Deadline for cooperative health program approaches

Allegheny College held an information session for the cooperative health program it coordinates with Chatham University. The session was held on Tuesday, Sept. 15 in Quigley Auditorium, and served a sizeable crowd that, according to Health Professions Adviser Kirsten Peterson, is common to have each year.

According to Peterson, she can have around 500 students on her email list for pre-health events. With such a large number of students wanting to go into pre-health careers, Allegheny has taken steps to form several professional programs. One of these is the cooperative program with Chatham, which has been in existence for at least 15 years.

There are three paths the students typically take at the Chatham program: occupational therapy, physical therapy or physician’s assistant.

According to Melanie Wrobleski, the assistant director of graduate admissions at Chatham, there are around 40 students in the OT and PT program and approximately 80 in the PA program.

At Chatham, the classes are often taught using project-based learning, sometimes called case-based learning. This is a teaching method that has students figure out what to do on their own and the facilitators mostly just oversee it.

For example, in the OT/PT program, Peterson said the facilitator might offer a situation with a patient who has particular symptoms, and the students must figure out what other tests need to be done. They then split into groups, work on the issues and reconvene. If they are off in the conclusions they are going to research, the facilitator will alert them.

In the PA program, however, the facilitator will not stop the students even if they are wrong.

“That’s a real-life experience,” said Peterson.

Peterson said Allegheny students have an acceptance rate in any professional program at about 80 percent.

Wrobleski agreed that Allegheny students are well-received, saying the college’s students are often accepted into the Chatham program.

“We love Allegheny students,” she said.

Peterson said that in 2012, there were seven Allegheny students in the Chatham pre-professional program. Seven is a lot of students for any school, let alone one as small as Allegheny.

Despite how high the chances of acceptance are for Allegheny students, Wrobleski warned that the program is still competitive.

“In terms of project placement, our program is very competitive,” she said. “And [it’s] competitive for a reason.”

According to Wrobleski, the reason for this is that the jobs they are going for are equally competitive. However, Peterson said that jobs are still available and that the number of positions for PAs is growing.

Courtney Lubick, ’17, is applying for the cooperative program to be a part of its PA track.

“I always wanted to be a PA, but I didn’t really know about the program until I came to Allegheny,” she said.

Having known about the program since she was a freshman, Lubick was able to arrange her classes to finish her pre-requisites early. She is going to be a part of the 3-2 program, where a student completes three years at Allegheny and the other two at Chatham.

“If I know I want to be a PA, why wait?” Lubick said.

She said that although some students may feel uncomfortable with that much pressure, many students like the collaboration and experiential learning, according to Lubick. It is a part of Chatham’s program that is unique from many others.

Although not all students plan for the program as early on as Lubick, Peterson believes it is best to plan as early in advance as possible. Peterson said she gets people during all points of their time at Allegheny, some of whom have taken five years of classes before they have the right credits to join the program, though this is far less common.

“The coursework is very prescriptive,” Peterson said. “It’s very set.”

Lubick believes that planning ahead has helped her be more prepared for the program.

“Because I decided earlier, I could get shadowing hours and volunteering in,” Lubick said.

Peterson said she would recommend that students get in touch with her and Chatham’s admissions as soon as they decide they are interested, and Lubick agreed.

“You can’t rely on other people to just give you things,” she said. “And you should stay in touch with [Kirsten Peterson] and the co-op.”