Tufts Pre-Health

Anecdotes and advice about preparing for a career in health

Reflecting on My Lahey Clinic Preceptorship Experience

In the fall as I began my second year of postbaccalaureate studies at Tufts, I was eager to expand my clinical experience.  Living so close to Boston, there is an incredibly wide range of opportunities in the healthcare field that a postbac student can participate in, with unique lessons to be learned from each.  I was drawn to the Lahey Clinical Research Preceptorship program offered to Tufts Postbac students in particular because I was excited to have the opportunity to work closely with a physician and to engage with clinical research.

As I began my preceptorship in September, I was thrilled to be working with a general surgeon and I eagerly anticipated the first surgery I would observe.  In the operating room, though my face was largely concealed beneath a surgical mask, the scrub nurses quickly noticed my excitement and apprehension.  “Just make sure you faint away from the sterile field,” one joked.  I solemnly nodded, terrified that my physiologic response would forsake me.  “So are you going to be a surgeon?” the other teased.  I froze like a mouse.  Before I could force out a faint, “maybe”, the surgeon for whom I work declared, “Of course she will be” and proceeded to point out the anatomical landmarks that he was exposing.

One of the most valuable components of any pre-medical clinical experience is the opportunity to be mentored by a physician who is excited to be teaching you.  The Tufts preceptor program, affiliated with Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA, has given me exactly that.  Every preceptorship is proposed by a physician at Lahey who has a specific research project in mind and who is motivated to have a student shadowing and working for them.  While observing in both the clinic and operating room, I am encouraged to ask questions and each is met by a thoughtful and enthusiastic response.

Research is another valued component of my experience at Lahey.  As a pre-medical student, it is a truly unique opportunity to collaborate on the design and implementation of a clinical feasibility trial.  Intra-operative thermal imaging of cancerous lesions is an exciting area of research where little published data exists.  The interdisciplinary nature of the subject has allowed me to apply concepts that I have learned in isolation in my premedical classes to solve a complex problem, applying the principles of electromagnetic radiation that I learned in physics to my understanding of the metabolic states of tumors from biochemistry.  While conducting a literature review, writing a study protocol, and now beginning data collection and analysis, I am proud of the my contributions to this project and I am excited to continue working on it this spring.

Since I began my postbaccalaureate studies at Tufts, I highly value the opportunities that I have had for clinical experience.  Working with patients as a health coach at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, gaining exposure to a fast-paced clinical environment as a volunteer in emergency radiology at MGH and beginning research and shadowing at Lahey have all been an important part of focusing my motivation for a career in medicine.  The mentorship and opportunity for clinical research experience that I gained through participating in the Lahey program has been an exceptionally rewarding experience.

Stephanie Vaughn
Tufts Postbac Premed student
Completing 2018


Reflecting on My Summer Internship

My name is Alexia Soteropoulos, a sophomore from Peabody, MA, planning to major in psychology.  The winter of my freshman year at Tufts, I approached my internship search by talking to family and friends who worked in healthcare or who knew people in health-related settings.  I knew that I wanted to work in a clinical setting because I had worked in labs during previous internships and I wanted different exposure working more directly with patients.  I am also very interested in nutrition, and of course psychology, so I spoke to my cousin who is a dietitian, and this ultimately led me to my internship last summer.

I worked in the Medical Weight Loss Clinic at Lahey Medical Center in Peabody teaching nutrition classes to patients in the program with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity-related conditions. For my classes, I prepared curriculum and materials, conducted food demonstrations, and created customized diet plans, grocery shopping tips and substitutions, and holiday and cooking tips.  I produced many recipes and handouts for the patients in the clinic, and some were used for outside community events sponsored by the hospital.  During the summer I also shadowed the bariatrician (medical weight loss doctor), clinical psychologist, and dietician during patient visits and support groups.


The most important thing I learned during my internship was how to interact with patients with empathy and encouragement.  I also gained a better understanding of the intersection of biology, psychology, and nutrition as these were all aspects of the clinic that impacted patients’ health.  I ended up enjoying the internship so much and I worked very well with the clinicians, that I have continued my internship throughout the year, teaching classes every couple months and I am returning this coming summer.

My one tip is to take advantage of your connections.  Talk to friends and family, even friends of friends. Even if they don’t work in health-related areas, they might know people who do and would be happy to help you find an opportunity.

Alexia Soteropoulos
Class of 2020

Reflecting on My Summer Research Experience

My name is Andrew Nguyen and I am from Champaign, IL. Currently, I am a junior studying Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Tufts with an interest in pursuing a graduate degree in the Neurosciences. This past summer, I worked as an undergraduate research trainee at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take on my own research project on NASA grants that would allow me to develop new research skills such as MATLAB, and academic paper and poster writing. I was able to shadow professional researchers, participate in journal clubs, and present my research to many health professionals. I spent a lot of time in the fall and over winter break sending emails to potential advisors, searching for funded research opportunities, and reaching out to my advisors for recommendations and advice. Use the resources that are available to you, whether it be the Career Center, personal contacts, advisors, or even the internet to find incredible opportunities that will allow you to develop your skills and explore career paths. Reach out early and have materials readily available to share with programs and advisors so that they can help you.

Andrew Nguyen
Class  of 2019
Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Why Community Health and Medicine

When I arrived at Tufts as a freshman I always imagined that I was going to be a “hard science” major. Whether that meant biology, physics, or chemistry, my preconceived notion of being premed demanded that I study science. However, I quickly learned that this was simply not true, and in fact, you can study anything you want and be successful.

As a freshman I followed the advice to take classes that were of interest to me, one of which happened to be Introduction to Community Health. Learning about aspects of health that were disconnected from medicine and science was refreshing and set the stage for my decision to major in Community Health. After taking a few more courses in the major, I knew with absolute certainty the field was for me. Being able to take courses ranging from race, ethnicity, and health to epidemiology was both rewarding and challenging. The field of Community Health allows you to explore areas that interest you, something that not all majors necessarily afford. Furthermore, the faculty in the CH department were constantly available to meet with me to help facilitate my interest in both Community Health and medicine, something that allowed me to pick the right courses and find research opportunities.

For the CH major you are required to do an internship, something that is unique and allows you to gain real world exposure. I selected an internship at Tufts Medical Center in the Department of Infectious Diseases, something that both satisfied my interests in medicine and public health. Through this internship, I gained both clinical exposure as well as opportunities to learn about intersections between public health and infectious diseases, something I had been exposed to in Introduction to Global Health. The ability to have this experience not only bolstered my application for medical school, but showed me that pursuing public health was of great importance to me.

As I now am in my final semester at Tufts I look back on my experience as a Community Health major very fondly. Whether it be the faculty I met, the public health research I have engaged in, or the aspects of healthcare that challenged the way I think I am very grateful for the knowledge I have gained. As I work towards my career goals in medicine, I can say with confidence that I will be not only integrating my knowledge of public health gained at Tufts, but looking to continue studying public health while in medical school.

Jacob Garrell, Class of 2018
Community Health

Why Be a Mentor?

I vividly remember the moment when I first took a look at the course listings required for a pre-medical track, biology major, CBS major, and everything else that was offered on SIS, and just feeling this overwhelming sense of being lost. But I also vividly remember sitting down with my mentor and fellow mentees for the first time during one of the first Pre-Medical Society events, and feeling that sense of overwhelming slowly dissipate. As I talked with my fellow freshmen and my sophomore mentor, I saw myself grasping an idea of the directions I would take in order to best handle the rigorous course loads ahead of me.

As the year went by and with each subsequent mentorship event with the society, I felt more and more comfortable with my work, my classes, my extracurricular activities, and just generally being more at ease with the inherent stress of being a pre-medical student. I had also decided to pursue a biology and CBS double major, so that did the exact opposite of helping the burden. However, never once did I feel that I did not know what I was doing, much thanks to the help of discussing my possibilities with my mentor and my mentor group, who were currently or had been in the same shoes as me.

The following year, as a sophomore, I wanted to channel the experience I had gained as a mentee toward becoming a mentor for the incoming freshmen. Through talking with my previous mentor, my own familiarity with several of the classes that the freshmen would be looking at, and my involvement with both biology and CBS, I knew that I could serve as a relatable and accessible source of information, as someone who was in their shoes not too long before. Where I felt an overwhelming sense of confusion the past year, now I had felt an overwhelming sense to give back and calm my mentees’ similar confusion.

The job of a mentor was just as fulfilling and rewarding as I expected it to be. Being on the other side, I felt that my job was essentially to be someone they could turn to at any time regarding any sort of doubts about their track, as both a friend and a mentor. During the events, I answered any questions that they might have, gave them advice about what classes they could take together or what clubs they could get involved in, and just general tips on how to manage the obstacles that may lie ahead of them. Getting to know my mentees as people and reciting the things that I already knew and had been through not only helped them, but was also a huge plus for myself, as I was able to solidify my knowledge as well as develop my ability to provide help to people who needed it. This stemmed from simply being able to talk to them and relate with their position in order to create an environment of comfort. And at the end of the day, that is one of the most crucial aspects of the interactions between a patient and a physician, so looking forward, the mentorship program has helped me come a long way in developing certain skills that are components which make up any great medical professional.

Vibhav Prakasam
Class of 2016
Biology Major


For similar articles regarding mentorship, please see the previously posted blog posts:

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