Penn students are hosting a free, three-day virtual conference in August for people interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.
Featuring professional guest speakers and a research exposition, A Future in Medicine: National Pre-Health Conference will be held over Zoom as a substitute for similar events that have been canceled due to COVID-19, rising College junior and founder of the conference Alejandra Bahena said. The conference will run from Aug. 20 to 22.
The event is available to all students — undergraduate and postgraduate — who wish to pursue a career in medicine and endeavor to become a competitive candidate for medical school and other medical programs. Bahena said the event will consist of hourly presentations from professionals in the medical field, including Penn Medicine professor Lawrence F. Brass and CURF Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Research Ann Vernon-Grey.
Students will listen to these presentations as well as share their own work in a research exposition.
“Looking at the research symposium, I thought it was really cool,” rising Haverford College sophomore Tien Vu, who plans to attend the conference, said. “I did guided research with Haverford the summer before my freshman year, but it was super accelerated. I want to do more in-depth research.”
Bahena said she started the conference because of the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine period and the ensuing shift to online learning, which limited access to resources she and other pre-med students had available during a normal school year, such as mentors and research opportunities.
Bahena hopes to make up for these losses by giving pre-med students access to professionals in the field and the opportunity to learn about each other’s research through the conference.
“I wanted to use this challenge in my life as an opportunity to help students,” said Bahena. “For students to feel more prepared and motivated for the school year, and for students to have the opportunity to explore different medical career paths and achieve their professional goals.”
Bahena came up with the initial idea of the conference nearly a month ago, and soon reached out to universities, including Haverford and the California Institute of Technology, and medical organizations to find sponsors and guest speakers. The team organizing the conference also includes rising College sophomore Hiba Hamid and rising College junior Jacqueline Friskey.
“I’m applying to M.D./Ph.D. programs in May,” 2020 CalTech graduate and conference attendee Alexa Lauinger said. “I thought [the conference] would be helpful to get more information on the directions that those careers can go in.”
Both Bahena and attendees said they hope the conference will continue in the future.
“If [the conference] is annual that would be great,” said Vu. “Every year I’d get to meet other people who are pre-health and learn from them."