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Healthcare Beyond the Classroom: Knox Pre-Med Students Scrub In To Immersive Shadowing

For pre-med students at Knox College, immersive shadowing opportunities offer a unique chance to gain experience and insight into the world of healthcare. Director of the Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study and Health Professions Advising Lisa Harris collaborated with health organizations across Illinois to arrange several enriching experiences for students interested in pursuing the field.

“I learn best hands-on when I’m immersed in the experience,” Sam Black ’26 said. “I’m glad Knox provides us with an opportunity during spring break to take part in something that aids in my future.”

The first of these programs was hosted at Seminary Village, a retirement community in Galesburg, on March 8, 2024. Students shadowed occupational therapists and physical therapists, gaining firsthand experience in working with elderly patients. The visit also included a chance to engage in meaningful conversations with physicians and nurses about geriatric medicine.

Hilary Lehmann

During spring break, students participated in a three-day program hosted by Graham Health System in Canton, IL. Health professionals at Graham provided students with a comprehensive experience, spending three days in cardiac rehab, surgery, and other hospital departments, including the opportunity to scrub in and observe surgical procedures. This immersive experience showcased the excellent career opportunities in rural healthcare, challenging preconceived notions about healthcare outside of major cities. The packed schedule was coordinated by Jacob Green, senior director of regional business development at Graham Health System.

“I’ve been exposed to ideas in different areas of healthcare that have opened my eyes. Everyone has been so welcoming and willing to walk us through everything. This has been a great experience,” Precious Odejimi ’25 said.

Harris partnered with Mary Jane Clark from the West Central Illinois Area Health Education Center (AHEC) to provide students with a fully funded experience, thanks to AHEC’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant. AHEC’s support allowed six students to participate free of charge, which included hotels, meals, gas, and other expenses.

Students also had the opportunity to explore the public health sector during spring break. This program, taking place from March 20-22, 2024, involved shadowing at three public health departments in the local region. Students observed nurses, dentistry, and federally qualified health centers, including those in underserved populations. The program offered a different perspective on healthcare, focusing less on clinical care and more on disease prevention, health education, and the social determinants of health within communities. 

Harris believes in the power of these shadowing opportunities to provide students with the ability to explore and see firsthand all of the options available in the field of healthcare.

“I’ve been so excited to build partnerships with new clinics and hospitals in the region, and appreciative of the wonderful people who have made these visits possible,” Harris said. “For college students today, pursuing medicine is not an easy journey. My goal for our students is to get them into the field, interacting with patients and healthcare professionals as early and as often as possible, so they can confirm their career choices–or change them. Shadowing is critical to that exploration. There are so many options.”

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Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024