Hands-on learning for pre-med students May 24, 2023 Biochemistry and biology- pre-med emphasis major Payton Jorgenson shadowed Marshfield Health System doctors and physician’s assistants in Marshfield, observing rotations in family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, neurology and pediatrics. Five University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students spent a portion of their time between semesters recently observing diagnostic procedures, lab techniques and surgeries at Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield. Nothing quite replaces the opportunity to watch medical personnel and physicians on the job for students interested in studying medicine. Thirty-three years and nearly 500 students later, the Winter Preceptorship remains a transformational hands-on learning experience for undergraduates. Starting with sophomore year, students in pre-medical and pre-physician assistant programs interested in working in medicine may apply to the pre-medicine Winter Preceptorship in the Department of Biology. Through a competitive application, selected students then choose to shadow in three different sites in the Marshfield Clinic Health System. Biochemistry and biology pre-med emphasis major Payton Jorgenson shadowed Marshfield Clinic Health System doctors and physician assistants in Marshfield, observing rotations in family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, neurology and pediatrics. The team made it possible for him to observe a range of patient care, from a newborn infant to care for seniors. “Getting to see the relationships developed by the physicians in my preceptorship made me realize that I might like that connection over time,” said Jorgenson. The program allows undergraduates to take their understanding of human physiology and anatomical structures and connect more deeply with experiential learning in a medical setting. They can shadow doctors, nurses, medical students and other medical professionals across a range of specialties. Jorgenson most enjoyed the relationship-based care he witnessed in primary care. The timing was ideal for him as he applied to the medical program at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) in Wausau one week after his UW-Stevens Point pre-med preceptorship. He was working on research in a chemistry lab in the Chemistry Biology Building when he got the MCW acceptance call in May. Biology pre-physician emphasis major Hannah Panitzke came to UW-Stevens Point from southern Minnesota, specifically for training in the Department of Biology’s physician assistant program. She enthusiastically took notes during her preceptorship training experience and said the medical providers explained procedures to her well, including a heart value replacement surgery she observed. During her fall 2022 semester, Panitzke completed the prerequisite human physiology course before she was accepted to the Winter Preceptorship. Having familiarity with some of the medical terminology helps the students in their understanding as they shadow various medical providers. Biology pre-physician emphasis major Hannah Panitzke came to UW-Stevens Point from southern Minnesota, specifically for training in the Department of Biology’s physician assistant program. Emeritus Professor Sol Sepsenwol, biology, was involved in the first 24 years of the program. He said this rare opportunity for UWSP students allows them to understand the skills they will someday use and gives them access to working medical professionals. “The physicians treat them like first-year medical students. It gives them a model to aspire to,” said Sepsenwol. Associate Professor Jennifer Bray, biology, took over coordination of the program in 2014. She tells every prospective pre-professional medical major about it, both for the breadth of the program and for what the preceptorship experience reveals. “They learn what they don’t like pretty quickly,” Bray said. The Winter Preceptorship resumed with a smaller cohort, after a two-year lapse during the pandemic. Students selected preferences among dozens of medical specialties at the clinic’s Marshfield, Wausau and Weston locations. To wrap up the experience, students submit a final paper about a medical technique or condition they encountered that impacted them, earning two credits. Panitzke said she gleaned a deeper understanding by being able to apply into a hospital setting what she learned over several semesters. Panitzke observed the work of healthcare professionals at the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield and in the Weston clinic’s Radiology Department. “Just connecting the dots—I loved it,” Panitzke said. “I think the more I showed interest, the more they were filling me in.” It might have even set her on an altered career course. As she observed the role of the anesthesiologist in surgeries, Panitzke said she appreciated the responsibility that came with it. UW-Stevens Point graduates who were also involved in the pre-med preceptorship have gone on to health care careers, filling needs in the region. At Marshfield Clinic’s Wausau location, three current practitioners completed the program as UWSP students. A total of 145 students took part in the preceptorship since 2003 at Marshfield Clinic’s Marshfield site. Several medical students, physician assistants and a radiology physician have followed their passion for medicine after their UWSP preceptorships. The observations students can glean from area medical professionals is impactful, building on the skills and confidence in what undergraduates have learned in their academic programs. “The classes that I took were very critical in building the basis of my studying for taking the MCAT for medical school, allowing me to be a competitive applicant for medical school directly out of my time at UWSP,” Jorgenson said. The pre-med preceptorship provides specific insights from across the medical field. As he prepared his final paper for the preceptorship, Jorgenson shared what he learned about patient care in modeling what he saw, how he strives to be a servant to others. Learn more about the Winter Preceptorship program here.