Pre-med students gain experience through shadowing program


Photo courtesy of Micah Eimer

The HPA-Northwestern Medicine Physician Shadowing Program expansion allows pre-med students to shadow doctors in Evanston.

Astry Rodriguez, Reporter

When Weinberg junior Ubakum Mere realized she should be applying to medical school soon, she said she still felt unsure whether she wanted to dedicate her future to the medical field.  

However, she said participating in the HPA-Northwestern Medicine Physician Shadowing Program reinforced her desire to pursue medicine. Mere said the experience allowed her to get to know physicians both as doctors and as people, experiencing doctor-patient interactions firsthand. 

“Not knowing if I really want (to apply to medical school) or not was kind of nerve-racking but … I really enjoy having that reassurance from being in the clinic,” Mere said.

HPA-Northwestern Medicine Physician Shadowing Program recently welcomed the first group of students to its new downtown Evanston ambulatory clinic April 1, according to HPA Director Tiffany Bumpers.

A collaboration between Northwestern Medicine and Health Professions Advising, the five-week program allows pre-med students to shadow NM physicians and learn about the applications of medicine by navigating multiple health disciplines. 

The shadowing program started in 2018 with the NM Glenview Outpatient Center, followed by the Lake Forest Hospital location and recently, the Evanston location. By the end of the year, between 75 and 100 students are expected to participate in the program across its locations, according to Bumpers.

Bumpers said the program expanded so students living in Evanston could be within walking distance of the new shadowing site. 

Applicants must be pre-med sophomores, juniors or seniors with fewer than 10 hours of shadowing experience, Bumpers said. Applicants are required to have not yet applied to medical school, she said, because the program is meant to help them decide if pursuing medicine is right for them. 

“Students that participate are able to engage with the physicians … (and) really get a better understanding of the day-to-day operations of how physicians are practicing,” Bumpers said. 

 NM Glenview Outpatient Center Medical Director Micah Eimer said students receive their white lab coats during the welcoming ceremony, marking a “mini milestone” for students pursuing a medical degree. 

The program is a way for students to put their knowledge from pre-med classes into practice, he added. 

“I’d like them to kind of get the feel for what it’s like to work in healthcare,” Eimer said, “to feel the intimacy of the relationships with patients at times, discussing topics that may be uncomfortable and seeing real-world applications of the things they’re learning about in class.” 

Some students have been able to engage with fields they didn’t expect when they applied to the program. 

Weinberg junior Celine Bitegeko was placed with an ophthalmologist, a doctor who specializes in eye care. While she said that speciality was not on her radar at first, she was glad she was exposed to it. 

“Unexpectedly, it was hard to gauge how much I would take away or learn,” Bitegeko said. “I’m definitely learning more than I thought I would.”

Santiago De La Torre, a Weinberg junior and program participant, said he likes to ask physicians about their journey into the medical field.

He also said he is excited to learn how doctors ensure patients feel heard. 

“For me, the most important thing is getting to see the ins and outs of the medical field,” De La Torre said. “You know, away from the textbooks and stuff. In school we learn anatomy … but there’s nothing like being in there with the doctor themself.”

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Twitter: @Astry_tpwk

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