When a large number of students were having difficulty registering for organic chemistry labs in spring 2015, Rohit Anand, senior neuroscience and psychology major, realized just how many students at Pitt wanted to pursue a career in health.
“Pitt is a pre-health school, not a pre-med school,” Anand said.
He set out to create a coalition of pre-health students — meaning anyone trying to have a career in the health field, in jobs such as nursing, dentistry and medicine. The coalition would make tackling far-reaching issues — such as advocating for more lab periods — easier and more powerful. Along with creating a coalition, he planned to establish a new Pitt event: a multi-specialty conference to bring together students interested in health fields.
After eight months of planning to bring his three-year-old idea to fruition, Anand and the Coalition of Pre-Health Students successfully held the inaugural Pitt Pre-Health Summit Sunday. More than 150 students gathered on the seventh floor of Alumni Hall at 9 a.m. for the event and then dispersed to various campus buildings for a myriad of breakout sessions.
Well-dressed, pre-professional students spent the day swarming around campus, carrying pamphlets, business cards and tote bags from exhibitors and speakers, such as Jim Withers, a local doctor who provides “street medicine” to homeless people who cannot afford proper health care.
“To really experience someone else’s reality [is] hard to do in a hospital,” Withers said.
His speech inspired students to pursue even their most unconventional passions, and students carried his words with them as they attended the rest of the summit.
Anand’s idea for the summit emulated a popular annual pre-health conference at University of California, Davis, that attracts thousands of students each year.
Last year, the UC Davis event included workshops, such as “How Future Health Professionals Can Fight for Health Care Justice” and “Genetic Counseling: A Growing Profession.” Registration for the next conference is currently open to 4,500 attendees.
To try and create this same opportunity for pre-health students on the East Coast, Anand and the group contacted representatives from regional veterinary schools, dental schools and medical schools to speak with students about the possibilities for their futures.
“It took a while. We had to follow up emails with one or two phone calls [at least],” he said.
Now that the conference is over and the organizers have had time to read surveys dispersed afterwards, they’re working on building the event for next year.
Some students, such as first-year Akeem Williams, were intimidated by the prospect of networking with professional schools so early in their college careers. Jan Niec, a junior economics major and next year’s CPHS chair, confirmed plans to integrate workshops about networking leading up to the conference next year.
The surveys were mostly positive, the only prevalent complaint being the confusion caused by the multi-building setup, Niec explained.
Anand has high hopes for the future of the conference and said the group will work on improving some of the timing problems they faced this time. Scheduling rooms was tricky as the coalition is not an official Student Affairs-affiliated group.
Niec said the biggest change for next year will be getting the University more involved with the planning.
“Five people cannot plan something for more than a few hundred people,” he said, alluding to their ultimate goal of attracting thousands of people. “We think it is something that can add value to Pitt.”