Medical Conference Packs House

Brittany Hayes, Reporter

Members of The American Medical Student Association held their first conference to a full house, which included local high school students and about 80 medical students from surrounding universities.

The event was organized by AMSA President and Vice President, Donna Castelblanco and Anna Konstas.

Konstas said the two organized the event to educate high school students so they know what to expect when they enter a pre-med program. They also did it to leave their lasting mark on the MU community.

“It’s really about getting everyone together and knowing that we can give high school students the ability to learn about the pre-med program. We wanted to reach out to them so as to get them more information, explain how important volunteer work is, how important research is, and to just really make an impact on high school students,” said Konstas.

Castelblanco said that she and Konstas have been working on planning this event for about a year and began scheduling speakers in December.

“I’m most excited to actually see this happen. I’ve been to several conferences since high school, but I’ve never actually planned one so the outcome is really exciting,” said Castelblanco.

Castelblanco said she enjoyed interacting with Dr. Karen Arscott, professor at the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton.

“Even when we just spoke with [Arscott] on the phone, her excitement was so evident, even in just a phone call,” said Castelblanco.

Arscott was the keynote speaker and gave a presentation on the seemingly never-ending journey of becoming a doctor.

Arscott gave hope to current and future pre-med majors as she told an anecdote about how her husband was too afraid to tell anyone that he wanted to be a doctor. It wasn’t until he met her that he decided to go after his dream.

“He got great grades and yet he was afraid to say what he wanted to do with his life. Isn’t that sad? What if he didn’t become a doctor because of the fear? Isn’t that awful?” said Arscott.

Arscott also said when she and her husband were in medical school, it was difficult for them to study together because he has a photographic memory.

“He would ask me, ‘Are you done studying yet?’ I’m like, ‘No leave me alone. Why don’t you go do something?’” said Arscott.

She said becoming a doctor is a calling from God that one must choose to answer.

“God is calling. The question is, are you going to answer? My answer is yes. What is a calling? It’s the work that you have to do because you won’t be happy doing anything else,” said Arscott.

Arscott warned students that if they do not have their heart in the major, they should not proceed.

“I think that it takes a lot of looking inside yourself and thinking, ‘Is this what I want to do with my life?’ Because the truth is if it’s not what you want to do you’re going to be buried in debt and you’re going to be miserable. I don’t want that for you,” said Arscott.

Becoming a doctor had been a lifelong dream for Arscott and she had dreamed of this job since she was old enough to walk.

“I was three when I first said I wanted to be a doctor. I honestly don’t remember it. My mom said I was walking out of the pediatrician’s office and I said, ‘I want to be like that guy.’ I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything other than a doctor, I can tell you that,” said Arscott.

People around Arscott always told her that becoming a doctor would be difficult, but she was not afraid of the hard work. She said she would always respond that she wasn’t afraid of how hard it may be to get into medical school.

Arscott said it does not matter what type of doctor students may become. What matters is the type of person they are when doing the job.

“The letters after your name will not define what kind of doctor you are. Who you are, deep down, will define what kind of doctor you are. You have to look inside,” said Arscott.

Sargeant First Class Todd Brenecki, also a presenter, spoke about healthcare careers available in the U.S. Army.

Brenecki warned students about high standards the Army applies in hiring doctors.

“There are prerequisites to joining. You have to be physically healthy and can’t have anything really wrong with you. The biggest disqualifiers are mental issues like depression or alcohol dependence issues. Of course alcohol can be a good time, but it’s also a drug. Don’t get too caught up in that stuff,” said Brenecki.

Brenecki said heart problems, DUIs and misdemeanors on students’ records would immediately disqualify them.

Brenecki said the Army does offer scholarships and, in some cases, it pays for students to attend medical school, but these programs are highly competitive.

“The minimum GPA for your undergrad is a 3.2. Other service branches are higher. Anything lower than that you can call the Navy, call the Air Force, and they are going to tell you to call the Army,” said Brenecki.

Students should also participate in extracurricular activities and demonstrate leadership.

“They army is going to look for your volunteer work, your leadership capabilities. Are you a go-getter? Are you good for community service? Sports, honors, research – make yourself a one big person concept,” said Brenecki.

Students need to be well-rounded in their academics, he said.

“You also have to worry about your minors. You should double major, double minor. I actually had a young lady who double majored in arts and music and got the scholarship. She was able to take her science classes – organic chemistry, whatever, and she did fantastic on her MCAT. How you make yourself different from your peers, that’s what you want to look into,” said Brenecki.

Brenecki said a healthcare career in the Army is a great opportunity for students as they can have their medical school paid for in full.

“Not many people know about the program, so get this out there. It’s important for high school students so you can know where your path will lead you. We’re going to try to get your medical school paid for, get you ahead of all of your peers. I know it probably doesn’t make sense now but it will – it’s going to click,” said Bre- necki.

Students who succeed also receive opportunities to complete research, he said.

“If you have an idea to help someone out, make them better, to find a cure – you propose it. As long as we have the budget, we do it,” said Brenecki.

Speakers such as Arscott wanted to send the message to students to aim high.

“You want to look inside yourself and ask what it is that drives you and then don’t set limits. Reach as high as you can,” said Arscott.

Castelblanco and Konstas have been accepted to the Commonwealth Medical College for next year, but they hope the conference will continue.

“We do want this to be a continual conference. We want everyone to know that although we are a small club on campus, we are doing something that’s something amazing, that we are mighty and strong,” said Castelblanco.

[email protected]