How Gettysburg’s health sciences program prepared Kathryn Van Pelt ’23 for dental school

Kathryn Van Pelt ’23 examines bone structure
Kathryn Van Pelt ’23 beside an Anatomage Table, a 3D interactive dissection table used by Gettysburg College health sciences students. The Anatomage Tables were made possible thanks to generous gifts from Gettysburg alumni Ray Truex Jr. ’63, P’94, and Gail Seygal ’67.

For health sciences major and chemistry minor Kathryn Van Pelt ’23 of Georgetown, Delaware, Gettysburg provided her the knowledge and experience to pursue a pathway that would enable her to serve others through the field of dentistry. Inspired by her mom, aunt, and grandmother—all of whom worked as leaders in health care—she chose Gettysburg College for its immersive health sciences program, which gave Van Pelt the breadth of knowledge and enduring skills she needed to successfully apply to and be accepted at six dental schools. This fall, she will begin her dentistry studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.

“When I was looking for a school, I wanted it to have a good science program. I didn’t know anything about Gettysburg College at first, but when I toured campus, that’s what sealed the deal for me,” she said. “Everything looked very welcoming, and I liked the feel of everybody I met while I was here. I didn’t just want to be a number in a big class. I wanted to have good relationships with my professors.”

One of the advantages to studying at Gettysburg, she said, is that professors know her by name.

“Health sciences professors at Gettysburg want to set you up for success even before you start applying to medical school with their advising and mentorship,” Van Pelt said. “I wouldn’t have been able to get good letters of recommendation for my dental school application committee letter if I wasn’t so closely involved working with my professors, participating in class, and having small class sizes.”

Kathryn Van Pelt ’23 examines bone structure of the teeth on the Anatomage Table inside Gettysburg College’s Science Center.

Through the Center for Career Engagement and Gettysburg Network via connectGettysburg, the College’s online engagement, networking, and mentoring platform, Gettysburg also offered her experiential learning opportunities that included an externship at Invisian Medical, which operates in the medical device industry in Kansas City, Missouri. In preparation for her externship application, Christopher Bloom Ford, associate director of career assessment and marketing for the Center for Career Engagement, reviewed her resume to help strengthen it, which she found beneficial.

“One of the coolest things I’ve done because of Gettysburg is I connected with an alum, [Invisian Medical President and CEO] Jan Creidenberg ’83,” she said. Van Pelt worked with Creidenberg during the summer of 2021 marketing an innovative device called Minne Ties, patent-pending dental ties for patients who have experienced jaw-related trauma.

“I was part researcher, part consultant,” Van Pelt continued. “I revised some of the surveys sent to practicing surgeons to encourage them to take the survey and give us good data to inform our marketing strategy. I also wrote a research paper (during the externship) about TMJ surgery and the number of surgery cases performed per year.”

By problem solving the company’s dental innovation with Creidenberg and interacting with professionals, Van Pelt realized how her work can make a significant impact.

“I learned to have a better appreciation for how we record data from different cases and how that can be used to apply the information we do have to new technology with the goal of trying to give patients better care,” she said.

The following summer, to fulfill her senior capstone requirement in the health sciences, Van Pelt then worked at her hometown’s dentist office as part of its operations team, which also honed her communication skills. There, she learned and practiced dental tool sterilization techniques, helped with periodontal readings, and shadowed dental professionals as they examined and treated patients.

“I want to leave this earth doing more good than when I came into it. The inclusive environment at Gettysburg makes you so much happier learning and collaborating. … Our little community is irreplaceable.”
Kathryn Van Pelt ’23

It was through her externship and senior capstone experience that Van Pelt recognized the value of building her professional network within the dental industry. Gettysburg College’s Pre-Health Professions Club gave her another opportunity to further her connections with those working in health care.

During her final two years at Gettysburg, Van Pelt served as president of the club, which brings together students considering careers in medicine or an allied health profession. As president, Van Pelt organized club meetings, including guest speaker sessions with alumni in the health care industry, such as physical therapy and orthodontics.

“I’m getting to build my professional identity by doing this work,” said Van Pelt, who first communicated with these alumni on connectGettysburg. “I’m practicing speaking to professionals, managing a club that has 165 people in it, and collaborating with my board.”

As she prepares for Commencement and the beginning of dental school in the fall, Van Pelt said she believes her Gettysburg education will enable her to fulfill a longstanding personal and professional avocation.

“I want to leave this earth doing more good than when I came into it,” she said. “The inclusive environment at Gettysburg makes you so much happier learning and collaborating. There are so many people here who are willing to study with you, hang out with you, talk with you, and surprise you. Our little community is irreplaceable.”

Learn how Gettysburg College's liberal arts and sciences education prepares students for abundant graduate school opportunities, including medical and dental school.

By Michael Vyskocil
Photos by Abbey Frisco
Posted: 04/12/23