The following story appeared in the most recent issue of the UNO Magazine, which highlighted the efforts being made by UNO alumni, faculty, staff and students to promote health and wellness. Read the magazine online as a Flipbookor download a PDF.
Navigating the post-graduation path toward a career in health care can seem overwhelming to some students given the array of professions available.
Fortunately for UNO students, the Health Careers Resource Center (HCRC) is there to help.
Launched in 2015 and housed in Allwine Hall, the HCRC is the brainchild of Paul Davis, associate professor of biology. Davis came to UNO in 2010 and found that students wanting to pursue health careers didn’t have one dedicated place to go to for their questions — or even know what questions to ask.
“Before the HCRC, we found students receiving excellent academic advising, but their knowledge and preparation for a career in health care was often fragmented together from a variety of sources,” he says.
Officially, UNO has no “Pre-Med” or “Pre-Health” majors, but the College of Arts and Sciences has developed pre-professional programs that students can pursue by taking classes within and outside their major to focus on areas from chiropractic to veterinary care.
Davis says there are nearly 3,000 UNO students pursuing pre-health-related majors, minors or certificates.
Each of UNO’s health-focused pre-professional programs are supported by the HCRC through academic advising, meetings with medical school admissions representatives, job shadowing with medical professionals, professional networking opportunities, peer mentoring and other services.
Amanda Wickert, an Omaha native, graduated from UNO in 2017 with a degree in biology and was part of the pre-med professional track. Wickert became involved with the HCRC early on, serving as a student peer mentor and, after graduation, as a full-time advisor for the center while preparing to apply to medical school this fall.
In her various roles, Wickert has seen hundreds of students — each of them with different stories, different career goals and different obstacles.
“It’s more than saying, ‘We’re going to help you get to where you think you want to be,’” Wickert says. “We’re going to help you figure out if that’s really, truly what you want to do.”
Since the HCRC was launched in 2015, the acceptance rate for UNO students into medical school has jumped from 20 percent to more than 63 percent, which is above the national average.
“We see students coming to us because of what we can offer them in terms of being best prepared for careers in health care,” Davis says. “We see hundreds of students who are coming to UNO or coming back to UNO to prepare for their career."
That includes Ben McIntire. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Iowa State in 2004, the Harlan, Iowa, native completed seminary training and served as a youth pastor until enrolling at UNO in 2016. Soon after he became an HCRC intern.
McIntire plans to start medical school at UNMC in August 2019 and put his previous academic and professional experiences to use in pursuit of his dream to work in health care – whatever role that may be.
“To see all the different particular niches of who is doing what and see where you fit in, it takes seeing what is out there and what those jobs look like and who is doing them before you know if it is a good fit for you,” McIntire says. “That’s one of the real treasures of this office.”
At only three years old, HCRC’s efforts are just beginning to manifest. But there is no doubt its impact will soon be felt far and wide. For now, at least, it has already made an impact for those like Wickert.
“Taking my grandfather to the ER the last two times, the patient care tech has either been an advisee or a student I had in class. That’s where it is very real; and you know that they are a really compassionate, caring person and now they are in health care. I’m so glad.”
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.