Last July, Dr. Lisa Howard became a permanent health professions advisor at the College. She now spends 10 hours a week assisting students who hope to attend medical, dental or veterinary school. She also writes committee letters for professional school applications and helps coordinate the SPEC 19 Healthcare Internships Winter Study course.
Howard attended Swarthmore and Weill Cornell Medical School. She completed a residency in psychiatry at Harvard Cambridge Health Alliance, served as a teaching affiliate for Harvard Medical School and is a board-certified psychiatrist. Most recently, she worked as a student counselor at Bennington College.
Director of the Career Center Don Kjelleren expressed enthusiasm that such a well-rounded medical professional is able to counsel students at the College. “We could not be more pleased to have Lisa on the Career Center advising team providing direct student service,” he said. “Lisa brings extensive professional experience, broad knowledge of the health profession field and an empathetic approach to her career advising work. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have a practitioner of Lisa’s caliber on our science and health professions advising team here at Williams.”
Howard explained why she decided to join the Career Center. “I really enjoy working with college students,” she said. “This is a different kind of role, but a lot of the skills overlap [with counseling and psychiatry], and I thought it would be fun and interesting.”
Howard collaborates with Director of Science and Health Professions Advising Barbara Fuller, a former director of admissions at Brown Medical School, to offer support to students focusing on STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] and pre-health. “It’s been great,” she said. “I have huge respect for [Fuller], and she really knows her stuff. I’ve learned a lot from her, and I feel as though our talents, skills and perspectives really enhance one another.”
Howard also appreciates the chance to get to know and guide students as they ponder their futures. “The reason to do the job is that the students are great,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in identity development, and choosing a career is connected to that, so I bring that to my work. It’s really fun for me to talk with students about their interests and what they want to pursue and why.
“I also feel as though psychiatry is the stepchild of medicine, and I’ve met some students who have an interest in psychiatry, so I feel like I’m doing something really good for the profession if I can inspire some of these really smart students.”
As medical, dental and veterinary schools become increasingly selective, Howard seeks to help students balance their requirements with their interests. She is glad that they have the opportunity to shadow physicians, dentists and veterinarians through SPEC 19 courses to reaffirm their desires to pursue careers in the health professions. “It’s really nice that Winter Study allows students to have such an intensive experience,” she said.
In addition to her part-time position at the College, Howard spends two days each week counseling at Wellesley. She also works at Gould Farm, a residential treatment facility that allows patients with chronic mental illnesses to receive treatment and work on a farm. “It’s a very cool, albeit idealistic and semi-utopian, sort of place,” she said. “It’s been around for over 100 years, since before there were psychiatric medications.”
By balancing three jobs that incorporate many of her passions, Howard lives out the advice she often gives to students. “I want to encourage students to feel comfortable to come in with a wide variety of questions,” she said. “I tell students who are thinking about careers in medicine that this is the time in your life not to be narrowing down, but to be opening up and thinking broadly about what your interests are.”