The members of the Purdue University North Central Pre-Med Club are a tight-knit group of students who look forward
to careers as doctors and medical practitioners.
While the journey to their chosen careers is just beginning and the years ahead may bring some daunting challenges, the club members provide ready support for one another to help ensure one another’s success.
These students may have varying backgrounds and diverse career plans, but they share a common desire to help others.
For example, club president Aaron Ciesielski explains that the fields of orthopedics and neurology both interest him, but for different reasons. Orthopedics would allow the former college basketball player the opportunity to help athletes heal their injuries, while neurology presents unique potentially life-saving challenges.
Ashley Starcevich is considering pediatrics because “I like kids.”
Shameka Harris said that surgery interests her because “I like helping people.” Plastic surgery is also an option, particularly working with burn patients.
Kelsey Jordan graduated from PNC in May, but returned to take additional classes to prepare for the rigors of medical school. She is exploring pediatric oncology.
“At PNC we have awesome professors, but outside the classroom we need peer support,” explained Ciesielski. “We help one another, push one another.”
The students study together, upper classmen give advice to underclassmen, someone who may be stymied by a concept will find someone willing to explain it in a way they understand.
Several club members also tutor other students on campus.
“Peer support is essential,” said Starcevich. “You cannot do this on your own.”
For most students, applying for medical school is a daunting experience. The PNC students are fortunate that club advisor Dr. Nancy Marthakis, PNC associate professor of Biology, is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. She knows and understands the process of applying to medical school. She also works hard to make sure the students are prepared scholastically and emotionally for the rigors of medical school.
“She’s understands what we’re going through,” said Ciesielski. “She knows what kind of competition we’re facing and she wants us to be prepared.”
The students agree that small classes and the personal attention of their professors are key factors in their academic success.
“When you feel comfortable in class, you can ask questions and get help if you need it,” said Stefanie Rigg. “You build relationships that help you succeed.”
These students can usually be found studying together in a biology lab. They’ve become friends who look out for one another. They share a “we’re all in this together” attitude.
Each keeps a full schedule on campus and off. Many are married, a number are parents, most are employed. One is a PNC cheerleader, another a softball player. Yet another helps care for her grandmother. All agree that their many activities help keep them focused.
Dylan Caggiano explained that his wife and two-year-old son motivate him to remember what is important in life.
Harris is a married mother of four, who “always thought about” going to medical school and is pursuing her dream with the support of her family.
Stefanie Rigg has daughters who enjoy science and enjoy reading her text books and continue to ask questions. “I appreciate that they care about what I’m doing and what I’m learning,” she said. “I want to keep at it for their sake and mine.”
These students are eager to absorb any learning opportunity available to them.
Caggiano works with the Indiana Lions Eye Bank harvesting donor eyes; Ciesielski has job shadowed doctors, he helps prepare cadavers for medical student research and has taken on a number of research projects. Others are lab and teaching assistants on campus, some have done professional internships. Club members have traveled to nearby medical schools to take part in activities for medical students.
“PNC is preparing us for medical school. We’re all focused. We know what we want to do and we are all going to do what it takes to succeed,” said Mitchell Smith. “We look forward to the future.”
Back to Profiles