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North Central students find their path in health care

Oct 24, 2017

Landing a career in health care takes a solid plan, expert advice and opportunities for experience and leadership. North Central College prepares students for professional training in medicine, nursing, radiation therapy, physical therapy, dentistry, anesthesia assistant and other rewarding careers with extensive pre-health programs.

Students begin by visiting with pre-health program coordinator Marguerite Degenhardt to determine a path. She assists them in choosing a major and mapping out opportunities for training outside the classroom. These include research with faculty, job-shadowing and volunteering for hospice work, among others.

From there the course to a health care career varies from student to student. The students below shared information about their paths to their desired professional schools and careers:


Elaina Bartoli

Majors: Biology, psychology; minor in neuroscience

Career path: Nursing

Outcome: General Entry Master's (GEM) Program in Nursing at Rush University College of Nursing

Freshman: Interests in health-related career and strong math/science background leads to meeting with Marguerite Degenhardt, pre-professional health program coordinator. Biology and neuroscience align with requirements for graduate programs in health fields. Volunteers at a nursing home, shadows doctors and nurses and joins Orientation staff.

Sophomore: Decides to focus career goal on becoming an advanced practice nurse. Adds psychology major and joins North Central’s cheerleading squad.

Junior: Conducts neuroscience research with Dr. Maggie Gill, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, on drug addiction in rats. Presents results at national conference and North Central’s own Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research. Volunteers at Ronald McDonald Family Room at Edward Hospital. Completes graduate school applications. Becomes leader in campus pre-health organization and biology honors society. 

Senior: Studies abroad in Milan, Italy, fall term. Accepted into Rush and Vanderbilt Universities.

Graduate School: Begins GEM program at Rush University in September 2017.

Evan Gallegos

Major: Biology

Career path: Dental school

Outcome: Accepted into Tufts University Dental School (Boston), University of Louisville and University of Illinois-Chicago.

Freshman: Chooses biology major to prepare for dental school and the admission exam (DAT). Participates in Premier Scholars Program prior to classes starting to learn about resources at North Central.

Sophomore: Acquires mentors among professors and students and starts shadowing dentists. Starts meeting with Marguerite Degenhardt, who continues advising him even after graduation.

Junior: Continues academic preparation and participates in research to explore avenues available within dentistry.

Senior: Applies for a master’s program to make dental application more competitive.

Master of Science Biological Sciences program: Chooses to complete a master’s program at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Continues to shadow/volunteer in a Pediatric Medicaid Clinic. Chooses Tufts University School of Dental Medicine “where I am chasing my dream to become a dentist.”

Doctor of Dental Medicine: Enrolls in Dental Anatomy, Gross Anatomy, Biochemistry, Ethics. Plans to treat underserved patients.

Skylar Bayer

Major: Biochemistry

Career path: Certified anesthesia assistant (CAA)

Outcome: Accepted into South University in Georgia.

Freshman: Completes a career quiz and learns about anesthesia assistant. Meets with Marguerite Degenhardt and decides to major in biochemistry. Begins four-year career running on women’s cross country team. Achieves All-Academic honor from College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin throughout running career.

Sophomore: Continues to meet with a pre-health advisor to learn more about career field and graduate schools. Becomes a Resident Assistant on campus.

Junior: Completes shadowing experience at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Decides to focus on pediatrics. Takes GRE exam. Returns to Children’s Hospital after junior year for summer internship.

Senior: A personal injury and surgery leads to firsthand experiences with anesthesia—and provides a story for personal statement and interviews. Gains acceptance into two programs, chooses South University. Begins program one week after graduation.

Amy Frazzini Billo

Major: Exercise Science

Career path: Physical therapist

Outcome: Earns Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Ill. Now a physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy in Shorewood, Ill.

Freshman: Chooses major in exercise science to become a physical therapist. Career inspired by knee surgery in high school and nine months of therapy. Develops love for learning about the human body. Scores first goal for new women’s lacrosse team.

Sophomore: Advisor Kendall Selsky, assistant professor of kinesiology, maps out four-year schedule to achieve dual goals of graduating in four years and participating in soccer and lacrosse. “I could not have done what I did without her constant support.”

Junior: Researches graduate schools and starts application process. Many professors provide letters of recommendation. Earns place on Scholar All-Central Region team for soccer.

Senior: Enters Midwestern University following Commencement, attends three-year program to earn doctorate.

Graduate school/medical school: Participates in shadowing and four clinical rotations. Passes exam in order to practice as a licensed physical therapist.

Kris Bridgeman

Major: Biology

Career path: Physician assistant in orthopedics 

Outcome: Physician assistant (PA) program at Rush University

Freshman: Chooses biology major for science background and to prepare for rigorous academics in graduate school. Shadows a variety of health care professionals at a local hospital to determine career path.

Sophomore: Becomes a Resident Assistant (RA) and attributes the mentoring experience to his decision to apply for physician assistant school. 

Junior: Considers options for graduate school using assistance from Marguerite Degenhardt. “I would not have been nearly as confident in my decisions had it not been for Marguerite and all of her hard work.”

Senior: Voted Homecoming king by the student body. As an RA, hosts program with the Career Development office regarding job-hunting skills. Following graduation, works as a patient care technician at Edward Hospital to gain additional clinical experience. Gains acceptance into Rush University’s PA program.

Graduate school/medical school: Enters 30-month PA program and completes clinical rotations throughout the Chicago area. During advanced clinical year, plans to complete a six-month rotation in orthopedics to specialize.