Montana State University

MSU advisor helps students consider health professions

November 17, 2004


Jane Cary   High-Res Available

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It takes special qualities to work in the health professions, says Montana State University's new health professions advisor.

Whether you're dreaming of becoming a doctor or nurse, a physical therapist or dentist, you need more than intelligence, added Jane Cary, who started at MSU this fall. Jobs related to other people's health require high levels of responsibility, as well as empathy and motivation, Cary said.

It's Cary's job to help students figure out where their personality and skills would fit in the mosaic of health professions and to help them add to their skill mix by choosing additional classes wisely.

It's a given that health professional schools will expect to see a 3.0 or better grade point average with a significant dose of sciences, said Cary. The school might take into account that you've had to work outside of school to finance your education, but they'll still expect to see good scores on the various health professions capabilities tests -- like the Medical College Admission Test or "MCAT."

But taking the required classes and getting good grades are only part of the equation needed to succeed in both a professional school and in your career afterwards, Cary said.

"A genuine interest in improving the well-being of one's fellow man and woman is important. Health professions schools will expect to see extracurricular activities or work experiences in which you gave your time and energy to benefit others. The ability to empathize with others is critical for your success, and schools may also look for occasions where you purposefully interacted with people of different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds."

Experience in research is another plus when you apply to health professions schools. MSU's emphasis on helping undergraduates find work in research labs is a definite advantage in that area, she added.

Once your classes, grades and tests get you an interview, Cary said you may be asked about current issues in health care or science. The interviewer might ask your opinion about the ethics of stem-cell research or the politics of organ transplantation.

Ethical behavior will be important, Cary said, because as a health professional you will come to know the intimate details of other people's lives and will need to hold that information in confidence. A history of illegal activities, such as drug and alcohol offenses, would be "highly problematic," she added. Extracurricular activities that show you have many interests, including ones that show that you can maintain a balance in your own life as you seek to help others, are advantages.

Though a health career typically takes extra years of education, there is a high demand now for many health care workers, especially nurses, said Cary.

"The health professions are very demanding but also very rewarding," Cary said. "All programs awarding the title 'doctor' will require at least three years of graduate education after college, and specialized training may require two to five more years after that. You have to ask yourself whether you are willing to continue your education that long."

Cary's office is in 315 Leon Johnson Hall on the Bozeman campus. She is available at (406) 994-4411 or cary@montana.edu.

Contact: Jane Cary (406) 994-4411