Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight

This spring the spotlight is shining on three of our students from the Fall 2015 cohort. May you be inspired by their experiences! Click on their name if you would like to correspond with them to learn more about the program from their perspective.

What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
Before entering this program I came from a background in music. I have a bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance and a master's degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy. Though music and medicine seem like a stark contrast and the change in career paths certainly took some adjustment, my previous studies in music instilled in me discipline, determination, and a certain amount of creativity that have certainly helped me in this program.

What led you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?
During my master's, I was required to take voice science and was almost instantly enamored with the subject. Learning about vocal anatomy, vocal pathologies, and how pedagogical and technical approaches  can influence voice function in professionals fascinated me and led me back to my childhood love of science. Around this same time, my father was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. The combination of these two experiences led me to the decision to change career paths and pursue medicine.

Please share what challenges you’ve had to face while in the program.
One of the greatest challenges I've faced in the program thus far was confronting a vast quantity of material in classes that was either completely foreign to me or that I had not laid eyes on in roughly ten years! I went through a period of time during the first semester where I wondered if I was capable of being successful here. Upon becoming more comfortable with the subject matter and fine tuning my study strategies however, things became much easier and by the end of my first semester, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment at how far I had come and how many amazing thing I was able to study.

How have you been able to strike a balance between your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?
I wish I could say I had figured out a system of balance, but for me it is certainly a work in progress. I am fortunate that I have a husband, parents, and friends who are all very supportive and understanding  regarding my studies.

How have you remained motivated and not given up on your dream?
I was very close with my grandmother before she passed away and I keep a picture of her in the room where I study. Whenever I'm tired or frustrated or feel like giving up, I look at her picture and I can almost hear her cheering me on, telling me that I can do it. My family, as well as my love for learning keep me motivated.

Share some advice you’d give to a prospective applicant or newly accepted student to the program.
I would tell prospective applicants or new students not to doubt themselves. If you are motivated and this is your passion, you can do it. It may take some people more work than others (it certainly seems to take a great deal of effort for me) but in the end, learning and moving toward your goal is incredibly rewarding and definitely worth it.

    What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
    Prior to the program I was an Army Officer in the Medical Service Corps Branch (think hospital admin). I graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Business Administration and entered the service after graduation. I spent 7 years on active duty, deploying twice, once to Afghanistan and once to Liberia in response to the Ebola outbreak. During my time in the military I had the opportunity to attend and graduate from several leadership schools including Ranger School and the Army Recon Course.

      What led you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?
      Most of my military career was spent working with and around different types of physicians. During that time I came to love the field of medicine and really wanted to take a more active role in the field. I was reaching a point in my career where I was going to be transitioning into different career fields and had the opportunity to think long and hard about what I wanted the next 20-30 years of my life to look like. I was fortunate to have the support of my wife, who has always encouraged me to pursue my ambitions.

        Please share what challenges you’ve had to face while in the program.
        Well, going back to school with a family is always a challenge. And the constant battle is managing the demands of school and devoting enough time to the kids and wife.

          How have you been able to strike a balance between your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?
          Striking a balance is important and I do this through planning out the times that I will devote to school and study. Having that time sectioned out allows me to focus on school without the distractions. Usually this is at night or early in the morning. But, in all honesty I see my kids and wife a lot more now than I ever did in my past career. Treating this like a job, allows you to remain focused and keep things in perspective.

            How have you remained motivated and not given up on your dream?
            Going into this I knew that I was giving up a promising career in the military. So the decision to leave was not made lightly. However, I have no regrets and in fact I am thankful every day that I get the opportunity to pursue this path. Completing classes and shadowing doctors gives me motivation because I am making progress toward my goal.

            Share some advice you’d give to a prospective applicant or newly accepted student to the program.
            I would say to commit to the program 100%. There will always be problems and obstacles. However, once you start things just fall into place and you learn to overcome the challenges that you face.

            Wendey Waggoner

            What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
            I earned my B.A. in Psychology from Indiana University-Bloomington in 1991, and my Masters in Social Work from Michigan State University in 1996.  Over the past 25 years I have worked in many different settings as a Social Worker, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health care, domestic violence shelter, Child Protective Services, and currently, in drug and alcohol prevention and education.  I have to admit, though, my favorite job has been as Domestic Engineer (including 5 years as a stay-at-home mom.) As a mom to three very active boys, currently 18, 15 and 11, this is also the hardest job I’ve had!

            What led you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?
            As an undergraduate, I was pre-med and my original major was Biology. My favorite uncle is a physician and as a high school student and undergrad I worked in his office and shadowed him often. But as often happens, life got in the way and some personal challenges lead me to follow a different path.

            But I was never able to shake the desire. The dream of becoming a doctor would come back to me often, in different settings, in different ways. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I wanted to be able to make a difference in people’s lives in a capacity in which I was seeing such a great need - primary medical care. A couple of years ago I started looking around online, trying to figure out if there was any way that made sense that I could pursue this crazy idea in my 40’s as a single mom with 3 kids.

            Ironically, while I was sitting in my doctor’s office about 18 months ago, I picked up a Today’s Woman magazine (local publication) and there was the UL Post-Bac Pre-Med program advertised. Exactly what I had been looking for, and I didn’t even know such a thing existed! I went to an information session, set up a personal appointment, applied, and a few months later….here I am, pursuing my lifelong dream!

            Please share what challenges you’ve had to face while in the program?
            My biggest challenge is financial. I am trying to work full-time, be a mom and go to school part-time, as well as participate in all of the wonderful enrichment opportunities the program and UL offer. It’s a challenge, but my focus and desire are so strong that I know I will continue to figure out how to make it happen.

            In addition, going back to school after 20 years, especially pursuing intense subjects like Biology, Chemistry and Physics, has been a challenge. On the same note, I’ve loved every minute of it (okay, maybe not the exams part….but everything else!) The program offers incredible resources to support us in our classes, as well as the camaraderie of the other members of the co-hort. We definitely lean on one another!

            How have you been able to strike a balance between your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?
            This is definitely a work in progress. There are times when my kids have cooked dinner. My oldest has become the designated chauffeur. And a few loads of laundry might get overlooked. I really have to prioritize how I spend my time.

            I plan out my week and days sometimes down to the minute. I have eliminated social media from my life. “TV”, what is that? I have a priority list that I stick to and I’ve let family and friends know what my limits are, and when they offer, how they can help. I have a lot of people cheering me on.

            How have you remained motivated and not given up your dream?
            The number one motivation for me is my children. They inspire me, lift me up, and believe in me every single day. I want to show them that you should never give up on your dreams and that persistence and hard work lead to success.  Also, the Post-bac Pre-med program staff, enrichment programs, physician talks, and shadowing opportunities also continue to inspire me and remind me of why I want to do this, and how important it is.

            Share some advice you’d give to a prospective applicant or newly accepted student to the program.
            1.          Become very clear about your “Why?”. I think the most important thing you need to have to remain motivated and be successful in this program and beyond is your “why”. “Why do you want to do this?” “How will you make a difference in other’s lives by doing this?” “Why do you want this particular opportunity and challenge?” These are the things that will keep you going through long study sessions, tough grades, setbacks, personal problems, and sacrifices. It needs to be super strong. But if it is, and you are ready, this program and UL will support you and do everything they can to help you be successful!

            2.          Find outlets for stress relief and fun. You can’t study all the time. Exercise, hobbies, reading a non-academic book, spending quality time with friends and family, etc. are all very important during this journey.

            3.          Ask for help. When friends and family offer, say yes and let them know what they can do - have a list ready. Simplify your life as much as possible. Utilize the resources of the program. Go in and talk to the staff. Call up your classmates. Even though all of our paths are unique, we are here to help inspire and guide one another to success. Wishing you all the best as you embark on your journey!