Education for Academic Success and Compassionate Care Delivery: Pre-Health Education at John Carroll University

By Kathy Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Health Programs, John Carroll University

Kathy Lee, Ph.D.

John Carroll University’s (JCU) Pre-Health Professions Program is grounded in Cura Personalis, a Latin phrase that translates as "care for the entire person." This is one of the cornerstones of the Jesuit educational philosophy and is reflected in the work that is done in the Pre-Health Office with the expectation that students will carry those values forward into their healthcare careers.

Cura Personalis denotes individualized attention to the needs of each person and respect for the identity and circumstances of each individual. An undergraduate education at John Carroll not only provides students with the academic skills to succeed, but also prepares them to interact effectively with people from diverse backgrounds in order to develop a medical career of compassionate care for others.

The Office of Pre-Health Professions is staffed by the Assistant Dean for Health Professions, a dedicated pre-health advisor who provides support, guidance and information to all students interested in pursuing healthcare careers. In addition, there is a Physician-in-Residence; a medical doctor who helps advise and prepare students for successful healthcare careers.  

The Pre-Health Office at JCU assists students from all majors and at all stages of their undergraduate careers by providing them with impactful experiences and exercises that promote career discernment and preparation for a health care career. We provide academic support in the form of curriculum advising, academic planning, and assistance with standardized test preparation. The Pre-Health Office works closely with JCU faculty who lead by example; they are student-centered teachers and mentors for our future physicians, dentists and allied health care providers. Faculty in many departments teach interdisciplinary courses, such as Poverty and Disease, which provides students with social and societal perspectives on health care issues. Primary Healthcare Preparation, taught by our Physician-in-Residence, introduces students to the changing face of medicine in the 21st century while exploring contemporary medical education and practice. Many students work in faculty research labs on campus and then utilize those skills in hospitals and other educational institutions in the greater Cleveland region. For example, JCU has a structured program with the Cleveland Clinic for students to complete full-time summer research internships.

In addition to strong academic preparation, students are given insight and direction through experiential learning that promotes personal growth and develops the skills needed for delivery of compassionate care. Working with the Center for Service and Social Action and Office of Campus Ministry, the Pre-Health Office coordinates opportunities for students to engage in community service and volunteer activities, both on and off campus. This includes volunteer work in local hospitals, hospice facilities, medical offices, and participation in medical immersion trips. Students are encouraged to participate in non-medical volunteer activities as well; many choose to serve as tutors and mentors to disadvantaged youth in the surrounding communities. The Pre-Health Office also stresses the importance of having subsequent reflection on these experiences.

John Carroll offers a number of other unique opportunities for students. For example, many choose to serve with the student-staffed Emergency Medical Services (JCU EMS), a group established in 2002 by students, in response to the preventable death of a peer. Students serving with JCU EMS must have Emergency Medical Technician-Basic or Emergency Medical Responder training and certification, and are under the direction of a medical doctor. Participants develop leadership skills and clinical proficiencies, including technical procedures and patient care.

The Pre-Health Professions Program provides students with career exploration beginning in their freshman year. For example, the program sponsors healthcare forums featuring professionals in medicine, dentistry, and allied health careers, many of whom are JCU alumni who also sponsor our students for internships. In addition, the Pre-Health Office also hosts admissions representatives from our target medical and dental schools, and other professional healthcare programs.

To that end, John Carroll has established affiliation programs with schools that have similar missions. We currently have formalized dual admission agreements with two medical schools: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM). Through these agreements, students can earn reserved seats in medical, dental, or pharmacy school as seniors in high school or as sophomores in college. For students interested in other fields, we have partnered with the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), The Breen School of Nursing at Ursuline College, and an anesthetist program with CWRU’s Master of Science in Anesthesia Program.

At John Carroll, our goal is to provide students with an excellent science foundation and a wealth of meaningful experiences that will result in the development of exceptional health care professionals who value the “entire person.”

Photos courtesy of John Carroll University. Please click here to learn more about Margaret Farrar, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at John Carroll.