Earlier this month, Northwestern University launched a new program that gives undergraduate pre-med students the chance to shadow doctors at the Glenview Outpatient Center.
Senior Evan Kaspi, a neuroscience and biology major, brought the idea to Northwestern after completing his own shadowing experience. While he sought out the opportunity to shadow himself, in the back of his mind, Kaspi was thinking about setting up a program to help undergrads find shadowing opportunities. Kaspi described Northwestern’s hospital and clinics as “an untapped resources that undergrads could have been using this whole time.”
To put his plan into motion, Kaspi met with Dr. Micah Eimer, the head of the Glenview Outpatient Clinic, and Brian Keiller, the associate director of Northwestern’s Health Professions Advising department. Now, there are 42 students participating in this program over the course of the year.
The quarter is divided into two five-week sections, and each section has seven students. On Fridays, students spend the afternoon shadowing a doctor they stay with for the entirety of the program. The doctors’ specialities include internal medicine, endocrinology, cardiology and urology. Overall, each student spends 20 hours shadowing.
The shadowing program forms a connection between the undergrads and medical professions, and shadowing opportunities further students’ medical school applications. Other than grades, medical schools look for clinical experience, and students can refer to their shadowing during the interview process. Also, shadowing provides students with the opportunity to see the day-to-day operations of a hospital and decide if this career path is right for them.
“It’s very important that pre-med students get exposure not just to groups and organizations and clubs, but volunteering specifically in a clinical setting,” Keiller said. “Med schools really need to see those hours. It’s kind of like having skin in the game.”
Because of its role in medical school applications, Keiller added, “One of the main goals we were looking at was making sure that every single Northwestern student has access to this.”
As a result, there is no cost to participate in the program. Students are provided with transportation to the outpatient clinic and the financial aid office covers the cost of any immunizations that are required by the clinic. This allows any student accepted to the program to participate and students are already benefiting from their experiences. However, this is an application process where students write short essays about what they hope to learn from the program. This year, around 300 students showed interest in the program, but only 42 students were accepted.
Joshua Lawton, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, is one of the students participated in the program. Although he has not decided on a speciality, he is learning a lot from the doctors, especially how to act around patients. “I hope to, by observing these doctors, get a better understanding of what’s good or bad bedside manner,” he said.
Although the program is new, those involved are already looking to help it improve and grow. Kaspi hopes to set up an advisory board made up of previous students, staff in the pre-med office and himself. Keiller emphasized the importance of student feedback because he plans to improve the program based on it.
Any pre-med students interested in applying for the shadowing program can learn more about the program here.