Program Helps Students and Alumni Gain Acceptance to Medical and Dental Schools

pre-health advising carol myers welcome day tabling Image by UML Pre-Medical Organization
Pre-Health Advising Director Carol Myers discusses the program with a prospective student during a UML Welcome Day.

By Brooke Coupal

Sara Aldahabi ’23 was at her job as a dental assistant, preparing to help with a filling, when her Apple Watch alerted her to a phone call from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Normally, Aldahabi would have ignored her phone while at work, but she had been waiting for this call.

“You got in,” the person on the other end of the line told Aldahabi, confirming her acceptance to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

From a young age, Aldahabi dreamed of becoming a dentist, but she knew getting into dental school – especially one as prestigious as the University of Michigan’s – would be competitive. To help ensure a strong application, Aldahabi joined UML’s Pre-Health Advising program while studying as a biological sciences undergraduate.

The program, which Biological Sciences Professor Emeritus David Eberiel launched in the 1970s, helps students and alumni navigate the admissions process of postgraduate health professional schools. This past academic year, Pre-Health Advising saw a 100% acceptance rate among students and alumni who applied to dental school and a 90% acceptance rate for those who applied to medical school.

“We have amazing students and alumni,” says Carol Myers, the Pre-Health Advising director and a teaching professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “When I first took over in 2019, our acceptance rate was around 50%. Now, most of them are getting into multiple schools.”

Myers credits this success in part to the dedication of the pre-health advisors, who were added to the program when she became the director. Currently, Biological Sciences Assoc. Teaching Profs. Shaina Roy and Erin Smith advise those looking to get into dental or medical schools, and Physical Therapy and Kinesiology Assoc. Teaching Prof. Kyle Coffey and Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Clinical Instructor Michelle Williams focus on those applying to physician assistant programs.

“We give advice like, ‘These are the things you need to do to be a solid applicant, and you’re totally capable of doing it,’” Roy says. “Then, to see them go out and get these experiences, articulate them on paper and in interviews and watch them get accepted, it’s really rewarding.”

pre-health advising Sara Aldahabi Image by Sara Aldahabi
Sara Aldahabi ’23 is ready to take on the University of Michigan School of Dentistry after pursuing a predental education at UMass Lowell.

The pre-health advisors guide the students toward courses they need to complete in preparation for a health professional school. They also guide students and alumni toward clinical and volunteer opportunities, connect them with admissions counselors and professionals and provide discounts for Medical College Admission Test preparatory courses.

“Pre-Health Advising helped give me a better understanding of the timeline needed for the application cycle,” says Aldahabi, who also got dental school acceptances from Boston University, Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania. She ultimately decided to enroll at the University of Michigan, which has the top-ranked dental program in the world, according to QS World University Rankings.

Students and alumni can participate in mock interviews with the pre-health advisors so they’re ready for the hourslong interviews they will encounter as part of the application process. The advisors also write committee letters for the applicants, which gives schools a closer look into the applicants’ strengths, challenges and motivation for applying.

Lauraliz Delacruz ’11, ’17, who will be attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine, found the Pre-Health Advising program especially beneficial when it came to crafting a personal statement for the application.

“Dr. Myers gave me so much clarity as to what the process was,” says Delacruz, who got invited to interview at 17 medical schools due to her solid application. “She made sure that the writing was on par.”

When Delacruz made the decision to apply to medical school roughly four years after graduating from UMass Lowell, one of the first things she did was to contact the Pre-Health Advising program.

“The advisors have been so helpful,” she says. “I have friends who went to other institutions, and when I explained to them what UMass Lowell did to support me, they were like, ‘There is no way we could go back to our alma mater and get that kind of help.’”

pre-health advising Jaydon Kinuthia and Shaina Roy Image by Jaydon Kinuthia
Pre-health advisor Shaina Roy, right, guided Jaydon Kinuthia ’23, left, through the dental school application process.
Emmanuelle Oliveira ’10, ’12 originally applied to medical school the year after getting her master’s degree in biotechnology but got rejected because, at the time, most medical schools did not accept her DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. Oliveira, who immigrated from Brazil at the age of 13, never lost hope and recently got accepted to the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. Throughout her journey, she relied on the Pre-Health Advising program for guidance.

“None of this would have happened if there wasn’t a Pre-Health Advising program,” she says. “It tremendously increases the odds of us getting into these schools, because we’re more prepared and we have someone to talk to that understands the process.”

Jaydon Kinuthia ’23, who enrolled at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, agrees.

“The advisors always guided me in the right direction,” the biological sciences alum says. “Having their encouragement really shaped me into a strong applicant.”

Biological Sciences Chair Peter Gaines says he feels “sheer pride and joy” whenever a student or alum gets accepted into a health professional school. Gaines, who formerly served as the director and sole advisor for Pre-Health Advising, keeps in touch with former and current members of the program.

“It’s a thrill to be able to get these students to see their successes,” he says. “We are watching them grow to be outstanding health professionals.”

In addition to the Pre-Health Advising program, UML recently launched a new pre-medical/pre-health option in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences, as well as a pre-physician assistant option within the exercise science major.