Published on Dec. 19, 2016
Updated on July 27, 2020
Honors pre-med students Manal Salim and Danielle Koerner have two very different aspirations for their future careers. Fortunately for them, the pre-med program at MU offers tracks that can open doors to nearly every field of medicine.
Salim, a junior from Columbia, Missouri, majoring in nutritional sciences, hopes to work with children in the pediatrics field. Meanwhile Koerner, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, majoring in biology and minoring in math, is looking into surgery or rural medicine and family practice. These two students may not share the same major or vision for their futures, but they are both using the MedOpp Advising Office and the Pre-Med Scholars program to achieve their goals.
Salim and Koerner were drawn to medicine in high school and entered MU looking for a strong honors program to enhance their undergraduate education. Salim was particularly drawn to the program because of the small close-knit community it provides for teachers and students.
“I liked the fact that the Honors College offers smaller classes,” Salim says. “My honors chemistry class my freshman year was down to about 100 students while the regular classes were much larger. I really valued my experience having that one-on-one teacher student relationship and having other students in the classroom who were at my level and had the same interests as I did.”
Koerner, who is in the process of applying to and interviewing for medical schools, noted that an honors education gives students a leg up compared to other candidates who are not part of an undergraduate honors program.
“When you’re applying to medical school, something I heard from a lot of administrative people was that if you weren’t in the Honors College and your university had one, then you would have some real explaining to do,” Koerner says. “It was really an easy choice for me and it made a lot of logical sense to be a part of the Honors College. It’s a fantastic program.”
Koerner has already applied to nearly 55 medical schools this year and Salim is set to start applying to schools this summer.
The MedOpp Advising Program provides pre-professional advising for pre-med, pre-optometry, pre-podiatry and pre-dental students. Advisers Susan Geisert and Darcy Holtgrave meet with students throughout the students’ undergraduate years to help them plan out their classes and decide which major in the pre-med track is best. The program also guides students through the medical school application process from start to finish. Geisert and Holtgrave provide advice on applying to medical school, give information on admission testing and standards and help write a committee letter on behalf of the applicant.
“The MedOpp Advising Office has been an integral part of the application process for me.” Koerner says. “The advisers also make themselves so available to students. They’re interested in what you have to say, what you’re doing and they give constructive feedback.”
Salim is especially appreciative of the interview and resume help that the office provides to students before they even begin the application process.
“The MedOpp Advising Office gears you toward what you need to be doing for medical school. They do mock interviews, resume review sessions and workshops. I meet with Susan and she goes over my resume to see what I need to add or change,” Salim says.
In addition to the MedOpp Advising Office, students can apply to be a member of the Pre-Med Scholars Program. This opportunity is offered to pre-med students who fit the Honors College GPA and test scores criteria. The program, which selects approximately 20 incoming freshmen each year, places students in volunteer and physician shadowing opportunities around Columbia to help them learn more about the medical field. The program also brings speakers and advisers in to meetings to discuss different medical paths and medical school programs.
Koerner was accepted as a freshman and held a few positions in the program before working her way up to the program’s president during her junior year. Since taking over, she has implemented changes meant to benefit students. In addition to the three meetings a semester that bring in panels of med students, physicians and medical professionals, Koerner started holding four “mini-meetings” each semester just for freshmen so that they can get to know some of the older members. She also implemented committees for long-term volunteer work, interclub coordination, physician shadowing and a medical school liaison access.
“We have a lot of advantages with working through the Honors College and specifically with Honors College students that make it so much fun,” Koerner says. “I think the mini-meetings and committees are what differentiates us from other clubs, and the fact that our students get a spot at University Hospital to volunteer. Immediately, when they get here they bypass the wait list, which can be 400 people long. We know the importance of volunteering at the hospital.”
Salim also holds a position in Pre-Med Scholars as the social and public relations communications chair. Her job is to run Orgsync, Facebook, Twitter and many of the club’s other social media accounts. Taking on leadership roles in Pre-Med Scholars has helped both Salim and Koerner expand their leadership capabilities and involvement into areas outside of the Honors College.
Salim is a Discovery Fellow and is involved with the Muslim Student Organization, the Nutrition and Wellness Association and the MU Student Wellness Association. Beyond that, she fulfills her passion for working with children through volunteer work on the weekends at a Sunday School. Salim also enjoys spending time on campus with her father, who is an engineering professor at MU.
Koerner is also heavily involved outside of the Honors College. She is the president of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honors Society, an event coordinator for the MU Women in STEM Organization and a peer adviser in the Division of Biological Sciences. She is also a Washington University Medical School Researcher and works in a WU lab over the summer and any other time she is home from school.
Koerner and Salim both have their sights set on MU as one of their top choices for medical school. They hope to use all of the tips and tricks they have gathered from the MedOpp Advising Office, Pre-Med Scholars and their various other organizations to help them succeed as medical students and as future doctors.