Health PASS inspires next generation of health care leaders

Imagine medical school with all the camaraderie and none of the exams or grades: Wouldn’t that get you excited about a health care career?

Health PASS students in the Sim Lab

Naomi Hasselblad is a wife, the mother of two preschool children and a biology major at the University of Dubuque, but in July she took a break from that life to experience medical school. She was one of 10 students selected for DMU’s inaugural “Health Professions Advanced Summer Scholars” program, or Health P.A.S.S., a three-week immersion in medical school for high-achieving undergraduates who are minorities under-represented in health care, socio-economically disadvantaged or first-generation college students.

Health PASS students suturing

“My husband has always heard me tell him I wanted to go back to school and become a doctor. He told me that I just need to do it,” Hasselblad says. “I’ve enjoyed absolutely everything about the [Health P.A.S.S.] program and learning how each profession works. DMU is unbelievable in how they treat students. Once you’re in, you’re part of the family.”

While the Health P.A.S.S. students – chosen from more than 100 applicants – brought diverse backgrounds from the East Coast and the Midwest, they quickly became a family. They lived in an apartment building near campus, cooked together, worked out in DMU’s wellness center and enjoyed planned after-hours activities including an Iowa Cubs baseball game, the downtown farmers’ market and the Science Center of Greater Iowa. They also enjoyed simply hanging out together.

“It was instant bonding, from day one,” says Megan Whitehead, a Clemson University student from Versailles, GA. “We all have enough in common and the same motivation.”

“It was so refreshing to hang out at night and have conversations about diabetes and hemoglobin,” adds Nicki Landt, a Central College senior from Garwin, IA. “Plus we share an excitement for health care. We’ve been an interdisciplinary team.”

The program featured lectures by DMU pre-clinical and clinical faculty focused on diabetes, hands-on activities in the simulation center and anatomy laboratory, and shadowing experiences in the DMU Clinic. Students also learned about various health care professions, gained tips on how to prepare and interview for medical school and had mock interviews with DMU’s enrollment staff. One goal of the program is to increase diversity among DMU students by attracting participants to apply.

“This was an opportunity to experience DMU from a student viewpoint,” says Landt, who’s applied for the University’s physician assistant program. “It’s struck a passion in me for learning and practice.”

“I’ve visited medical schools before, but it’s a different thing being there for three weeks,” says Danny Harrington, a senior at Central Connecticut State University. “The program is constructed to make you think about what you want to do, and we’ve been able to meet DMU students on a personal and professional level.”

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