Apprentice program gives students taste of medicine

Each Winter Study, the Health Professions Office sponsors a course that gives interested pre-med students a chance to observe those in the medical profession. Whether here at Williams or in the students’ hometowns, the Winter Study Medical Apprentice program offers students the opportunity to see the application of the skills they learn while at college.

According to Susan Salko, Health Professions adviser, the “primary mission of the program is to provide students interested in the Health Professions the opportunity to experience first-hand an area of the Health Professions.”

Students in the program are assigned to a participating local doctor and follow that person around, typically five days a week for eight hours per day, during the Winter Study period. In the program, students are able to observe their physician, the office staff, surgeries, as well as interacting verbally with the patients.

For many, the program serves as a way of gauging their interest in the medical field, as well as get a better idea about what medicine is like.

James Ziai ’00, mentored by ob-gyn Dr. Michael Payne, took the course “to get an idea of a medical practice and find out whether medicine was for me or not.”

Those in the program find that their interest in medicine is strengthened as a result. Alexis Gilman ’00 found surgery to be very interesting, but was most captivated by the relationship she developed with Mensh’s patients.

“Probably the most fascinating day-to-day experience is meeting all these different kinds of people, usually with similar problems, and seeing how their reactions vary. People cope with sickness — and health — in very different ways.”

Of course, the relationships they develop are not just those with patients, but with the mentoring doctors as well. Many local physicians, oftentimes Williams alumni who want to become involved with current students, have volunteered to become mentors for students in the program. Over 35 local physicians, in health professions areas from medicine to dentistry to psychiatry, participate with students in the program. In the process, students often end up having close relationships with the mentoring doctors. In fact, according to Salko, it is not uncommon for the mentoring doctors to write recommendation letters for students when they apply to either graduate programs or medical schools.

In the end, the program works best for those interested Health Professions students hoping to gain greater exposure to a field they might possibly make a career out of. The experience in all is valuable for those students, as it gives them the chance to determine whether or not medicine is right for them.