Culture of Care Newsletter

Pre-Health Edition: November 2020 Vol. 4 (2)

Big picture

Student Spotlight

In each newsletter, PHPL Advising highlights an accomplished UCF Pre-Health student or alum who has demonstrated the highest level of initiative, skill, and resourcefulness. Our student spotlight this semester features Lauren Houchin (see picture). She is a recent graduate from UCF with a degree in Biomedical Sciences and minor in Medical Sociology. Lauren is currently completing her first semester at University of California-Irvine in their MD-PhD program. The PHPL Advising office has asked Lauren a few questions about her Pre-Health journey.

1) How did you pick your major?

I was a Burnett Medical Scholar (BS-MD student) while at UCF, and when I attended my first BMS event during my senior year of high school, a medical student at the UCF College of Medicine recommended the Biomedical Sciences major to me. For me, choosing a major was fairly difficult going into college because I enjoyed a wide variety of subjects in high school, so I decided to tentatively major in Biomedical Sciences based on that student’s advice. Once I started my major, I decided to stick with it because it allowed me to complete all of my medical school prerequisites and take several upper-level courses which I believed would be useful to my research experience. Since BMS students are required to complete an Honors in the Major thesis, I felt that having coursework which would enhance a research project in my major would be relevant for me. I believe students can be successful in any major, but the Biomedical Sciences major made the most sense for my particular program.

2) What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to undergraduate

pre-med students?

My biggest piece of advice is to be genuine about your goals and interests and trust your own judgment! For pre-health students, it is easy to feel pressured toward certain activities, organizations, or majors because it seems like everyone else you know is pursuing similar things. However, I think it is critical that students make careful and informed decisions regarding their activities. You are the expert on who you truly are, what you enjoy, and what your career aspirations are, so you should not be afraid to try new things and pursue activities that match your interests as a means of fulfilling your pre-health goals. For instance, students who want to work with Spanish-speaking populations can seek out medical or non-medical service opportunities or research experiences focused on those communities, and students who are passionate about social justice issues can utilize volunteering experience in those areas to meet their non-medical service or leadership requirements. In terms of application strategy, choosing experiences which truly matter to you is crucial for three main reasons. First, in my experience, choosing activities which you are genuinely interested in and passionate about will make writing application essays and going for interviews much easier, both because you will have a good answer to questions like “why did you choose to volunteer at this specific location?” or “how did you choose your shadowing experiences?” and because your enthusiasm for your activities will show through in your words and demeanor as you describe them. Additionally, as you go through the application cycle, your sincerity will also help schools decide if you are a good fit for them and help you decide if you fit with a school. Personally, since I only pursued activities in college that were genuinely interesting to me, I was able to be completely honest and frank in interviews about my experiences and what they meant to me. As I received acceptances, I knew that the medical schools I had been accepted to had evaluated me -- not who I am on my resume, but who I am in terms of my character, motivations, and values -- and decided I was a good fit for their institution. At the end of the application cycle, even though I had to choose between schools, I knew that none of the schools I had been accepted to would be a “bad” choice for me, because I fit with each school’s culture. As a final point, as many students are already well aware, the pre-med route in college can sometimes feel long, stressful, and arduous, which makes pursuing your passions and interests even more important. Burnout is a real problem among medical students and professionals, and it is important that students (even those at the pre-med level) are able to take care of their physical and mental well-being. Choosing medical and non-medical activities which are enjoyable for you will make your life and studies much more fulfilling and ensure that you are able to move on to your post-graduation plans (whether those plans include matriculation, applications, or other adventures) while staying motivated, healthy, and happy. Good luck!

3) How did you prepare for the MCAT?

Early on in my first year of college, I decided that taking an MCAT course would be the best course of action for me. Since I was a full-time student, I also knew that spending thousands of dollars on MCAT prep would not be feasible for me without significant planning. I was blessed to receive a generous scholarship package at UCF, so each semester from my freshman year onward, I would save a small portion of my scholarship refund and earnings from jobs to go toward my two biggest financial goals: buying an MCAT prep course and purchasing my own car. Fortunately, by saving money each semester, I had enough savings to purchase an MCAT course in my junior year. Specifically, I chose to purchase a Kaplan MCAT course from one of the pre-health organizations on campus because that organization sold the courses at a significantly discounted price. I chose Kaplan because I knew several students who had been very successful using their prep materials and because Kaplan focuses more on strategy than other courses (from what I have heard). I wanted the structure of a course because I knew I would be prepping for the MCAT while being in school full-time, working in a research lab, and volunteering, and I knew it would be easy for me to fall behind in my preparation without a set weekly schedule. My course started in January and ended in April, and I took the MCAT in May. My experience with Kaplan and my specific teacher was phenomenal, and even though I didn’t have as much time to prepare for the test as other students might (for instance, by taking a semester off to study), I was very happy with my score.

4) What activities were you involved in?

To be totally honest, I pursued a lot of different activities in college according to whatever interested me! For instance, I really enjoy working with others and have a lot of school spirit, so I chose to work for UCF Housing for part of my time at UCF (as a Housing Ambassador and a Resident Assistant). Also, partly due to the Burnett Medical Scholars program requirements and partly due to my own curiosity, I participated in undergraduate research starting in the summer after my first year of college up until graduation. Specifically, I pursued research experiences in two departments (Psychology for 1 year and Biomedical Sciences for 3 years). For clinical experience, I volunteered at a hospital near my parents’ house and (after I bought a car) volunteered in the Orlando area at the Shepherd’s Hope Health Center, which was one of my favorite experiences! During my first year of college, my main involvement was in Honors Congress (I later served on a committee for that club), but since I love working with children and younger students, I also volunteered with Children Beyond Our Borders to run science camps for low-income children and with UCF Housing as a Team Leader for their Resident Leadership Conference. Starting in my second year, as I felt more comfortable in college, I started branching out a bit more. For instance, since I have been passionate about reducing food insecurity since I was in high school, I volunteered at the Knights Helping Knights Pantry from 2018 onward. During my junior year, I began serving as a peer mentor for the Burnett Medical Scholars Program and started shadowing a few physicians. That same year, I became a founding member of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) undergraduate chapter at UCF, which was a really cool and fun experience. I was elected the Vice President of Operations for LMSA at the end of my junior year, and I was also selected to serve on the Student Undergraduate Research Council and as the President of the Eureka Research Society around the same time. Needless to say, I was pretty busy during my senior year because of these positions, classes, and finishing my thesis on top of going through the application cycle, but I am really glad that I chose to challenge myself during my last year at UCF! Since I tried whatever I was interested in, I didn’t really have a cohesive “story” in mind for my extracurricular activities, but fortunately, they all fit together when it came time to compose my application, and (in my opinion) they all represented different topics that are important to me!

5) What do you feel you did to “stand out” in the application cycle?

I think that my grades and MCAT score definitely helped in that regard since I was above-average for nearly all the programs I applied to, and I also think I have a pretty unique background (I do not have any parents or relatives in medicine; I was homeschooled from 4th through 12th grade; my mom immigrated to the U.S. from Panama; I worked during most of college to be able to save up for a car, etc.). There are many students who meet those same criteria, though, so beyond those factors, I think one of my greatest strengths was my personal statement / writing samples. During all of my interviews, at least one interviewer told me that they loved my personal statement or that they could see how passionate I was about my career path because of my writing. Many interviewers also complimented my autobiography (the autobiography included in the PHPL Letters Packet) or asked me questions about topics I had mentioned in it. I took a little longer than most students to submit my application (I submitted my AMCAS in July) because I wanted to make sure I submitted the best possible version of my statements, and I think that taking that extra time really paid off for me. In addition, I am an extremely honest person, so I strove to make all of my writing (in my primary and secondary applications), all of my activities, and all of my interview responses true to who I am as a person. Early on in college, I promised myself that I would not pursue a given activity or say a given thing solely because it would “look good” on my applications; I wanted to make sure that I chose all of my activities and responses thoughtfully, rather than striving to follow the pattern of other students I knew. Because of that, I think my application ended up being very cohesive and, when I interviewed, I could be genuine about what each and every activity I pursued meant to me or why I felt a certain way about a given topic. I didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing because I was always being myself. Also, I pursued a non-science minor (in Medical Sociology), and a lot of schools seemed to appreciate that background because it helped me have a different perspective on medicine. Finally, I believe that my research mentors and professors all offered very strong letters of recommendation which helped set me apart from others, and I am really grateful to have had their support for my application.

6) Why did you choose Medicine?

For me, the medical field in general was attractive because it combined human biology (such as anatomy, immunology, etc.), which I liked learning about in school, and interpersonal interactions, which I gravitated towards as a natural extrovert. I liked that medicine was both people-oriented and scientifically grounded. After examining various medical careers, I chose to pursue a career as a physician because of the unique analytical and leadership role that physicians have as part of a patient care team. I really enjoy the problem-solving side of being a physician, and from shadowing and volunteering, I have been able to learn more about how a physician is able to work with other health professionals (such as nurses and PAs) and felt that that role suited me best. Also, after I got involved in research, I decided I specifically wanted to become a physician-scientist (MD-PhD) because I wanted research to be a major focus of my career, but still wanted to be able to see patients in a clinical setting. The physician-scientist career is super intriguing, in my opinion, because it allows a doctor to see and treat patients, but also go into a lab setting and help find new explanations or cures for diseases. The ability to discover new ways to prevent diseases and apply those solutions to real-life patient care is very exciting to me, and I look forward to beginning medical school this August!

Virtual Volunteering – The Deets

It is important that pre-health students continue to build strong extracurricular experiences, despite the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. While volunteering does not look the same as it did prior to March of 2020, there are still ways to get involved both at home and in-person! For the purposes of today’s article, we will focus on at-home volunteering experiences. However, many hospitals, clinics, and other organizations are beginning to allow in-person volunteers again. We encourage you to explore both in-person and virtual options when seeking out volunteer experiences.

Similar to finding in-person volunteering, the best way to find virtual volunteer options is searching online and asking your peers! Many online volunteer databases have created a “virtual opportunities” section where you can browse at-home volunteer opportunities specifically. We recommend that you choose options that are interesting to you so you will enjoy spending your time doing them. Additionally, be sure to keep track of the hours you complete and your supervisor contact information so that you can include the experience on your health professional school application!

It is important to practice safe online choices as you embark on your virtual volunteer experience. While the majority of online experiences are genuine, online swindling and hacking are still real threats. Make sure to read information carefully and look to see if webpages are secure before giving away any of your personal information online.

Here are some helpful resources for finding virtual volunteering:


Heart of Florida United Way

Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals

Whichever way you choose to serve the community during this time, we hope you stay safe and healthy!

"Why Public Health?"

Written by: Taylor N. Goss (see picture)
Columbia University, MPH (Master of Public Health), 2020
UCF, BS in Biomedical Sciences, 2018, & BS in Health Sciences, 2018

As an aspiring physician, the most common question that I get asked – by family, friends, my hair dresser, and random grocery clerks at the check-out aisle – is “Why public health?” Why not just go to medical school? Was a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree really necessary? And what even is public health, anyway?

When your long-time patient cannot afford both their blood pressure medication and their insulin and ask you which will kill them faster, your medical degree alone cannot help them.

When a mother of three comes in to your emergency room from an opioid overdose, it is not your medical degree that will prevent it from happening again.

When a child with asthma comes into your urban office with airways closing up in front of you, your medical degree will not remove the pollution from his lungs.

When a Black woman dies during labor from a pulmonary embolism, your medical degree cannot explain why the white woman in the suite next door gets to go home with her new baby.

When a pandemic overtakes the globe and your colleagues are on ventilators all around you, your medical degree cannot save you.

Why public health? Because for all the incredible, life-saving things you will learn in medical school, medicine isn’t enough. You can be the smartest, the most compassionate, the absolute best physician and you will still lose patients to infuriatingly preventable and treatable causes. Whether it health insurance, national drug policies, environmental determinants of health, the effects of systemic racism, or the epidemiology of a pandemic, an MPH gives you a greater understanding of some of the underlying population-level issues affecting your patients. The Coronavirus pandemic has dragged the term “public health” onto the television screens and into the living rooms of every American and amplified so many of the concerns that public health professionals have fought against for decades.

For me, pursuing a degree in public health was the only way that I could envision becoming the kind of physician that I want to be. When I was in undergrad at UCF, I did the normal “premed” things: I shadowed, I volunteered, I ran for leadership positions, I even did some research. But while gaining that oh-so-important understanding of what it is like to be in a clinical setting, I saw so many things that felt wrong in this field that I loved. I wanted to hate medicine. I wanted to choose a different path. But I couldn’t. I love it too much. So the only option I had left was to try to change it.


Taylor N. Goss, MPH completed a BS in Health Sciences and a BS in Biomedical Sciences from UCF in 2018. Since then, she has earned her MPH in Health Policy and Management with a certificate in Comparative Effectiveness and Outcomes Research from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She is currently a Master of Bioethics student at Harvard Medical School and plans to apply to medical school next cycle. Her public health research has focused on gender differences in health, including menstrual health equity, opioid addiction in women, and adolescent male health behavior. Within the UCF community, Taylor worked in Dr. Michael Rovito’s research group, served as Chapter President for Golden Key International Honour Society, and founded the UCF premed branch of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA).

Celebrating Diversity in Health!

Rebecca Le Crumpler, MD

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was born in Delaware on February 8th, 1831. She was raised in Pennsylvania by her aunt, who was known as a caretaker for the sick. A bright child, Crumpler moved to Massachusetts and attended the prestigious private school, the West Newton English and Classical School. Inspired by her aunt, she then moved to Charlestown to pursue a career in nursing.

As a nurse, she was encouraged by the different physicians she worked with to apply to medical school and several of them wrote her letters of recommendation. She was accepted to the New England Female Medical College in 1860. The following year, however, she was forced to relocate to Richmond, Virginia for a short period of time when the Civil War broke out. She moved back to Boston to continue her studies in medicine only to find that her scholarship had been rescinded. Nevertheless, she refused to give up and won the Wade Scholarship, which was a fund that had been established by the abolitionist Benjamin Wade. The New England Female Medical College faced much backlash from the medical community at its inception for accepting women, with the male physicians complaining that women lacked the physical strength to practice medicine and the field would be inappropriate for women’s “sensitive and delicate nature.” Furthermore, in 1860 when Crumpler began medical school, only 300 out of the 54,543 physicians in the United States were female, and none of them were Black.

In 1864, as the Civil War raged on, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree in the US. After obtaining her degree, she married Arthur Crumpler and they both moved to Richmond, Virginia to work at the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Bureau was built in 1865 to help repair Civil War-torn communities. It provided food, housing, and medical services to thousands of recently freed slaves who were routinely denied access to these services by White physicians. While she was working at the Bureau, Dr. Crumpler endured extreme harsh treatment in the form of racism and sexism from fellow physicians. Some administrators at the Bureau would not grant her hospital privileges and some pharmacists would not honor her prescriptions. Nevertheless, in her book, she stated that working at the Bureau provided her with “ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children,” which became her passion.

In 1869, Dr. Crumpler and her husband returned to Boston and she opened up her practice on Beacon Hill. She served mostly Black families and children and did her work without expecting any payment in return. In 1880, she and her husband moved to Hyde Park, a neighborhood of Boston. It is unsure if she continued to practice medicine after the move. She published A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts in 1883 which is a 145-page collection of medical advice regarding the health of women and children. It was one of the first medical health prevention guides to contain this type of information. The book emphasized a variety of topics including washing and dressing a newborn, nutrition, breastfeeding, prevention of cholera in infants, management of diphtheria and measles, and burn treatment. She even talked about the health risks associated with the chewing and smoking of tobacco as well as the intake of alcohol such as brandy and gin, which were commonly used to numb pain. Astutely, she pointed out, “it is a great mistake to administer brandy, gin or any other alcoholic or narcotic stimulant to girls for the relief of pain.”

Dr. Crumpler passed away on March 9th, 1895. She was buried in Fairview Cemetery near her home in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, in an unmarked grave. In February of 2020, almost 125 years after her death, the Friends of the Hyde Park Library discovered this and began to fundraise for a proper tombstone for Dr. Crumpler. Additionally, there are no confirmed photos of her and various sources have mistakenly used a photo of one of the first Black nurses in the United States, Mary Eliza Mahoney.

Information provided by:

My Experience Taking Chemistry I Online

Brittany Cunnien (see picture), PHPL Advisor, works full-time and took CHM 2045C online at UCF this Summer 2020! Read more about her experience and why she took this class.

1. Why did you decide to take an online science course?

I decided to take an online science course around the time UCF transitioned to remote learning. Being that I work full-time, online courses offered me the flexibility to watch lectures after work and complete assignments on nights and weekends. I decided to specifically take Chemistry I Fundamentals (CHM2045C) for two reasons: First, I wanted to put myself in the shoes of our students. I believe experiencing this course, a common prerequisite for many of our Pre-Health students, will help give me a more nuanced understanding of the rigor involved in taking such courses and will better inform my advising when working with Pre-Health students. Second, quarantine was just beginning so I knew I would have a lot of free time, so I thought why not take on the challenge!

2. What tips would you give a student taking online sciences?

Something that worked well for me when taking an online science course was to still schedule in an hour or two each day that would be dedicated to that specific course. This helped me stay on top of my lectures and assignments, which can be easy to get behind on when you are not physically going to a lecture hall. Another tip would be find what works for you when it comes to notetaking and studying. In my case, I had always been a handwritten notes kind of student. However, I quickly realized with the transition to watching virtual lectures, reading from a virtual textbook, and the entirety of the course being conducted online, handwritten notes were just not cutting it and I was missing a lot of the information discussed in lecture. Once I transitioned to using OneNote I was seeming to grasp the material much better.

3. What UCF resource did you find most helpful?

The Student Academic Resource Center (SARC) provides incredibly helpful resources that are still accessible while taking online courses! Even in the virtual setting, I was able to attend both Supplemental Instruction sessions and Peer Tutoring sessions. These were offered via Zoom. They were usually offered at convenient times, however there were a few that didn’t work with my schedule. Working full-time can often make it difficult to attend these sessions in person, but an advantage to the virtual sessions was that many were recorded, so if I wasn’t able to attend I could go back and watch them at a later time.

4. How was the online course structured?

My course in particular was held during the Summer C session. The professor pre-recorded about 4 lectures each week, keeping in line with what we would’ve been attending in person. In addition to watching these pre-recorded lectures we had optional Mastering Chemistry homework (which I definitely encourage every student to do, the practice problems really help!). Almost every week we had either a quiz or exam over the most recent chapters which opened at 12 noon on Fridays and closed by 12 noon on Sundays. The professor and TAs were also still very much accessible! Both held virtual office hours each week and everyone was prompt in their communication via webcourses or email.

5. What did you enjoy most and least about taking an online course?

Unfortunately, taking courses online made it much more difficult to connect with fellow classmates and, despite office hours being available, it was still difficult to connect with the professor. Students really have to put in the extra effort to reach out to others or form a rapport with the professor in the virtual environment. However, as someone with multiple outside commitments like work and family, online courses offered incredible flexibility! I really enjoyed having the ability to take the course but to learn the material during times of the day or week that worked best for me.

6. Do you plan on taking future online science courses?

Honestly – I am not opposed to it. While the course was challenging at times, overall I enjoyed the material and the feeling of accomplishing a goal once the semester was over. You never know, maybe you’ll see me in one of your classes next semester. :)

Health Tip Of The Day!

Remote Learning And Screen Time

COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to education globally. This has led to long hours being spent on remote learning and increased screen time. The biggest problem with screens is that people usually sit still as they watch or interact with them. Extended time sitting and not moving around leads to changes in the body’s metabolism. These changes make obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues more likely.

As devices with screens have become more ubiquitous over the past 15 years, the topic of screen time has come under increasing scrutiny. While there are potential risks to interacting with screens, there are also numerous benefits to engagement. Not all screen time activity is alike, just as not all content that young people engage with is the same.

Tips to Try:

· Make sure that you are still having healthy snacks throughout the day

· Three meals a day that are healthy

· 30-60 minutes of physical activity

· 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day

· For every 20-30 minutes of staring at a screen time, look 10-20 feet away and focus on an object for about 10-20 seconds. This will help to relax that visual accommodation so that you can have a much more usable system.

· Go outdoors

· Try blue light protection

Information provided by:

Pre-Health Fall Reading List

In the midst of COVID-19, it can be confusing to find activities and different ways to still be a part of the health community. Reading about current issues within Health Care Inequality is just another way to “stay in the know” and become educated in different topics for your future profession in the healthcare industry.

For any questions, please contact Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising in Trevor Colbourn Hall

(TCH) 205 at 407-823-0101 or