Prehealth Advising Program

Kenyan student Shyamal Asher '08 is completing a major in biochemistry and molecular biology and has been accepted to several medical schools.

What type of medicine do you want to pursue?

Shyamal: I have interests in a bunch of fields like surgery and neurology, but I haven't really decided what I want to do. I just want to go to medical school, learn a little bit more about each field and then make my decision.

Has Clark's Prehealth Advising Program helped you meet the goals you had before coming to Clark?

Shyamal: Yes. I've gotten into medical school, which was my main goal, so it definitely has helped. The prehealth people, both secretary Wendy Praisner and Dr. Thurlow, have been a great help. Dr. Thurlow has helped me out right from the beginning, planning out my courses the first time I met him, and following up on how I'm meeting my requirements, both for my major and for the prehealth requirements.

Then, when it came to taking the MCATs, which is another important part in the process, he was really helpful-how I should prepare and the timing of it, which is key for the application process, since the application process is a rolling process. And when it came to the application, he was really helpful with the essays and with the school selection. And Wendy really helped me with that, too. So the prehealth office has been just a great resource, really useful. I am where I am today because of them, and I am really appreciative of that.

What medical schools have you been accepted to?

Shyamal: As of now, I have gotten into four: Brown, Dartmouth, Tufts, and Boston University. All four of them are really good medical schools and I'm in a great position.

Is there anything you would tell a perspective student who is interested in preparing for a health career at Clark?

Shyamal: I think it's important to speak to Dr. Thurlow early and often because he knows how the system works. He's really helpful in guiding any student, whether it's someone who knows they want to do prehealth, or someone who isn't sure, but is considering it. It's nice to start early, so that by the end, you can focus on the MCATs and the application process. Dr. Thurlow is really approachable as well, and really helpful.

Have you participated in volunteer opportunities?

Shyamal: I shadowed a physician at St. Vincent Hospital here in Worcester, which, once again, Dr. Thurlow informed me about. It's a great program. Nowadays, getting into medical school is very competitive and it's not a question of have you done volunteer work, it's where and how much. So it's really important for a prehealth student to volunteer, not just for the application, but also for themselves to get an idea of what they're getting into. I got to know nurses and residents, and I really got an inside view of the field.

Have you participated in research while at Clark?

Shyamal: Yes. I currently do research—not at Clark—but at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. But it was through Clark that I got it. Clark has good relations with the science department there, and it was Dr. Thurlow who found me a site supervisor and I work with him right now. I worked with him my first summer here, I worked last summer, and I worked through the academic year this year. They've been really useful in terms of learning for me. I've really gotten a sense of how science works, the intricate details behind it. It's been really useful for me in the medical school applications, too, because getting into medical school is getting harder and harder to get into, and research is a good thing to put you a step ahead.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your research has been at UMass?

Shyamal: I work in the biochemistry department and I work on a protein called HSP-90. Basically, we believe that protein is a therapeutic target for cancer. The protein is really active in cancer cells. We believe that we can manipulate the protein in a way that can make it less active so that cancerous cells cannot proliferate the way they do. So it's very basic research. Lab-based. We test the protein out, we make different changes to it to see how it affects its function. Obviously, cancer treatment is way down the line, so we're starting right from scratch.