-based program have given me the perfect foundation for the next chapter in my life, Physical Therapy school. I have just started school at the University of Michigan- Flint in their DPT program. Personally, I feel as if U of M has been the right choice for me because of the ability to live closer to my family, the PT Heart clinic, and the amazing professors. However, MTU will always be in my heart.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without my experiences at Tech. With Michigan Tech being so far from my home town it helped me grow. It took a lot of tenacity, determination, and help from the Chemistry Learning Center to make it through my first semester. I also couldn’t have made it through without the supportive community at MTU. I have had numerous occasions where people have helped me shovel out my car from the snow, and I have run into countless alumni downstate who are always so kind. 

Throughout my time at Tech I was on the rowing team, a Resident Assistant in DHH, and an Athletic Training Intern. I am still active in the MTU community as a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon. I personally enjoy being busy and these roles allowed me to either give back to the community or better myself personally. I know preparing to apply for graduate school can be stressful. I believe when preparing your resume it’s important to find activities that you enjoy to fulfill the graduate program’s recommendations and help you stand out during interviews.


Karmyn Polakowski: Preparation for Medical School

My name is Karmyn Polakowski. I am currently a first-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

What was your undergraduate major at Michigan Tech? How do you feel this major has prepared you for medical school?

I majored in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS). This degree choice was vital to shaping me into the medical student I am today—I am a strong believer that in order to be a fruitful physician we must know the ins and the outs of medicine from the lab all the way to the patient rooms. Simply because if we don’t know how we got to the answers such as the origin of a particular lab result, it’s difficult to make a diagnosis and explain it effectively to a patient.

The curriculum devised for MLS students is one for students with a desire for perpetual learning and a mind full of curiosity. I promise you, the courses will feed these cravings. 

What experiences/resources did you have at Michigan Tech that you felt set you up for success?

Michigan Tech did an amazing job at shaping me into a competitive medical school applicant as well as a successful medical student by providing me with both the people and activities to make me a well-rounded person. Medical schools emphasize not only the necessary science skills but also the soft skills and I truly believe that MTU set me up to do both. In particular, I had awesome instructors, an amazing pre-health advisor, and extracurricular groups that pushed me to be this type of person.

Why did you apply to Michigan Tech’s Early Assurance Program (EAP) with Michigan State University?

I chose to apply to the EAP simply because I knew that MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) was the perfect fit for me. MSU CHM places an emphasis on producing primary care providers in rural health care settings and that is my personal goal as well. So because my goal aligned with their mission statement so well I decided to apply and even better, apply a little early.

Do you have any tips or advice for future students applying to EAP? Or students applying to Medical school in general?

BE A GENUINE PERSON! Applying to medical school can be frightening because of all of the numbers and statistics about GPAs, the MCAT, etc– however, discovering why you want to do medicine and making that apparent through a genuine and compassionate attitude will take you so much further than a score will. That being said, make sure that you’re always trying your best to do well on your exams and projects, but make sure that you’re also doing things outside of school to shape yourself into a well-rounded person. After all, medicine is about human connectedness, not your best test score.

What type of experiences or extracurricular activities were you involved in?

I was involved in Michigan Tech EMS for a couple of years and it was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate career. I was not only able to deploy my patient interaction and care skills, but I found the EMS family that created bonds to last a lifetime. EMS brings out special qualities in everyone and learning how to utilize everyone’s strengths is really quite eye-opening. This lesson in itself makes me confident in my ability to work well as a physician amongst a group of other healthcare workers someday soon.


Bella Menzel-Smith, Pathway to Physician Assistant School

My name is Bella Menzel-Smith, and I am currently a fourth-year student at Michigan Technological University. 

I will be graduating this May from MTU with a degree in Human Biology. After graduation, I will be attending Marquette University’s Physician Assistant Program. As a Pre-Physician Assistant student at MTU, I was able to take courses in biology, chemistry, psychology, public health, and epidemiology. My favorite aspect of MTU’s Pre-Health program has been the supportive faculty. I truly have felt that I have been a part of a tight-knit community throughout the past four years. Working with the Pre-Health advisor, Nicole Seigneurie, was so beneficial to me because she was always there to answer my questions and cheer me on along the way. In addition to this, all my professors have been more than helpful to make sure that I succeeded in their classes. 

When I was unsure about what I wanted to study during my first year of college, I had an annual healthcare check-up with my healthcare provider who is a Physician Assistant. I asked her questions about her profession, and she had nothing but positive things to say. I decided to do more research on my own, and I found out that the Physician Assistant profession was created in 1965 by Dr. Eugene Stead, in order to address healthcare disparities and the need for more primary care providers. Immediately, I was so excited that I had found a healthcare profession that was created for the exact reasons as to why I wanted to enter the healthcare field! Growing up in a rural area, I have seen firsthand how poverty and access can affect the quality of healthcare that people receive. When people in my community need to see a specialist, they have to travel at least four hours away. Therefore, it is my goal as a Physician Assistant to be a healthcare advocate for marginalized populations and to improve healthcare disparities in rural medically underserved areas. 

Once I decided that I wanted to pursue the Physician Assistant profession, I knew that I had to get involved in the MTU community. I have been a tutor at the Chemistry Learning Center, since my second year at Tech. Being a tutor has allowed me to support students during their difficult chemistry classes. I have loved being able to help students build their confidence and strengthen their studying skills. I have also been a Co-President of Student Well-being Advocates at MTU and the President of AED Pre-Health Honor Society for the last year. Both of these opportunities have allowed me to work on my leadership and communication skills. Through Student Well-being Advocates, I was able to start a Winter Warm-Up winter accessory drive that takes place annually on campus. In addition to my involvement on campus, I was fortunate enough to be a Crisis Text Line Counselor where I learned how to be an empathetic listener to people who were in crisis. I know that the lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience will help me with my future interactions with patients. I believe that it’s so important for everyone to get involved with extracurricular activities that you enjoy to help you find your passions in life! 

The most valuable advice that I have for anyone who is on a Pre-Physician Assistant pathway is to gain clinical experience. I was a Certified Nursing Assistant for over a year at a local nursing home. Through this experience, I was able to learn how to provide person-centered compassionate care to my residents. I cared for individuals who had a diagnosis of dementia, and I learned the importance of treating my residents as the human beings that they were and not as their diagnosis. I also found that one of my professional callings in life is to be a healthcare advocate for vulnerable populations like the elderly. I know that this experience has taught me so much and will be very beneficial to my future as a Physician Assistant. I hope everyone takes advantage of their time at Tech and gets involved in the community as much as possible. I will forever be grateful for the time that I have spent at MTU!


Ben Cockfield, Pre-PT Advice

My name is Ben Cockfield, and I am currently a second-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Central Michigan University.

I received a BS in Exercise Science and an MS in Kinesiology through Michigan Tech. I began my academic journey in the biomedical engineering department with aspirations to design technology that would interface directly with the human body in some way to improve performance or quality of life. I quickly found out that the engineering-based curriculum was not holding my interest – but the anatomy and human applications of the information was. This was hugely important for me and ultimately led to my switching into the department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology and is my first piece of advice: explore often, and if you can, early. Change your mind, change your major! You do not need to have a decision made about what you want to do right away but trying to open as many doors as possible early on – and keeping them open – is relevant for anyone, regardless of major or interests.

I didn’t know I was going to apply to a DPT program until I was starting my MS – although PT school had been on my radar, this felt like a bit of a late decision. Looking back, I am glad I took my time, and in the end, it cemented my certainty to pursue my DPT. This would not have been possible had it not been for the support and connections I made at Tech, specifically, my thesis advisor Dr. Steve Elmer, and the other graduate students in the department. Having a mentor that guided and pushed me was essential during my time at Tech and finding someone like this is critical for growth as both a person and as a professional. Moreover, interacting and networking with graduate students across departments was invaluable to me and highlights another important lesson – surround yourself with people who genuinely care about what they are doing. Passion is contagious, and when you are surrounded by people who are invested and willing to work hard because they care more about just getting a good grade, it encourages you to do the same.

One important note was that I didn’t wait until I was a grad student myself to initiate these interactions, and I would encourage other undecided students anywhere to do the same. The easiest way is to volunteer to be a research participant (affectionally referred to as a lab rat), this allows you to observe the type of research that gets done across a variety of departments while simultaneously learning more about the topic from the students and faculty directly – no one loves to talk more about the most up-to-date research, techniques, and projects than those directly involved with the process, so be careful how many questions you ask, you may end up being there all day!

The last bit of advice I would give anyone interested in pursuing PT is to involve yourself with your local community to some capacity – whether that is through a volunteer organization, church, job, etc. I have been a member of the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol for 5 years and believe that extending yourself outside of purely the academic community/college “bubble” is incredibly important for personal growth and getting in touch with the world outside of your own niche. Get out and learn about the people who make the community that you are a part of. This will extend to your future as a health care professional as well – you can’t expect to spend your whole life in the clinic or hospital!

To boil it all down, my advice for applying to PT school (or any graduate program for that matter!) would be to keep doors open (but don’t be afraid to change your mind!), surround yourself with passionate people, explore new avenues, and get involved with the community – Good Luck!


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. 


Molly McKenzie, Pre-Dental Advice

Hi, my name is Molly and I am currently a first-year student at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. My undergraduate major at Michigan Tech was Biology with a Pre-Professional concentration. I applied to the University of Michigan’s program largely because it is one of the best schools in the country, maybe even the world. It also happens to be in-state for me, so while dental school is never cheap, it was still the most affordable option. The city that it’s in, Ann Arbor, is also a beautiful place to be with a lot of great food, parks, and opportunities for young professionals. 

The first semester of dental school was made easier because of the biology and anatomy courses at MTU, the first semester of which leaning heavily on anatomy. Luckily, MTU helped prepare me well for the biology section of the DAT, as it turned out to be one of my highest-scoring sections. I also happened to take some engineering courses that were super helpful in perceptual ability in 3D space, which has been huge not only on the DAT but also in my first semester courses in dental school.

Having the opportunity to join several health-related clubs and honor societies definitely set me up for success. I found support in classmates who were working toward similar goals; maybe not dental school, but they were working just as hard to get into medical school or PA school. One honor society, in particular, Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), gave us the opportunity to visit a cadaver lab, which is one of the first things you do in dental school. You’ll really get a feel if that is something you can handle. I also did a lot of volunteer work at Tech through these clubs. Volunteering is so rewarding, and it can be really fun to work alongside friends in something that will benefit the community! Lastly, make sure to talk with your pre-health advisor at MTU about study resources for the DAT. It is an expensive test, and any free resources or discounts on courses like Kaplan are a tremendous help to your wallet.

The biggest tip I have for students applying to dental school is to go further in dentistry than just shadowing. Most programs require a lot of shadowing hours, but you don’t really get a good idea of dentistry until you do something hands-on. Check out your local dental offices for opportunities; many of them are actively looking for assistants or infection control positions. They may even be willing to train you on the job like they did for me. Having that leg up in basic dental knowledge as soon as I started classes at U of M was such a huge help. Additionally, don’t forget that dentistry extends past the dental office. I worked for a dental consulting and research company before attending U of M, and not only did I learn even more about dentistry, I made some amazing connections with academics, researchers, and dentists alike. Do a little searching online and don’t be afraid to ask for help and for opportunities.

One set of courses that I highly recommend at Michigan Tech are their ceramics courses. We worked with a lot of fine tools to carve details into sculptures and had to design three-dimensional pieces. Talking with advisors and dental students, I get the feeling that dental schools like to see that you can work with your hands in clay, even if you don’t consider yourself to be “artsy”. Besides, on the DAT there is an entire section dedicated to testing your perceptual ability, and in school, you will have to turn objects around in your head to understand where structures are. Knowing how to bring a 2D image to life in your mind is a great skill to have when preparing for and attending dental school!


Dominique Aleo’s Pre-Med Journey

I was sitting in my car outside the dentist’s office, wondering how on earth I was supposed to call my mom and about 5 others with only 3% battery. I had just opened the email telling me I had a conditional acceptance to MSU’s College of Human Medicine for August 2019, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I did it, I couldn’t believe I really did it.

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I began shadowing at a young age and I soon noticed many obstacles our town faced from being medically underserved. The more I saw and learned, the more I knew I wanted to work in rural and underserved areas as a physician. This realization is what drew me to MSU, as part of Michigan State’s mission for CHM is to train dedicated doctors that will return and practice in underserved areas. For me, MSU was a perfect fit, and it seemed my aspirations met their criteria as well. I decided to apply through the Early Assurance Program (EAP), as it would be a great opportunity to show that my goals were aligned with theirs. Some of the positive aspects of the EAP application is that they have a preference for Michigan residents who are first-generation college students, graduated from low-income schools, and lived in medically underserved areas. I fit all of this criteria, which in combination with their mission, made the EAP seem like an opportunity I could not pass up.

I majored in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Pre-Medicine, so the majority of what I studied was MCAT orientated. I personally knew many doctors and medical students whose major was not geared towards the health professions and had a bachelor in Art, Norwegian Culture, and Religious Studies. However, I chose Biological Sciences not just because I felt it would help me prepare for the MCAT, but also because I loved the subjects I would be studying.  

When I was first looking at colleges as a high school senior, Michigan Tech was not my first choice. Now I know it’s exactly where I needed to be as Michigan Tech had many different resources and options that would allow me to succeed. Medical schools need to see that you’ve had experiences that have cultivated skills and assets that you’ll need in the medical field. This puts an enormous pressure on students to have everything; research, volunteer, shadowing, health-related jobs, teaching, lots of involvement in multiple organizations with leadership positions in those organizations, all on top of a stellar GPA. It’s helpful to keep in mind that most of these are guidelines and that anything that has meaning to you can be used to show others how it has helped to mold you into a well-rounded individual.

I will always be grateful for the bonds I have made at Michigan Tech and the experiences that have helped to shape me into the person I am today, and I am so excited to begin the next part of my journey.

Experiences are about quality, not quantity, and Tech is able to offer both. There many different Student Organizations available at Michigan Tech so that you can be involved and do something you enjoy. Also, the shadowing program Nicole, our Health Professions Coordinator, has set up with Portage and Aspirus makes it easy to build physician shadowing hours. There are always notifications for volunteer opportunities, as well as many resources to help you succeed in class, such as Learning Centers. Michigan Tech is full of above-average professors and teachers that always have their doors open to students, and there are many options to those who are interested in pursuing research such as working in labs, volunteering as a participant, or applying to conduct research of your own.

I worked 30 hours a week the entirety of my college career and worked overtime during breaks and holidays. Although I was not involved in as many activities and organizations as I would have liked, work was filled with many experiences that helped to build character and skills that are necessary for the health professions and everyday life, even if the work I did was not directly health related. I invested my free-time in organizations that I really felt I was making a difference, such as MEDLIFE, Pre-Health Association at Tech (PHAT), and later the AED Pre-Professional Honor Society. All these things and more gave me the opportunity to grow as an individual and gain experiences that helped to shape me and allow me to be successful.

The Pre-Med journey has not been an easy one, but it’s not supposed to be. Every stressor is an opportunity to condition and better yourself for the future. In terms of tips or advice, I have quite a bit from my own experiences. With every opportunity to succeed, there will also be the possibility of failure, so if you fall short, don’t make excuses for yourself. Instead make an effort to re-evaluate, learn, and then try again.

Take the time to talk to your advisors, professors, and Nicole, because they are all trying to help you succeed and they all know what they are doing. Begin studying for the MCAT early, and surround yourself with people who have the same drive and determination as you do, as it really helps to have that support from your peers. Last of all, do not let someone decide your future or discourage you. As I said before, it’s a hard road ahead, and there will always be those who don’t think you will cut it. You determine your own goals and means of success, and you do not need to be a cookie-cutter applicant to be successful. Never let there be a time where you ask yourself “what if I had…”, and instead, do everything possible so that you know you did your best.


Pre-Physical Therapy Alumni Lindsay Winter at Central Michigan

Lindsay WinterMy name is Lindsay Winter, and I currently a first-year student at Central Michigan University’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy (PT) program. At Michigan Tech, my undergrad degree was in exercise science with a minor in psychology. I felt my undergrad education provided me with a well-rounded foundation to begin PT school. Between my exercise science and psychology courses, I feel I graduated from Michigan Tech with a firm background in physical, mental, and social health.

Throughout my undergrad, a variety of experiences and resources helped prepare me for PT school. The courses that were included in my undergrad really emphasized the importance of having hands-on experience with the technology in our Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology (KIP) labs. I found it helpful that we were able to actually work with some of the equipment that would be used in physical therapy research and have an understanding of what the technology would be used for. Second, Michigan Tech has really made an effort to bring in speakers and create classes that are helpful for prospective physical therapy students.

A KIP Seminar Series was created to bring researchers to campus and have them present on their current and past research projects. Also, I was able to take a PT Seminar class that was taught by a physical therapist that graduated from Michigan Tech! I found all of these to be very helpful in providing me with extra information related to physical therapy and made me more interested in the recent topics related to my field.

Another important aspect of my success at Michigan Tech was the KIP department and Pre-Health staff. They were always so helpful throughout my time at Michigan Tech and in my PT school application process. Even though applying to PT school can be stressful, they always made sure our concerns were heard and made an extra effort to address any areas of the application we were struggling with.

Central Michigan University has been a great fit for me so far. It’s obvious that all of the professors are passionate about their profession and want to see us become successful physical therapists in the future. They do a great job of challenging us to learn beyond what is taught in the classroom and make sure we are provided with the resources to do so. Finally, I really enjoy how the program stresses the importance of building relationships with our classmates and staff both in and out of the classroom.

A tip that I would give to future students would be to do as much shadowing as possible.

In addition, I would tell them to shadow in multiple different areas of physical therapy. The more experience you have coming into PT school, the better understanding you will have for how each area of physical therapy works. Many students are content with just shadowing outpatient clinics, but I would recommend that they try to gain experience in pediatrics, women’s health, inpatient care, neuro, etc. You never know where your passion may be!

In my undergrad, I was on the women’s basketball team at Michigan Tech. Being involved in athletics and experiencing the injuries that go along with them is what drew me to become interested in physical therapy. Also, being apart of the team really allowed me to be extremely involved in the community. I was able to be a volunteer for numerous events throughout Houghton, which I found very enjoyable and a great learning opportunity. These events helped me realize that I wanted to work in a profession that allowed me to positively impact the lives of others and improve someone’s quality of life as well.