California State University, Fullerton

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Preparing Students to Compete

Health Professions Program Marks 50 Years of Success

Jan. 2, 2014

Calvin Lowe '86 (B.S. chemisty) believes he owes his successful medical career to the Cal State Fullerton Health Professions program.

Lowe, attending physician and medical director of children's emergency transport at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, said the integrated program helped launch his career. "The Health Professions program played a large role in my life," Lowe said. "It got me where I am today."

That sentiment is shared by hundreds of alumni who have been assisted by the program in their pursuit of careers in allopathic, osteopathic and podiatric medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry and veterinary medicine. The program marked 50 years with a Nov. 9 on-campus celebration.

"The program provides important support for students studying for incredibly competitive careers," said Christina A. Goode, director of health professions advising and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "There is a lot of advisement, including addressing volunteer and extracurricular experience. We work to align students' abilities with their dreams."

CSUF's Health Professions program has five separate components: the Health Professions Advising Office, the Health Professions Committee, student organizations, the certificate program in Pre-Health Professions Studies and the UC Irvine School of Medicine connection.

The beginnings of the program can be traced to the late, beloved founding faculty member, former acting president and professor emeritus Miles D. McCarthy, who in 1959 intended to offer a support system to pre-med students to help prepare them for the medical school application process. McCarthy visited medical schools across the country, establishing relationships and telling admissions directors and deans about CSUF.

McCarthy created the Health Professions Committee in 1963 and became the first official adviser to pre-health professions students.

Today, the Health Professions Advising Office provides exposure and information relating to health professions fields through pre-health student organizations, professional school linkages, mock interviews and personal statement reviews, as well as complete assistance through the professional school application process and beyond. It offers academic advising at approximately 1,700 student meetings per year.

The universitywide Health Professions Committee, whose members include faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and College of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as administrators and University Extended Education representatives, makes program policy, reviews student files, writes letters of evaluation and conducts interviews.

Student organizations offering unique opportunities for pre-health students include the Student Health Professions Association, the American Medical Student Association, the Latino Medical Student Organization, the Flying Samaritans and Prescribing Hope.

The certificate program in Pre-Health Professions Studies allows non-science baccalaureate recipients with little to no science coursework on their transcript to fulfill pre-professional school requirements. A group of 24 students is admitted each fall semester. Students admitted to the program have come from institutions including Harvard, USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine.

The UC Irvine School of Medicine connection began when McCarthy established a strong relationship that resulted in him being offered a seat on the school's Admissions Committee, an arrangement that has been passed down to each of the subsequent coordinators of the Health Professions Advising Office. It is rare that medical schools allow outside University faculty members to see the inner workings of a medical school admissions process, and rarer to grant them voting privileges.

Together, the Health Professions program's five components offer an integrated approach to training future doctors, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians, with 87 CSUF students matriculating to professional schools in 2012. CSUF students are accepted by prestigious programs nationwide, such as the Columbia University dentistry program, Johns Hopkins Medical School, and professional schools at UC San Francisco, USC and others.

"Cal State Fullerton was the right place for me," Lowe said, crediting advice from McCarthy, involvement in student organizations and the committee's recommendation for his admission to the UC Irvine School of Medicine. "I have a fulfilling career working in a great place, and I take pride in the fact that Children's Hospital Los Angeles is the No. 5 children's hospital in the country."

Practicing urologist Pablo Santamaria '86 (B.S. chemistry), a past president of the Georgia Urological Society who owns and operates two Georgia medical offices, believes he received the support of the entire University through the committee's recommendation letter. He attended UC San Diego Medical School.

"I had multiple friends and family members who went to various schools, including Pepperdine and USC, and at those places they didn't have as fine an organization as Cal State Fullerton to advise you, write your committee letter and offer support," Santamaria said. Receiving the committee's letter of recommendation "was a real feather in your cap" that made him stand out, he added.

"What Cal State Fullerton does is fantastic for people who want to go to medical school," Santamaria said. "As I go further in life, I realize that it's all about relationships. They had relationships with admissions committees throughout the state. The committee got to know me as a person."

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