Category: Student Stories

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!


Ross Michaels. Pre-Med. Researcher. Husband. Hero.

“Where else could I have led a research project on liver fibrosis; watched autopsies; designed a device for the insertion of a myocardial pacemaker via a minimally invasive procedure; published a paper detailing a 3-D printed device we designed and made accessible to the entire world to help diagnose childhood malnutrition; married my high school sweetheart; pole-vaulted and learned to throw a discus, shot-put, and javelin; coached high school football and track; and saved my best friend’s father’s life on a bike trail in the middle of the woods?

Ross Michaels, ’17,  Biomedical Engineering | Pre-Medical, U of M Medical School, Fall 2018 


Tessa Sprague, Pre-Physician Assistant Program

Tessa Sprague

Michigan Tech offered so many resources that greatly improved my success. Grades are very important when applying to Physician Assistant (PA) schools, so the learning centers and tutoring kept me on track with my goal GPA. There was also a wide range of volunteer opportunities in health-related areas that helped me become more comfortable as a healthcare provider.

Bachelor of Exercise Science major helped me prepare for PA school by requiring a summer internship which opened doors for me getting more direct patient care hours which is a big focus for many PA schools. I also really enjoyed the tests and research I was able to do throughout my courses in this major.

I applied to CMU’s program initially due to the success rate of their students in passing their PANCE exam first round and how driven they were in helping the underserved which is a large part of medicine. After interviewing at CMU for a spot in their program I felt the most comfortable with the faculty and students’ view on community. Coming from Michigan Tech and a good program, community was very important to me in my decision. In summer 2019, I was accepted into Central Michigan’s Physician Assistant Program!

The biggest advice I have for future students is to do extracurricular activities that will make you stand out through the application process. I was involved in Michigan Tech EMS which helped me become certified as an EMT. I then used my certification to build up experience and direct patient care hours for my application. I would also suggest taking a gap year between undergrad and PA school to get some job experience that will make certain aspects of PA school much easier.

I did a variety of extracurricular activities while at Michigan Tech. I worked for Student Health and Wellness as a Peer Health Advocate which strengthened my communication skills and was the best job I could’ve had throughout school. I volunteered with Michigan Tech EMS as a first responder giving me valuable patient experience. I was involved in research and was part of the Spartners program helping educate children about nutrition and fitness.

Michigan Tech helped me in my success in getting into PA school as well as giving me a good base of knowledge to help make connections with the new material. The application process isn’t always easy but just remember to be yourself and show them what makes you stand out!


Maya Braden, Pre-Med Journey

Maya BradenPreparing for Pre-Med

I graduated from Michigan Tech with a major in Biological Sciences and concentration in Ecology. I had a few majors during my time at Michigan Tech. I originally came in as a biomedical engineer and quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. I switched into biochemistry and molecular biology, which was my major for the majority of my time at Michigan Tech.

By the end of my third year however I was really inspired by my time with the conservation corps and I wanted to learn more about natural resources, so I once again switched, this time into biological sciences with a concentration in ecology. Completing my ecology concentration classes were by far the best preparation for medical school and definitely allowed me to develop a different way of thinking about interactions, whether it’s a wetland or an organ system.

Narrowing the Path

I am currently a student at Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. One of my favorite primary care providers was a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine(DO), and after shadowing a DO I found that my personality fits more with the osteopathic providers compared to allopathic. I like the DO philosophy and its holistic view of people. I was also interested in having the extra tool of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine to treat patients. Having OMM classes now in the fall semester is definitely a nice break from traditional classwork and feels great to have classmates practice techniques on me after sitting and studying for long hours.

Striving for Success

Knowing who to know is everything as a pre-med. This includes advisors, upperclassmen, classmates and professors. No one becomes a doctor on their own. If someone was considering pre-med my first step of advice would be to contact Nicole Seigneurie, the pre-med advisor. She is incredibly helpful and will do her best to help you succeed. After that, it would be to network with those around you because you never know what opportunities will come from it. For university resources, I utilized learning centers often, took research opportunities that were available to me, and shadowed at local hospitals.

My favorite extracurricular activity that I participated in during my time at MTU was with MTU Emergency Medical Services. Everyone in the organization is dedicated to growth, learning, and genuinely cares about others. It gave me a great introduction to medicine. Other extra circulars that I enjoyed while being at Michigan Tech was being a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, a Girl Scout Troop Leader, a resident assistant, biology learning center coach, research, and working various jobs across campus. The best experience that I could have sought was doing an AmeriCorps service term and taking a break from school to investigate my other interests and understand what it means to volunteer and contribute to a community.

Passing it Forward

I would say to financially plan ahead, applying to medical schools is expensive and a lot of people have to do it more than once before they are successful. That being said, as soon as you’re accepted, find out information on as many scholarships as possible and don’t wait to apply for them. I learned about the National Health Service Corps scholarship, which pays tuition and stipend in exchange for working primary care in underserved areas from a doctor my mom was working with. I applied for it and with lots of help from letter writers, was awarded it. I would highly encourage anyone considering primary care to apply if it aligns with your career goals.

As far as how to pick programs, apply for programs whose mission statement you identify with and can see yourself being passionate about. Mission statements tell you a lot about a school’s priority and what kind of providers they want to graduate. If you are considering medical school I would really encourage people to look at both routes, MD or DO, and investigate what each one really means before choosing. DO has a lot to offer and will be competing for residency spots with MD’s now that the residency merger has taken place. I’m really glad that I was exposed to DO and think that DO programs have a lot of great things to offer their students.


Elise Cheney-Makens, Pre-Med Advice

Elise Cheney-MakensMy name is Elise, and I’ll be attending the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in the fall of 2020.

I graduated in the spring of 2019 with a major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (with a concentration in Biology) and a minor in Spanish. I liked that my undergrad degree was so diverse. In addition to biology classes, I also took lots of courses in chemistry, physics, writing, and even computer science, and it was really fun getting to explore all these different disciplines and challenge myself in new ways all the time. My major definitely kept me on my toes, which I know will help me during medical school.

With all the challenging classes I was taking, it was helpful having so many supportive resources available to me. The learning centers and my professors and advisors helped me at every stage of my college career. This is so overused I’m sure, but when Dumbledore tells Harry Potter, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it,” well, that’s definitely also true of Michigan Tech. There’s always going to be someone willing to guide you, advocate for you, teach you, care about you – you just need to be willing to ask for help.

Another amazing resource at Michigan Tech is the Early Assurance Program (EAP) through the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. I applied for the EAP because I liked the innovative and flexible curriculum at Michigan State and the focus of the EAP program, in particular, on serving underserved populations. I knew I was looking for a medical school with a holistic approach to delivering education – a school that was academically rigorous but heavily emphasized balance and student well-being.

My best advice about applying to school is to dig deep and find some gratitude for the process, even when it feels stressful. I think applying to medical school is actually an amazing learning opportunity in so many ways. You get to be introspective about your life, experiences, and values and how they’ve shaped you into the person you are now. And you get to really start exploring and sorting through what medicine means to you. I highly recommend collecting stories about medicine for inspiration on the days that you’re struggling to find some. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, this piece in the New York Times Magazine is one of my all-time favorites. 

Even the MCAT is such an important experience. It is a behemoth of an exam, but learning how to study for it, what strategies work best for you, and simply that you are capable of doing something this difficult is so valuable for school and life in general. I really would not have imagined I could study for anything so intensely for so long (4 months in my case). But now that I’ve done it – and succeeded – I know I can do it again throughout medical school and my career.

In terms of choosing what things to get involved in outside of class, there are definitely no “right” activities or extracurriculars for pre-med students. But if you do things that you enjoy, that passion will shine through in your application and your interviews. For me, this included working as a writing tutor in the Multiliteracies Center and a counselor at Summer Youth Programs, volunteering for the Young Women Leaders Program and Ronald McDonald House, leading a Girl Scout troop, and doing research on campus and a research fellowship at Mayo Clinic. I was also in the tennis club and played cello in the orchestra.  

Ultimately, all of this – being an undergrad student, applying to medical school, everything beyond – is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember to take it at your own pace, keep an eye on the long game, and be true to your values throughout the process.


Kirsen Hudak, Pre-Occupational Therapy Experience

Kirsen HudakI think Michigan Tech gave me the opportunity to be involved with a lot of different things and become a well-rounded student. The small class sizes gave me the confidence to take charge and lead, in group and classroom settings. The research-based classes and labs gave me a good background in reading and interpreting research. The kinesiology department faculty have helped me so much with the application process itself. They took the time to write recommendations, proofread essays, and do mock interviews. The undergraduate internship that I completed at UP Health System gave me a very diverse shadowing experience. Due to the rural nature of the Houghton-Hancock area, I was able to observe many practice settings. I think being able to talk about these diverse experiences strengthened my understanding of Occupational Therapy (OT) in practice.

I graduated in May of 2017 with my undergraduate degree in exercise science and a minor in psychology. I decided to complete an Accelerated Master’s degree in Kinesiology the following year at Tech. Knowledge in kinesiology and psychology are both incredibly important to the OT profession. Professors expect you to have a certain level of understanding of both of these fields. I think my Master’s coursework prepared me for the rigor of OT school and gave me the critical thinking skills important for success in my program.

I ultimately decided on Grand Valley State University. I chose this program for several reasons. When visited campus for the interview portion of the application process, I was very impressed with the faculty and facilities. I could tell right away that the instructors and staff really cared about each and every one of their students. Meeting with current students in the program really reinforced it. The brand new facilities and location being right downtown in Grand Rapids were also a selling point to me. GVSU’s program was more condensed than other programs I applied to. Their program requires taking a heavier credit load each semester, resulting in an earlier graduation. With already being in college for five years, this sealed the deal for me!

I would say, first and foremost for those students applying to OT school to get good grades! Schools weight GPA differently, but many have a certain GPA requirement. Secondly, I think it is important to get healthcare experience. There are many capacities in which you can do this, whether it be shadowing, working as a rehab technician, or completing an internship in the healthcare system. School’s want to see that you know what you are getting into. Finally, diversify your experiences! Occupational therapists teach their patients about life balance. Make sure you balance your schoolwork, service experiences, work, and, of course, leisure activities. Above all, have fun and be genuine in with your application.

I was involved in many experiences and extracurricular activities at Michigan Tech that helped with my application process. I had the privilege of competing on the women’s varsity soccer team for my five years at Tech (Go Huskies!). I was also involved in student leadership and community service through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, where I served as president for two years. I worked several jobs during my time on campus including working as a camp counselor for Summer Youth Programs and Michigan Tech Hockey School, a student assistant for Husky Motors, and a Peer Health Advocate and NCAA Choices Student Advisor for Student Health and Wellness. I completed an undergraduate occupational therapy internship at UP Health system in several different settings. During my fifth year, I taught PE classes and completed a graduate internship with MTU Athletics strength and conditioning department. I also tried to help out at as many outreach events as I could through the Kinesiology Department.


Elle Heinonen, Pre-Physical Therapy and Exercise Science

Elle Heinonen

I graduated with a degree in exercise science from Michigan Tech and I prepared for applying to Physical Therapy (PT) school by making sure I had all of the pre-physical therapy requirements and getting involved in as many groups on campus that I believed would strengthen my skills both professionally and personally. I was a part of the Michigan Tech varsity volleyball team, the Pavlis Honors College and Blue Key National Honor Society. Through all of these groups, I was given many opportunities to volunteer in the community and become a more well-rounded student

My advisor Kathy Carter was a huge help all through my undergrad and assisting me in preparing to apply for PT school.

I am currently attending Central Michigan University through a partnership with Central Michigan and Michigan Tech. This program felt like a good fit for me because I was able to go to PT school while staying close to family and friends in Houghton. I also already have so many connections at Michigan Tech and in surrounding areas, I thought it would be helpful to build on those connections these next three years.

I would advise future PT students to look ahead and get working on the requirements for PT school early on. You want to be certain you have everything completed so the application process can go smooth. I also would tell students to get started on the application as soon as it is released to allow you time to fill out the application and get any questions answered because the application can be confusing.

 


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.