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Medical career shadowing program receives national award

Posted: Sep 24, 2013

Dr. Michael Pyle, physician and professor in Olivet’s Department of Biological Sciences, has a heart for helping pre-med students. When he wanted to get his students involved in a job shadowing experience, he had to look no further than Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee.

Recently, Riverside’s Silhouette program and Sherri Guertin, director of Riverside’s volunteer services division, received national recognition from the Association of Hospital Volunteer Resource Professionals.

Designed with students in mind

Silhouette is a medical career mentor/shadowing program, based at Riverside, which provides college juniors and seniors with information, encouragement and experiences about healthcare careers. It is designed for those who plan to pursue careers in the fields of pre-med, nursing, physician’s assistant, social work, community health, pharmacy and mental health.

After applying and being accepted to the program, students go through an orientation and list the top three specialties in which they are most interested. Sherri is responsible for recruiting the healthcare professionals to work with them. During a six- to eight-week period, each student shadows his/her mentor for four to 20 hours per week, observing all of the mentor’s activities — including clinic, rounds, procedures, surgery, meetings, lectures and anything else.

The result of the students’ involvement might be to spark even more excitement about a future career. Or it might be the revelation that a particular interest isn’t a good fit for the future.

Confirming a career choice

“I started volunteering in the emergency department at Riverside during spring break of 2013,” says Brian Pickering (senior, biology major, Chebanse, Ill.). “Since then, I have spent about 110 hours there, primarily shadowing the doctors there. This experience helped me to see what it is really like. I learned a lot about interacting with patients and working with many different types of people.

“The most valuable thing about this type of experience is confirmation of a career choice. Throughout the experience, I have asked myself, Is this really what I want to do with my life? I can now confidently say that this is the direction I want to be heading.”

“The Silhouette program gave me a taste of what the medical field is like,” says Alexander Cobb (senior, biology major, Colorado Springs, Colo.). “I will never forget one situation I encountered. I was shadowing Dr. Dong Kim, who was called to the ICU to insert a chest tube into a patient with a collapsed lung.

“When we got to the patient, Dr. Kim led a resident doctor in doing the procedure and kept pushing the resident the entire time. This experience was intense and taught me that physicians daily work under pressure to save lives.”

Both Sherri and Dr. Pyle are committed to continue their work together so that more students will benefit from this program.

“It was nice not to have to build a shadowing wagon from scratch, but rather to hitch our program to the Silhouette wagon that was already rolling,” Dr. Pyle says. “It effectively introduces our students to hospital volunteerism and healthcare professions.”

“I strongly recommend this type of program,” Brian adds. “It’s important for pre-med students to know that they are comfortable working in the hospital environment.”

U.S. states represented among Olivet's student body, as well as 17 countries