Students with aspirations to serve on the frontlines of a global pandemic like COVID-19 can participate in distinctive programming and experiences at Earlham College throughout their education.
“We never would have been thinking about something like COVID-19 when we started planning many of the programs we offer today, but the mission and aim of an Earlham education is truly set up for students to engage in such a world,” said Peter Blair, professor of biology and director of Earlham’s Center for Global Health.
“We base a lot of our programming on guidelines from the Association of American Medical Colleges to meet the competencies of the next-generation physician. In addition to scientific merit, we encourage leadership experience, service, respect for others and achieving cultural competencies. We want to try to make our programs meet all those aims and goals, without neglecting the more ethical and moral aspects of healthcare.”
Here are five ways Earlham prepares students to work on the frontlines of a global pandemic.
Intense, interdisciplinary coursework
Pre-health students at Earlham may choose any major and receive strong scientific classroom training in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics and neuroscience. Students also can minor in public health. The College offers pathways for students interested in careers in medicine (osteopathic and allopathic), dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, chiropractic medicine, public health, forensic sciences, genetics, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, podiatric medicine, and pathology.
With Earlham’s liberal arts foundation, pre-health students also explore courses that give them a broad knowledge base and develop their communication, analytical and critical thinking skills.
“When students get to medical school, they are going to take plenty of science courses,” said Mike Deibel, associate vice president of academic affairs. “If you want to spend more of your undergraduate time honing your music skills, becoming fluent in a second language or immersing yourself in philosophy, that’s great! That’s going to help you become a better health care provider. As long as you fulfill your required courses, everything else you do will expand your portfolio.”
Earlham also was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop specialized coursework in the medical humanities that focuses on the conceptual, cultural, and existential realities of illness, suffering, healing, finitude, mortality, care and empathy.
“Of course, we do get more science majors than not, but we believe students should major in what they are most passionate about,” Deibel said. “Whatever that is, that should be your major. We will help you build a four-year plan that works for you.”
Earlham is a national leader in the liberal arts for outstanding learning opportunities, scholarship and mentorship. The college ranks 36th among 1,592 colleges for the percentage of graduates who go on to earn PhDs across all disciplines — 12th out of 1,384 in the life sciences.
Cultural competency May Term
Earlham partners with Indiana’s only English-Spanish bilingual medical center,
Alivio, as part of an annual immersive summer experience for students enrolled in pre-health programs. Many first-year students begin their journey in healthcare here in preparation for longer, more demanding off-campus experiences.
“Students are exposed to a wide range of issues, including diversity, faith, music and arts, and culture, and they get a crash course in Spanish prior to volunteering at Alivio in Indianapolis, while actively engaging in the lessons they learn on campus,” Blair said.
Community Medicine program
The community medicine program at Earlham College offers students clinical training and hands-on experiences treating chronically ill patients in the local community.
Students enrolled in pre-health programs can become health coaches, working with patients in their homes on weekly rotations to promote wellness. The program is the result of an expanded partnership between the Center for Global Health and Reid Health in Richmond.
Guaranteed funding for research, internships or international travel
Earlham is one of the only institutions in the country to offer funding supported by philanthropy for every student to participate in an internship, faculty-student research or off-campus research experience, virtually anywhere in the world.
Pre-health students often participate in the Global Health May Term as one of their signature experiences before graduation. Located in any of a rotating list of Latin American countries, including Peru, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, students participate in public health campaigns for underserved populations, shadow physicians and develop educational programming for children. The three-week program is in partnership with the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children, a multinational global healthcare organization.
Earlham also offers a robust externship program where students volunteer with local physicians. Funded internships are also available to students every year at premier medical facilities, including the IU School of Medicine, Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, and BIOTEC, a premier biotechnology and genetics research institute in Thailand.
Advising now — and long after graduation
Pre-health students benefit from a comprehensive team of advisers from the Centers for Global Health and Global and Career Education.
Earlham graduates often remark that faculty continue to mentor them long after graduation.
Deibel and Blair are members of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Profession, Inc. Deibel, a nine-year member of NAAHP’s board of directors, is the president-elect of that board.
“We are highly tuned in to the health advising network,” Blair said. “We offer frequent updates, information, and resources from across the country to help our students be successful. It’s a very healthy, root-for-each-other environment, especially given that our students are in the same challenging situation right now.”