Clemson University senior biological sciences student Mason Pearce knows he wants to be a physician one day. What he doesn’t know is which specialty he wants to enter.
At the seventh annual Tigers on Call: Making Connections in Healthcare event on April 8, students like Pearce who are interested in pursuing health care careers connected with doctors, dentists, surgeons, physical therapists, pharmacists and other health professionals.
The event, hosted by Health Professions Advising (HPA) in collaboration with the College of Science, featured roundtable and panel discussions, mock professional school interviews, a mock MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) exam and informal networking activities. Students also learned about professional and graduate degree program opportunities.
In their shoes
“Students at this event have the opportunity to interact with experienced health care professionals and ask questions that their advisers can’t answer,” HPA Director Harolynn Williams said. “It is extremely helpful for our students to get advice from people who have been in their shoes as students and are now out in the industry doing the work.”
Forty-five Clemson alumni and friends who work in health care fields and 115 students took part in this year’s event at the Hendrix Student Center. Williams organized this year’s event along with graduate assistant Kimberly Martin and students Amanda Geissler, Samantha Xavier and Courtney Williams.
Pearce currently works as a chief medical scribe at Spartanburg Medical Center, taking notes for doctors in the emergency department. He participated in last year’s Tigers on Call, where he met an orthopedic surgeon, whom he shadowed in his clinic and the operating room.
This year, Pearce’s goal was to talk to a diverse group of physicians to explore different specialties.
“It is so valuable to talk to people who have been on the same path you want to take. They can tell you about the mistakes they made on their pathway to being a physician. They can tell you about getting crucial experience that can give you the upper hand when it comes to medical school,” Pearce said. “It’s better to learn from somebody else’s mistakes than your own.”
Dr. Sam Stone, a family doctor from Chester, South Carolina, is a Clemson alumnus. He has taken part in every Tigers on Call event.
“I tell people you don’t buy a new car without driving it. Tigers on Call allows us to share with students what we did, how we did it and how to get to where they want to go. They can pick our brains. I offer to let any student shadow me,” Dr. Stone said. “The worst thing in the world is to spend four or five or six years getting an education and realizing that’s not what you want to do.”
Stone said conversations with students continue even after Tigers on Call is over. Last year, he had 10 Clemson students shadow him as he saw patients in his office, went on house calls and even served as a team doctor at a high school football game.
Getting off to a good start
“There are probably some physicians here who would have done things a little differently if they could do it over again. We tell students what we would have done differently, so they can do it and start right,” he said. “Clemson helped us get where we are. This is our way of paying back.”
Networking opportunities continue after the Tigers on Call event through Tiger Link, an online platform that connects health care providers and students year round.
Stone likes to tell students that while grades and MCAT scores are important, they aren’t the only thing. He said he was a pre-med major and had to take music appreciation and public speaking courses, classes he otherwise never would have taken.
“It’s important they take courses that will make them well-rounded and see life differently,” he said. “They have to do well, of course, on the MCAT, but they also have to do things like shadowing and volunteering that look good on an application, but also help them become better people.”
Stone said the health care providers take part in Tigers on Call because they feel passionate about what they do and about giving back to Clemson.
“A quote I’ve always heard is, ‘When you reach the top floor, don’t forget to send the elevator back down,’” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
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