Careers in the Health Fields

Penn State Behrend’s School of Science has a pre-health program that is strong and growing—and receiving rave reviews from students who are now studying to become doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, physician assistants, even veterinarians.

In the past four years, more than fifty students have completed their undergraduate work at Behrend and moved on to professional schools in the health sciences. Some of them shaved a year off their undergraduate studies, taking advantage of the college’s accelerated 3+4 program with institutions including Ohio State University, the University at Buffalo, and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) in Erie. Here are the stories of five recent Behrend pre-health students.

Kayla EshbaughKayla Eshbaugh

Recently finished her final year at Behrend as a 3+4 student, going to Ohio State University’s College of Optometry.

Career goal—to be an optometrist.

A visit with her grandfather inspired Kayla Eshbaugh to pursue a career in optometry. “While we were visit­ing, half of his vision went black,” she said. “At the optom­etrist’s office, we learned that it was because his retina was detaching in his left eye. He was scheduled for immediate laser surgery, which was successful in restoring his vision. That experience spurred my interest in optometry.”

A search for accelerated programs led her to Behrend.

“I visited and felt as though I’d have opportunities at Behrend that I wouldn’t elsewhere, including leadership roles in clubs and the chance to do research and volunteer work,” Eshbaugh said.

Proof of a choice well-made was in the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). “The way Behrend’s program was laid out helped prepare me for the OAT,” she said. “I had just covered much of the content in my classes.”

Faculty members, including associate professors of biol­ogy Dr. Beth Potter and Dr. Todd Cook, who also serves as coordinator of the pre-health programs, prepared her not just for the test, but for admission into optometry school, including helping her practice for her admissions interview.

Jacob OsloskyJacob Oslosky

Finished final year at Behrend as a 3+4 student, accepted at LECOM.

Career goal—primary care physician practicing in an underserved or medically disadvantaged area.

Unlike many in the health-care fields, Jacob Oslosky didn’t feel “called” to be a doctor. For him, the realization came more quietly, confirmed after several job shadowing experiences.

Drawn in by friendly faculty and staff members and students, he saw Behrend as a way to have the best of both worlds, enjoying the benefits of a large university with the perks of a small-college experience.

“I ultimately chose Behrend because I knew I would be able to have close relationships with faculty and the chance to do research work,” he said.

A Biology major at Behrend, Oslosky said he feels well-prepared for medical school.

“The faculty members involved in pre-health programs are knowledgeable, realistic, and helpful, often suggest­ing opportunities to students when they know it will help them become a more competitive applicant to medical school or play a meaningful role in their career journey,” he said.

Taylor HibbardTaylor Hibbard

Just finished her first year in the physician assistant studies program at Mercyhurst University.

Career plans—to work as a physician assistant in primary care.

Taylor Hibbard is attending a two-year master’s degree program in physician assistant studies for free, thanks to a National Health Service Corps Scholarship that she received. In exchange, Hibbard is committed to working in a medically underserved community for two years after her graduation.

“I considered many of the medical professions, but ultimately chose to pursue physician assistant school,” she said. “I’ll start in primary care but may choose to specialize later, possibly in dermatology, surgery, or pulmonary critical care.”

Like the other pre-health alumni, she felt ready to take the next step in her medical career.

“Behrend prepared me for the rigorous learning of P.A. school, which my professors say is like ‘drinking from a fire hose,’” she said. “I am still able to recall lectures from my junior year at Behrend that have helped me a lot.”

Devin HillDevin Hill

Just finished her first year at George Washington University’s School of Medicine.

Career plans—to be a surgeon.

In her high school anatomy class, Devin Hill observed an open-heart surgery that led to her current career path.

“I was fascinated by the surgeon’s skill and confidence,” Hill said. “I was intrigued by the human body—how it looked, the deformities that may occur, and the ability our bodies have to heal.”

She went on to shadow more than thirty physicians in specialties ranging from infectious diseases to pediatric urology.

“I want to be a surgeon because it is a combination of lifelong scientific learning and the ability to serve others, save lives, and alleviate pain,” Hill said.

Hill thinks Behrend prepared her well for the challenge of medical school. “The professors care about you like their own children,” she said. “They want you to succeed and will give you advice and resources you need. When I started medical school, I remember thinking ‘I am so thankful that Dr. Potter told me to take immunology!’ I felt very prepared to enter medical school.”

Morgan ShieldsMorgan Shields

Just finished her second year at Michigan State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Career plans—to be a veterinarian specializing in either large animal surgery or small animal orthopedic surgery.

Like many youngsters, Morgan Shields loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian. By the time she was in high school, though, Shields had decided she didn’t want to go to school for eight more years. At Behrend, she bounced around among a few majors until she decided to take a couple of years off to figure things out.

During that time, she worked as a veterinary technician in her hometown of North East, Pa. Her boss, Gerald Ramsdell, D.V.M., encouraged Shields to return to school.

“I received a high-quality education at Behrend,” she said.

“I was 100 percent ready for veterinary school. I was surprised by how prepared I was compared to others in my class.”

Shields is quick to point out that it’s not an easy path. “I would advise that anyone considering vet school be absolutely sure that it is what you want to do,” she said. “It’s a tough road and very competitive. But, it’s rewarding, too.”