Keck, College launching collaborative advising program

In the first partnership of its kind, the USC Keck School of Medicine and the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences are collaborating to create a new advising program for all undergraduate students looking to enter the medical profession.

The program, tentatively called the College-Keck School of Medicine Pre-health Academic and Advising Program, will tailor advising for students who plan to go to medical school and allow undergraduates to utilize Keck’s resources.

“We’ve had partnerships before about ‘how do we enhance the experience for undergraduates with Keck’ but nothing on this scale,” said Michael Quick, executive vice dean of the College.

Until now, the College has offered pre-health advising to those students admitted to the Baccalaureate/M.D. program, which guarantees students admission to Keck at the same time they are admitted as freshmen. This advising is now being enhanced and expanded to all students following a pre-health track.

The advising program will be a component of the Office of College Advising but will partner with Keck experts to provide opportunities for students to shadow medical experts and conduct research in the field as well.

“It’s really an attempt to improve the undergraduate experience for people who are interested in health care careers,” said Carmen Puliafito, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “The thing that’s really important is that they’re going to have a wider access to health care delivery experiences … We’re going to hook them up with faculty members at the medical school.”

Pre-health has long been a popular track in the College. In the fall, 850 of the 2,700 first-year students in the College registered with the pre-health designation. Quick said he estimates that about one-third of students at the College are considering a career in the medical profession.

“From my perspective, we have an amazing group of undergraduates who have an interest in pre-health,” Quick said. “We’re not doing them a service that they deserve if we’re not doing all we can for them.”

Though the details of the program have yet to be decided, the goal is to offer advising that provides pre-health students the tools they need to choose a career path and successfully apply to medical school. This includes counseling students on navigating the application process and pairing them with experts to help them through the process, Puliafito said.

As part of the beginning stages of the program, the College is searching for a director to head the pre-health advising initiative.

“This is a very important job, the director will report directly to the dean of the College,” Quick said.

Quick said the College hopes to hire a director this semester and have the program in full swing by next fall.

The program is a much-needed addition to the College’s advisement offerings, according to Ronica Patel, a junior majoring in biology and health promotion and disease prevention who plans to go to medical school.

Patel said she feels the advising at the College has been more general and not personalized to cater to her pre-health major’s needs. She said, however, that she plans to utilize the new advising for her remaining time at USC and when applying to medical school.

“I wish they did have it earlier because I’m a junior now,” Patel said. “It’s difficult to find internships in [the medical field], so that would have been a great program.”