Pre-med pathway a portal for doctors, dentists

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Southwestern Michigan College does not lack for doctors, though most are Ph.Ds.

Trustee Heidi Grabemeyer-Layman, however, is not only a medical doctor, but an OB/GYN.

How she found her passion “is not quite the fairy tale ‘I’ve always wanted to be a doctor’ story.”

Heidi Grabemeyer-Layman

Trustee Dr. Heidi Grabemeyer-Layman

Sports medicine interested her when she graduated as Dowagiac Union High School valedictorian. She enrolled freshman year at Eastern Kentucky University.

After learning more about sports medicine and the EKU program, she “realized the program at (Central Michigan University) was superior.”

She transferred to CMU sophomore year.

Late in her junior year Dr. Grabemeyer-Layman started considering medical school and ultimately did not apply to the sports medicine program.

“They only accepted a few students each year,” she said. “I had a number of friends hoping for the spots and planning to make it their career. I thus opted to complete the health fitness degree instead. I didn’t want to take a spot from someone who was really looking at going into the field. The two majors had identical pre-requisites, so it was an easy switch.”

She graduated from CMU, then devoted a year to completing requirements to apply for medical school.

“I only applied to three medical schools and only chose to interview with two of the three when given the offers,” she said. “I still wasn’t convinced I was meant to be a doctor, but figured if I got in, I should go. It’s quite competitive. Most students apply to 10 or more.”

Dr. Grabemeyer-Layman, who earned her medical degree from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, also applied to an MSU master’s program for agricultural marketing.

“I was accepted and thus had a back-up plan if I didn’t get into med school,” she said. “It wasn’t until my third year of med school I had an opportunity to observe in OB/GYN and really loved the field. I spent over a year trying to find another area of medicine I enjoyed equally well due to the difficult lifestyle associated with OB/GYN.

“Being married to a farmer who works more hours than I do made the decision a bit difficult. Family medicine would have made our life much less complicated. But in the end, I had to go with what had become my passion, and here I am, working ridiculous hours with a hectic, crazy life, attempting to balance being a mom/wife/doctor and loving every minute!”

Becoming a physician, chiropractor, dentist or physical therapist can start at SMC.

“Consult the transfer institutions because requirements vary,” recommends Dr. Anna Norris, program advisor for the medical pre-professional pathway to an Associate in Science degree.

“Do you want to go to the new medical school at Western Michigan University? Or to Wayne State University? It makes a difference. If someone wants to go to med school, great! We can take care of introductory stuff. Your first year you take a full sequence of chemistry and biology and appropriate math. Second year, your second year of chemistry, physics and appropriate math.”

“It’s a rigorous science curriculum,” said Norris, who has taught at SMC for 15 years.

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Dr. Anna Norris teaches in a SCALE-UP lab.

“Having a speech class is not an unusual requirement because Admissions at medical schools wants people who can communicate. They’re looking for well-rounded individuals, including volunteer work,” Math/Science Department Chairman Dr. Keith Howell said.

“Any pre-doctorate professional program, requirements are pretty much the same in terms of basic classes,” Norris said. “If someone wants to be a physical therapist, it’s a doctoral program in most cases. It wasn’t 15 years ago. Sometimes people want to take anatomy and physiology. They want you to have biology first, which is also true of pharmacy. Our A&P is geared toward nursing students.”

“An Associate in Science is MTA-compliant,” Howell said. “They’re able to transfer into a four-year program. Should they decide they don’t want to pursue medicine, this is a good, strong degree that transfers into whatever you want. That’s one of the great reasons for these pathways.”

SMC this summer completes an $8.8 million reconstruction of the William P.D. O’Leary Building into state-of-the-art O’Leary Science Building.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Howell said. “I know (Chemistry Professor Dr.) Doug Schauer is really happy.”

Schauer founded SMC’s Environmental Research Group, whose students presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Denver.

“Research opportunities at a freshman-sophomore level are unusual anywhere,” Howell said. “Pre-med students taking chemistry in particular could get involved and have a leg up on competitors for limited seats.”

The new O’Leary Building contains a student-faculty collaboration area and SCALE-UP labs like those at the Niles Campus.

SCALE-UP is a learning environment created specifically to facilitate active, collaborative learning.

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