The University of New Mexico’s University College has created the Office of Pre-Health Professions, Student Department, for students interested in healthcare careers.

Not long ago, almost all University of New Mexico freshmen were advised through the University College Advising Center (UCAC). Today, they go directly to the school or college based on their major. Only exploratory students who have not yet declared a major, and students who are pre-health, aspiring to enter programs like pharmacy, radiology, nursing and similar degrees offered by UNM Health Sciences on the north campus, remain in UCAC.

“Students who are pre-health majors remain in UCAC because those programs are competitive and they can be hard to get into,” said Kate Krause, Dean of University College and Honors College. So while they’re waiting for admission and completing their prerequisites, they are advised by us. That’s not true of other schools that have entry requirements but advise freshmen.”

Krause added that UCAC advisors work with Health Sciences advisors counseling freshmen and sophomores regarding required classes and preparation for their eventual move to Health Sciences on north campus. Pre-health majors on main campus take core classes such as biology and chemistry but they’re not interacting directly with faculty members on North Campus; they’re interacting primarily with Arts & Sciences faculty and getting advisement from UCAC. Krause saw this as a gap that needed to be filled.

Enter Dr. James McKinnell, a pediatric oncologist at UNMH who teaches the Freshmen Learning Community course, “So You Want to be a Doctor.” According to Krause, the class is so popular it’s filled to capacity soon after registration opens. McKinnell is now starting to see some of the students he had as freshmen at UNMH as medical students.

Three half days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, McKinnell will be at University College serving as director of the Office of Pre-Health Professions, Student Department. He’ll be doing outreach for students interested in health professions, helping them make connections, network, shadow other doctors and find spots for them to be exposed to some of the things that will enhance their admission to the school of their choice.

"The application process for any of the health professions programs has become quite complex and a successful applicant has to have more than a strong GPA,” McKinnell said. “It now takes time to build a competitive application and the sooner students understand the kinds of additional experiences professional programs are looking for, the better the shot they have at success. That's where I hope to be of help."

Krause said that many students don’t know all the possible healthcare professions available today. “Growing up, they will have met a doctor or a nurse,” she said, “but they might not know the other health professions such as a caregiver, nurse practitioner, physical or occupational therapist. We can show students a lot of opportunities that may be available to them and then help them find their path to those opportunities.”

For more information visit Pre-Health Professions or call (505) 277-2027.