Practical Pre-Med

Michael Dumas Learning, Spring 2020

When Chloe Wentland enters medical school in the fall, she will have a significant advantage over most of her peers, thanks to the hands-on instruction she received at the University of Mobile.

A 2019 graduate with goals of studying osteopathic medicine, Wentland is not alone.

Pre-med students at the university benefit from small class sizes resulting in extensive one-on-one instruction, plus laboratory access comparable to far-larger institutions nationwide. Both are popular reasons students enter the Department of Natural Sciences, in addition to the desire to be led by instructors deeply connected to their faith in God.

“I knew I would get the one-on-one connection and teaching I wanted,” Wentland said. “The professors don’t just have an open-door policy; they really care and want you to understand the things you don’t.”

One of the most impactful experiences of her studies in pre-med was the gross anatomy lab, Wentland said. Known as the cadaver lab, it was added two years ago along with labs for organ plastination, anatomy and physiology, and microbi- ology under the direction of biology professor and department chairman Dr. Randy Craig.

The nationally accredited cadaver lab is an anomaly among schools the size of the University of Mobile. In fact, less than 10 such schools have gross anatomy labs nationwide, giving seniors as much as two full semesters of training on actual human specimens, which is a tremendous benefit.

“It’s as close as these students can get to touching living people until they are in or out of medical school,” Craig said. “Gross anatomy lets them apply those skills they learned in their senior-level undergraduate course work in the real deal.

“It’s better than some picture in a textbook somewhere.”Such hands-on learning is indicative of the faculty’s approach throughout the pre-med program. Craig, a veterinary surgeon with three decades of experience, said that while he has

much respect for the theoretical sciences, there’s no substitute for practical application.

“All the research in the world is great and wonderful, but it doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t work in that patient,” he said. “For the most part, if you can’t explain it in terms that your patients understand, you did absolutely nothing.”

Whether pre-med students are aimed at careers as physicians, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians or researchers, the faculty and curriculum will prepare them accordingly, Craig said.

“Medicine is medicine,” he said. “Whichever way you then specialize it on the other end is where it changes.”

The department’s one-on-one approach allows professors such as Craig to see potential in students they may not even see in themselves. Senior Hope Cain will graduate in spring of 2020, and while she originally enrolled with the goal of becoming a pharmacist, Craig and others helped her realize her true passion was to become a physician.

Cain said she chose the University of Mobile because “that it is where my peace was, and where I needed to be.”

“Dr. Craig saw something else in me that I didn’t see in myself,” said Cain, who has been accepted to medical school. “And he has shown me that what I am passionate about is serving people in a medical setting.”

When she changed her major to pre-med, Cain said the decision resulted in the sort of happiness and peace that has accompanied all other major choices in her life. Seeing his student realizing her passion and potential left her professor with a similar feeling.

“Sometimes they don’t realize it until you put it in front of them,” Craig said. “Hope is a home-run all-star, and I want her to be my doctor some day.”

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Michael Dumas