Alumni med students share advice with current students

Last week, three Walker School alumni returned to campus to speak with current students about their experiences at Walker, in college and in medical school and to offer advice to students who may be interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

Olivia Craig (Class of 2016), who graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Genetics, and Elisa Farrell (Class of 2017), who graduated from Mercer University with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Religion, are in their first year of medical school at Mercer University. Diana Toro (Class of 2016), who graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Biochemistry and minored in Spanish, is in her third year at the Medical College of Georgia. Olivia said she wants to pursue family medicine or OBGYN, Elisa said she is considering pediatrics or family medicine, and Diana said she has declared OBGYN. 

The alumni said they wanted to come back to Walker to help current students because they would have benefited from similar guidance. 

“I remember being a senior in high school, and I knew what I liked, but I think if someone had come back in to talk to me and said ‘this is a long hard road but there are multiple ways to do it and you cannot make a mistake and you will always end up where you’re supposed to be even if it doesn’t feel like it at first,’ it would have been comforting,” Olivia said. 

Each shared the types of classes they took at Walker and other Upper School opportunities that prepared them for college and beyond.

“I didn’t take AP Chemistry or AP Bio, but I took AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, Psychology and Sociology and a lot of the histories,” Diana said. “I wanted to get exposure to other things. I wish I could have fit AP Statistics into my schedule. I didn’t take AP Bio and AP Chem. I took everything around them, but I did take Guided Scientific Research and Epidemiology, and I got a lot out of those experiences and it gave me a unique application when I was applying to college. I’m more well-rounded.”

Olivia agreed that she should have taken AP Statistics because it would have been useful in college and for the Medical College Admissions Test. 

Each of the alumni participated in programs through Walker that provide real-world experience. Diana and Olivia participated in Walker’s Guided Scientific Research Program in which students can pursue tracks in Public Health and Engineering. Students apply to get into the program and spend the summer between their junior and senior years interning either at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or engineering companies in the metro area. In their senior year, students are required to select a topic they are interested in and complete and present independent research. This year, seven GSR students were selected out of 50 statewide to present their research at the Georgia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium hosted by UGA. Some even have their research published.

Diana said she used the internship at the CDC as a jumping-off point and continued working there during summer breaks. 

“You don’t get paid as an intern at the CDC, but it’s all about the experience and making connections,” she said. “I went back during the summer and got paid, and you make more connections and more connections and go up the ladder as much as you can. I ended up working in the lab and got to do really cool things and got paid in my last year of college.

“I would highly recommend you do [the GSR] because you dip your feet in there and find out if you like epidemiology, do you like public health, do you like what your research is about and you meet people.”
Diana and Elisa both participated in the WISE Internship Program at Walker, in which students intern with companies in various fields for one week during the summer between their junior and senior years. All of the alumni said shadowing other doctors, whether through Walker’s GSR program or the WISE program, was essential to their career paths. 

“That’s where I started to get interested in medicine,” Elisa said of WISE. She interned with a Walker parent who was an anesthesiologist. 

Each of the alumni spoke about how everyone’s path to becoming a doctor is different. Diana took a more traditional path to med school, whereas Elisa’s and Olivia’s paths were a bit different. Elisa took a gap year after graduating from Mercer with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Religion. She worked as a clinical research coordinator at a gastroenterology practice in Macon for a year and then applied to Mercer’s Medical School.

Olivia majored in Genetics at UGA and thought she wanted to focus on a career in genetics research, but in her junior year of college,  she realized “I really liked interacting with people, and there’s not a lot of people interaction in research.” 

Olivia said she took two gap years amid her schooling – the second one to gain experience while applying to med school. She told the students: “You don’t have to be sure [what you want to do]. I changed my mind, and it worked out for me in the end, and it will for you, too.” 

Emily Adams, Science Department Chair and Innovative Teaching Chair, agreed. “There’s no wrong path, but expose yourself to as much as you can. This has been amazing, you all brought your passion for people and their wellbeing and I’m so thankful that you all came today.”

To hear more from the alumni about their Walker experiences, click here.
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