Pre-Med Students Gain Remarkable Intern Experience
At Taylor University, the Pre-Medical Program curriculum can be paired with almost any major to work towards a well-rounded medical school application. Along with ensuring academic preparation, Taylor faculty work closely with students to get them a wealth of hands-on experience and network connections to prepare students for their next steps in their career.
For junior Biology Pre-Med majors and twin brothers Austin and Brayden Layton, their internships as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Austin’s shadowing of a Taylor alumnus has significantly helped them towards their goal of attending medical school.
Learning Humility, Side by Side
The Laytons both want to go into pediatric care, with Austin wanting to specialize in general surgery and Brayden wanting to work with pediatric or emergency medicine. Their interests in this extend back to their earliest moments of life. At 15 weeks into their mother’s pregnancy, their parents were told that Brayden’s amniotic sac had ruptured. Fluid was leaking out, and he had a 5% chance of survival, and he also had two knots in his meniscal chord. Miraculously, Austin’s sac moved to cover the tear in Brayden's. They were born two months premature, and it was expected that both would have under a 5% survival rate and multiple complications after being born, but they ended up with none.
The Laytons are grateful for the doctors they had as children, and the twins have now made it their goal to care for others. Their paths have led them to studying Biology on the Pre-Med track at Taylor.
“I chose Taylor because of the amount of opportunities here,” said Brayden. “There’s so much offered to students, even as freshmen, that you can be involved in. Stuff where at a bigger university, you will have to wait till your junior or senior year to even get your foot in the door. Almost all of our [pre-med] students get into med school, which is significantly higher than the national average.”
All medical schools will favor applicants with direct patient care hours. There aren’t many options for undergraduates, but being a CNA is a very accessible one. CNAs provide activities of daily living for nursing home patients, such as assisting with tasks like eating and bathing. Taylor students can earn their CNA license over January Term, which is what Brayden and Austin did as freshmen.
After their freshman year, Brayden and Austin started looking at summer internship opportunities in order to fulfill direct patient care hours. Austin had an internship lined up with the Navy, but it was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Brayden had already found a CNA opportunity at a local nursing home, so Austin decided to join him there. (There is also a nursing home within walking distance of Taylor's campus, and student CNAs can also work there, in the diabetes prevention InVitation Program, and in the cardiac rehab clinic.)
“It was the most humbling thing I've ever done,” said Brayden of his experience working in the nursing home. “I know Taylor's big on loving your neighbor, but I've never been in a situation where that's more evident. It’s not fun or glamorous, but if you weren’t there this person wouldn’t be able to receive the daily care they need.”
Doing the work during Covid-19 greatly changed the job description, as they were working with one of the most at-risk populations. This population was also extremely isolated. Additionally, CNAs have the most constant and direct interaction with residents of any medical professionals working with them. Through this, the Laytons were able to quickly learn bedside manners and patient relationships.
"I couldn’t imagine taking another job with less patient interaction,” said Austin. “It is truly a testament to the plan God has for us and how he places us.”
Beyond the medical side of their internship at the nursing home, the twins gained practical experience such as bedside manner and communicating with residents. Medical school admissions committees look at more than grades, so the twins were grateful for this experience paired with a liberal arts education.
Back at Taylor, they are also involved on campus outside of academics. Both are involved in InVitation. Brayden plays varsity football and does the cardiac rehab program. Austin also keeps busy with Taylor Student Organization leadership, Student Senate, and doing research with the Kinesiology department.
While it leaves little room for break, Austin appreciates the time he gets in student life.
“In that position, I'm helping lead a team, similar to how physicians lead in their ORs,” he said. “You have to know and respect that every person has absolute value, and you cannot provide the best care for your patient if you're not working well on the team.”
A Legacy of Learning
Austin has had more time to see practically how his life as a doctor will look through his summer 2021 internship, between his sophomore and junior years. After his original plan fell through, his professors found a unique opportunity for him.
Taylor alumnus Dr. Jim Strycker has had an internship for a few years where Taylor students can come live with him and his family for a month. While there, the student can shadow him in his family medical practice and walk-in clinic position, and observe his life with his wife, Jennie, and their two young boys outside of the office.
“Both of them are so intelligent,” he said. “Hearing how they communicate with each other and parent their children had me mentally taking notes on how to raise my family.”
Additionally, Dr. Strycker pays for the students’ credits and expenses, and connects the students with other people in the medical world.
“You have internships that are solely focused on learning on the job, but this was a more intimate experience,” Austin said. “I get to see the ups and downs of being a doctor in family medicine while having young kids.”
Austin not only enjoyed the day-to-day shadowing in the office, but also experienced family meals and weekend outings, observed how a Christian doctor balances family life and practice, and particularly enjoyed the deep late-night conversations he would have with Dr. Strycker and Jennie.
“As a Christian in medicine, you have to be careful with how you approach that,” Austin said. “But there are ways to integrate your faith with your practice. Being able to spend an extended period of time with a good Christian man and see how he was able to just love people well, even through very difficult cases, was incredible.”
He is also able to make use of Dr. Stryker’s knowledge, such as how to do well on the MCAT and he has already met with the IU School of Medicine admissions team. Taylor’s Health Professions Advising program has been instrumental in helping both Brayden and Austin move forward in their goals to go to medical school.
Now in their junior year, Austin and Brayden are looking forward to more opportunities in health sciences, and are preparing to apply to med school in the next year. If you're interested in working in the health industry, Taylor faculty will offer guidance in designing your academic experience to prepare for your career. Their passion is to help students achieve their dream of becoming a qualified, compassionate Health Sciences professional.