St. Olaf College | News

Hands-on course wins Minnesota Hospital Association award

Professor of Chemistry Wesley Pearson ’54 (center) and the Fairview Health Services team accept an award from the Minnesota Hospital Association for a St. Olaf College course that provides students with hands-on medical experience.

A St. Olaf College program that provides students with hands-on experience in the field of medicine recently won the Minnesota Hospital Association’s Health Care Career Promotion Award.

The program, titled The Physician in Clinical and Hospital Health Care, is offered each Interim in collaboration with Fairview Health Services. It provides St. Olaf students interested in the medical profession with an opportunity to experience a clinical setting.

Students observe a surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, shadow physicians several days a week, attend lectures, research and present a health care topic of interest, keep a journal of their experiences, and write a reflection paper.

This immersion experience helps students determine whether health science is something they want to pursue.

“We felt the need to help students who are interested in the health profession,” says St. Olaf Professor of Chemistry Wesley Pearson ‘54, who has led the program since its inception in 1999. “I don’t think anyone should go to a professional program like medical school and not be absolutely sure that it’s for them.”

While some students realize that health science is not in their future after taking this course, about 60 percent of participants continue to pursue a career in medicine. Others become interested in the business side of medicine and seek job opportunities in that area.

“This program gives students a real chance to see how medicine is practiced,” Pearson says. “Some may have glorified ideas from TV shows or movies, but this is where they have to observe real people and deal with everyday problems. They’ll ask themselves: how would I treat this patient? How would you resolve the conflicts between patient and physician? Between different cultural medical practices?”