Health Professions Advising at WWU
What you pursue outside the classroom will be considered by
professional programs along with what you accomplish in the
classroom. It is important to choose extracurricular activities
that you are genuinely interested in and enjoy - not all of your
activities need to be healthcare-related or clinical in nature.
You have the freedom to pursue and grow in extracurricular areas
of your choice and personal interest. Many students migrate toward
activities in the health care field, primarily seeking hospital
volunteer and physician shadow experiences. Bellingham's St.
Joseph Hospital has been able to accommodate some but not all
interested Western students into its volunteer program. The
waiting period to volunteer there can be as long as two years, so
early planning and connection with the hospital volunteer
coordinator is crucial. Other agencies that welcome WWU pre-med
students as volunteers include the Sea Mar Community Health
Center, the Unity Care NW Community Health Center, and a variety
of adult care facilities in the area. Each Fall Quarter, an
"Internship and Volunteer Fair" occurs on campus so that students
can explore and network for volunteer opportunities.
If you are looking for local volunteer opportunities, whatcomvolunteer.org is a great place to start. You can filter opportunities by interest area (including “health”) and find something that fits your interests and strengths. Many students have also become involved with WWU’s Peer Health Educator Program or other Associated Student Clubs.
Finding shadowing opportunities can be challenging. For their
first shadowing experience, students often ask a family friend,
their own physician, or someone with a personal connection to
shadow. This is a great way to get your foot in the door and start
building your hours, generally while home during a break from
school. Make sure you keep track of all of your shadowing hours
and if possible keep a journal about experiences (remember not to
use any identifying information or anything that may violate
If you are pre-med, Western has an agreement with PeaceHealth to offer a shadowing program twice a year, in the Fall and Spring. Make sure you are on the listserv in order to get notified about when applications open for this program.
Research experience is NOT required to develop a strong
application for professional school, but can be a great way to
enhance your application if you are interested. Many opportunities
exist both on campus through individual departments and programs,
and off campus. Contact your major department, or speak with a
favorite professor about undergraduate research.
Research and student leadership experience are examples of areas where applicants have demonstrated personal growth and broad interests. Keep in mind, if you have a job while a student, your work commitments may restrict your time available for extracurricular activities. Professional schools generally recognize this and take it into consideration. Find a balance for yourself of interests and commitment so that quality is not compromised for quantity. Doing fewer things better is often more impressive than doing many things haphazardly and superficially.