Building tomorrow's health care leaders today

For students applying to medical school, experience working in the field is considered a pretty significant advantage.

Just ask our students.

“As an undergraduate student, you aren’t expected to have hands-on experience working with patients,” Melissa Murphy  ’12 explained. “At Gettysburg, we were not only given those opportunities, but we also had the background to understand the context of the health system in our communities, our country—the real world.”

By the time that Murphy had graduated, she had completed two externships through the College’s Center for Career Development and a capstone internship, in addition to the course material necessary to apply to medical school. She had also completed the requirements for her double minor in chemistry and biology, and participated in countless extra-curriculars – like running track and field and participating in a Greek organization.

Almost four years after her graduation from Gettysburg, Murphy has completed her medical degree at Georgetown University and is a resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Murphy was not alone in her experience.


Casey Calkins ’15 describes a unique career culture created amongst students studying the health sciences. Because they are all required to have a capstone internship before their senior year, health sciences majors start exploring their career interests early. This means networking, job shadowing, and completing externships with alums.

“By our senior year, we’ve all had some really incredible hands-on experiences,” said Calkins. Her capstone internship was with the University of Connecticut Health Center, where she worked on Snap for CT, a public health initiative for the greater Hartford area. She has since been offered a full-time position with them, working on their public health and nutrition initiatives.

“There is just this universal respect amongst students in the upper level science classes,” Calkins explained. “We’ve all had these experiences and can contribute to each other’s understanding of the field, no matter how wildly different our experiences were.”

studentsFor Chad Killen ’15, the career culture within his individual major exposed him and other students to the vast and changing nature of the health care field, which has proven to be an asset as he pursues a degree in optometry.

“Not only does it provide a great perspective for us to bring to classroom conversations and coursework, but it also helps us as we prepare for our careers. We can see just how varied the health care professional community really is.”

It is a community that is changing now more than ever.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the health care industry will create over 15.8 million additional jobs by 2022, more than any other sector.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that total health care spending exceeds 17 percent of gross domestic product. And of the 100 largest companies in the United States, 75 of them— including surprises like Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart—are involved in the health industry.


“It’s an extremely dynamic environment,” said Jeff Oak ’82, chief ethics and compliance officer for Bon Secours Health System and a member of the Board of Trustees. “One has to be able to think critically and quickly, be able to work collaboratively, be able to solve complex problems using many different sources of insight. These are all things that a liberal arts model does very well, better than any other type of education.”

More than anything else, it is the varied professional and extracurricular experiences of students like Murphy, Calkins, and Killen, that prepares them for this dynamic environment.

“It’s the most powerful combination: having a technical, marketable skill set with a broad-based, highly transferable education.” Oak said. “At Gettysburg, students don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. They can have both.”

Given the “profound changes” he sees taking place within the health care industry, he thinks that this is the best time for Gettysburgians to make an impact in the field.

“Health care needs more than just practitioners,” Oak asserted. “It needs leaders with a moral center, and I think that is right in Gettysburg’s sweet spot.”

This story was originally published in the Fall 2015 edition of the College's alumni magazine. An unabridged version of the story can be found online.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Kasey Varner, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6806

Posted: Wed, 20 Jan 2016

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