Perspectives Online

Showing the Way - The College's Health Professions Advising Center helps students become candidates for health-care careers.


Anita Flick (center) is joined by Paul Carruth (left), president of the NCSU Pre-Health Club, and recent CALS biochemistry graduate Rami Ghanayem at the Health PAC.
Photo by Daniel Kim

Nearly 1,500 N.C. State students are interested in healthcare careers. About 60 percent come from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. One advising center - staffed by two professionals - serves them all.

The Health Professions Advising Center (Health PAC), housed in the College, provides a variety of services that help motivated students become top-notch candidates for medical, dental, optometry and other health professional schools.

Dr. Anita Flick, a 1986 graduate of the College's Department of Zoology, started Health PAC just a year ago and now serves as its director. Her background reveals the knowledge and resources she brings to bear on her work: a medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, Ph.D. work in physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University, clinical experience with Family Health International in Africa, developmental research involving the new HPV vaccine, and years of teaching and advising experience.

Flick estimates that she and pre-health adviser Bobbie Kelley serve about 3,000 people through Health PAC. This includes the 1,500 registered students, as well as other undergrads, alumni and lifelong education students interested in health-care careers.

Flick's philosophy for the competitive applicant is simple: Be well-rounded.

"In my advising, I found that a lot of students focused only on the academic requirements for medical or dental school, preoccupied with exam scores and GPAs," she says. "But they need to stand out from the rest by demonstrating clinical experience, service and social aptitude in addition to academic excellence.

"Our goal is to get students to pay attention to these areas that will make them more unique and competitive."

One of the most popular Health PAC services is the Web-based "Application Portfolio Builder." It enables students to upload transcripts, test scores and presentations. They can log achievements in the major focus areas (academic, service, clinical, social), as well as post resumes and letters of recommendation.

"We encourage students to start building their portfolios as freshmen and to keep adding to them," Flick says. "When the time comes to prepare their applications, they have all of the information they need at hand."

Flick and Kelley also use the data to cluster students into discipline-related categories and send tailored information by e-mail.

The Health PAC Web site (www.cals.ncsu.edu/health_pac) also outlines basic requirements for health care specialty areas, tips on writing admissions essays and a "Four-Year Timeline" that guides students through their year-by-year responsibilities.

Students can sign up to receive e-mail notification of workshops, clinical shadowing opportunities and test news.


At left, Flick counsels student Matt Parr at the center in Bostian Hall.
Photo by Daniel Kim
"Colleges all over the state are referring students to our Web site," Flick says. "All the resources they'll need are in one place."

While the Web is critical, Health PAC thrives on person-to-person contact. Located in Bostian Hall, it's filled with resources, including a reference library, information on programs throughout the United States and articles on the latest healthcare news.

"The transition between college and professional programs is a huge step, a valley of uncertainty," Flick says. "Students are thrown into a different pool of competition, and we're here to help them thrive."

One of the most valuable resources of Health PAC is the Health Professions Review Committee. Composed of faculty from different disciplines, the committee reviews student applications and, if appropriate, submits university recommendations to the corresponding professional schools.

Health PAC also hosts programs such as graduate school visits, financial aid information sessions and writing workshops. On October 8, Health PAC will host its first health-care career fair.

"What I like best about Health PAC is that it is an anywhere, anytime, indispensable tool full of resources, people and advice that can help students decide which health career path they would like to follow," says Rami Ghanayem, who graduated in May with a degree in biochemistry and a minor in health, medicine and human values.

Ghanayem, 22, grew up in Durham. Both of his parents are from Jerusalem, so he has spent a lot of time in the Middle East.

"My experiences overseas have shown me that the ugly sides of health and patient care are plentiful and need quick attention from those able to help," he says. "My goal is to become a doctor who can contribute time and services to help solve this problem in the Middle East and other regions of the world."

Health PAC opened doors for Ghanayem to pursue unique shadowing and research opportunities. He's been working alongside doctors at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study the causes and effects of lung disease. Ghanayem took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in July and will continue his research and shadowing for another year before entering medical school.

"I think Health PAC is a great resource," he says. "The wonderful people, the great tools and the ultimate payoff of knowing what you are going to do with your life are too good a deal to pass up."