First Steps in Planning

Planning for your health professions career should begin in your first year at Washington and Lee. In addition to seeking the advice of your assigned freshman advisor, you will also need to the contact a member of the Health Professions Advisory Committee to discuss appropriate choice of major, course scheduling, and available summer opportunities.

Health Career Advisors and Staff

The advising of students seeking eventual admission to graduate work in health related fields, particularly to medical and dental school, is conducted by the Coordinator of the Health Professions Advisory Committee and the Committee of Advisors which she chairs. Members of this committee are:

  • Dr. Lisa T. Alty
    Coordinator, Health Professions Advisory Committee
    John T. Herwick, M.D. Professor of Chemistry
    Office: Tucker Hall, Room 020; Phone 8927;
  • Dr. Erich S. Uffelman
    Professor of Chemistry
    Office: Science Center, Room A427; Phone 8040;
  • Dr. Paul R. Cabe
    Professor of Biology
    Office: Science Center, Room H303; Phone 8894;
  • Dr. Matthew F. Tuchler
    Associate Professor of Chemistry
    Office: Science Center, Room A327; Phone 8029;
  • Dr. Sarah N. Blythe
    Associate Professor of Biology
    Office: Parmly Hall, Room P301; Phone 8342;
  • Ms. Brittany Carr
    Administrative Assistant, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
    Office: Science Center, Room A330A; Phone 8872;

The Health Professions Advisory Committee Evaluation

  1. At the end of winter term of the junior year, each student should come to Ms. Carr's office to sign a waiver of confidentiality and begin the collection process of letters of evaluation. As part of the process, you indicate the professor(s) as well as off-campus evaluators, from whom you wish to obtain evaluations.
  2. In the spring term of the junior year, your choice of professors and any additional on-campus evaluators will be asked to complete a standard evaluation form and letter.
  3. During the summer, this information is compiled into a single composite letter, which is the format preferred by most professional schools.
  4. When a student has submitted the application and a test score has been reported, evaluations will be uploaded to the application service, usually in early July.
  5. This information is kept on file, and may be used in subsequent years.

What Is Important?

Of course the MCAT, Science GPA, overall GPA and the trends exhibited by those GPAs over time are all important.  But in addition to the numbers, health professions programs are very interested in other attributes and experiences.  In a holistic application review, here are some qualities of a competitive applicant (from

  • Good time-management skills. Are you able to balance many competing deadlines, keep focused, and prioritize when necessary to complete tasks on time?
  • Evidence of leadership. Are you able to demonstrate that you can lead a project or team?
  • Exposure to medically related environments. Do you have meaningful and sustained volunteer experience in a medically related setting, such as a clinic, nursing home, or physician's office?
  •  Exceptional communication skills. Are you articulate and able to communicate information clearly to people regardless of their backgrounds or experiences?
  • Evidence of compassion and respect. Can you point to experiences that show you are empathetic and caring?
  • Interpersonal skills. Medicine today relies on skilled people from numerous health professions. Can you demonstrate that you're able to work well in groups and teams?
  • Interests outside medicine and personal background. What are your qualities, hobbies, passions, and other personal attributes that will contribute to the medical school community and enrich its diversity?

Also, some professions require a minimum number of hours shadowing/working with a professional in that field. Please note that the number of hours is quite large for physician assistant programs, perhaps requiring a gap year working in a health care setting. Hours required for dental, veterinary, PT, pharmacy, and nursing programs may also be significant (200-400 hours). Local dentists and veterinarians have accommodated W&L students in the past and/or you may need to get additional hours during the summer.