Cindi Boyer and Belen Hernandez Rosario pose for a photo with a doctor (right) they shadowed at Hospital Nacional Docente Madre y Nino San Bartolome in Lima, Peru. The two students, both hoping to go into careers in medicine, were selected to receive a summer 2022 scholarship from CT Assist to support experiential learning in healthcare. (Courtesy photos)

Pre-med students gain from summer immersion experiences in med school laboratories, hospitals  

EMU student Belen Hernandez Rosario observes as a surgeon cleans a baby’s wound in Hospital Nacional Docente Madre y Nino San Bartolome in Lima.

Whether collaborating with graduate students in a university medical center’s research lab or shadowing doctors in hospitals in Peru, several Eastern Mennonite University undergraduate students heading into careers in medicine and the health sciences came away from summer 2022 with memorable experiences and insights into their future.

Aden Weybright spent nine weeks at Baylor University working in a lab through the Baylor College of Medicine’s undergraduate research SMART program. He applied to about 20 programs offering similar opportunities and was accepted to five. Baylor’s program matched his research interests. He hopes to return there after graduation to a lab environment and then pursue a career in surgical oncology.

Cindi Boyer and Belen Hernandez Rosario, with several EMU MS in biomedicine students, traveled to Peru with Professor Kristopher Schmidt. They were recipients of CT Assist’s annual Experiential Learning Grant for students in EMU’s pre-professional health sciences program. Boyer hopes to become a physician’s assistant. Rosario is considering earning an MS in biomedicine before moving on to medical school and a specialty in cardiology.

Learn more about studying pre-professional health sciences at EMU.

Read on as they share more about their experiences.

‘Hands-on experience’ and ‘valuable advice’ 

Aden Weybright

Aden Weybright: I worked in the lab of Dr. Joshua Wythe in the Department of Integrative Physiology, specifically investigating the blood vessels that feed specific brain tumors and developing treatments that would target these blood vessels. I worked with a team of graduate students and laboratory technicians on mice models to determine how the blood vessels feeding these brain tumors could be treated resulting in a more specific and targeted treatment for these devastating tumors.

This summer experience was extremely valuable in providing more hands-on experience in medical research. I also met many other students also considering academic medicine with amazing stories about how they had become interested in science and medicine. Being able to talk to other people, especially graduate and medical students, was insightful and helped me to confirm that this was a community I want to be a part of. They all were very friendly and offered valuable advice about what things I should be considering if I want to start a career in academic medicine.

Aden Weybright (third from back, right) with colleagues in Dr. Joshua Wythe’s lab at Baylor University. He gained valuable advice from daily interactions with both medical students and laboratory technicians.

In Peru

Boyer and Rosario spent five weeks in Peru. While living with host families in the capital city of Lima, they went each day to Hospital Nacional Docente Madre y Nino San Bartolome to shadow two different pediatric surgeons.

Belen Hernandez Rosario (left) performs a glucose check on a patient in Cieneguilla. She and two EMU biomedicine grad students provided free physical checkups and a dental cleaning. (Courtesy photo)

With a group of EMU biomedicine graduate students, they attended seminars on Peruvian history, culture, and the healthcare system.

Rosario also spent a week with two graduate students in the rural town of Cieneguilla, working seven-hour days providing physical exams for about 150 residents, including seniors and children from three nearby orphanages. 

“There are almost no healthcare facilities in this area,” Rosario said, “ so the population had none to little access to annual check-ups and providers. We provided a quick physical exam which included blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen, temperature, height, weight, glucose, covid test if needed, and one of the grad students provided free dental cleanings.”

Boyer found the opportunity to compare healthcare systems and explore cultural differences “invaluable” to her future plans.

Rosario said she gained important skills and was inspired by the “passion, determination, and humility of all of the providers I met. “The experience made me even more sure that I want to go into medicine.”