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A Trip to Oxford University, Courses on the History of Medicine, and Pre-Health Week – What More Could the New Pre-Health Office Have to Offer?

By Tripti Gupta

Published on April 2, 2011

At the beginning of last summer, the College of Letters, Arts and Science announced the new Office of Pre-Health Advisement and its director, Dr. Kenneth Geller. With Dr. Geller's expertise, this new office will help undergraduate students to achieve their career goals and to contribute to society through health-related professions.

Dr. Geller is also the Director of the Division of Otolaryngology and Communicative Disorders at the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. His motivation to leave medical practice and instead help pre-health students stems from an interest in educating and motivating young, new aspiring physicians to ensure a bright future for the medical field.

"When you are a surgeon, there comes a time when you need to give up surgery, just like any skill…and I thought of teaching students. I've been teaching the Baccalaureate/MD Program for years and so for me, when this opportunity presented itself, it felt like this was the right way to go – to be involved with the undergraduates whom I love and help them get good advisement and reach their goal, especially so I know that there will be some smart doctors to take care of me in my old age!" chuckled Dr. Geller.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Geller

The staff of the Office of Pre-Health Advisement: (from left to right) Nathalie Zuletta, Randolph Zuniga, Dr. Kenneth Geller, Gina Camello, Lena Wilson, and Selina Zadeh-Asadouri.

He completed his Masters in Education only few years ago, but he has at least 40 years of medical experience as a notable surgeon. This familiarity has given him an appreciation for the medical field and a desire to improve the process for "anyone else coming through."

While the College's science-majoring students are primarily comprised of pre-med students, the doors and services of the Pre-Health Office are open to anyone interested in professions related to healthcare, including but not limited to those of pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, and physician's assistant. The Pre-Health Office currently provides personal advisement sessions to students, based on their career aspirations. It will also provide new health-care related courses, research and physician shadowing opportunities, and summer study abroad programs, offering them the chance to get a true taste of what health care really is.

New classes are being added as electives for Pre-Health students to expand their knowledge and give them a view of medicine that cannot be derived from their average textbook and day of physician shadowing. For example, the course titled Clinical Perspectives on Human Anatomy and Pathology, taught by an exuberant neurosurgeon from City of Hope, Dr. Rahul Jandial, started this spring semester. In the Fall 2011 semester, A Global Narrative of Illness and Disability course will also be taught by the award-winning professor, Dr. Julie Nack Nogue. In addition, the courses History of Medicine and Medical Ethics are also being considered to be added to the Fall 2011 course list.

Before Fall, however, comes summer. To have a fun-filled, yet educational summer, the Pre-Health office has organized a Problems Without Passports course at the University of Oxford, London, United Kingdom. The class will be taught by the Oxford University faculty, and look into issues such as challenges in global health, health policy, tropical medicine, vaccinology, international development and health. Excited? While the dates of application for this program are past due, Dr. Geller ensures similar fun learning opportunities in the near future.

Other things to look forward to are the new website, a Pre-Health blog page, and Pre-Health Week. Pre-Health week, taking place from April 11 to 15, will be an intensive and exciting week for Pre-Health students with informational sessions on the Joys of Medicine, the Qualities of a Competitive Applicant, an Exploration of Varied Health Professions, a Mock Interview Panel, and Preparation Practice test for MCAT, DAT, or OAT.

On their new website, the Pre-Health office will also post a database of physicians from Keck, LAC-USC, and CHLA hospitals along with their specialties. This will help students to get in touch with and shadow physicians of specialties that interest them. Of course, before this, students will have to comply with the clearance of medical records and volunteer program duties specific to the selected hospital. Similar programs on other campuses have been highly praised by student participants. Such a physician shadowing program gives undergraduates a perfect way of exploring different specialties before deciding on a particular medical track. Dr. Geller also plans on adding research opportunities at USC University Hospital, Doheney Eye Institute, and CHLA to this database.

Most importantly, the Pre-Health office offers personal advisement services to students. Gina Camello is the Associate Director of the College Pre-Health Advisement Office. Her 10 years of experience as Director of Admissions at Keck School of Medicine has given her the knowledge, expertise and experience to advisement pre-health undergraduates. Under her supervision, Randy Zuniga, Selina Zadeh-Asadouri, and Lena Wilson will be available to students for advisement in the areas of preparing for the various medical entrance exams, writing personal statements, assembling recommendation letters and making sure that the application is competitive and submitted on time.

With an office in FIG 208, new programs in place, an informational website, and an experienced director, the College seems all set to provide the best of their services to the students. The Pre-Health office is vital for all USC students aspiring to enter the medical field. "We are here to help them in any way we can with planning schedules and course works, meeting requirements for Med School or for choosing other healing specialties," Dr. Geller said. "The road to certain medical careers is very long and not everybody wants to do that. We are here to help them work that out and find fulfillment as a productive member of society – be it as a physician, nurse, or respiratory therapist."

To contact the Pre-Health office and make an appointment, feel free to call Nathalie Zuletta , the Administrative Assistant, at (213) 760-4844 and take your first step towards reaching your dreams of entering the health care field. Advice and support are available to those who seek it. As rightly stated by Dr. Geller, "We are a Trojan family, and we're in this together."

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