Blossoming from her small town roots to take a bite from the Big Apple, Saginaw Valley State University’s Hannah Allison plans to enroll this spring in Cornell University’s physician assistant program.
The SVSU December graduate will arrive in March at the Ivy League school’s New York City campus, both with a fresh bachelor’s degree in health science and a passion — present since she was 14 — to become a physician assistant.
“I’ve always known I wanted to join the medical field,” the 2009 Hemlock High School graduate said. “My mom’s a nurse and I love science more than any other subject.”
Allison, who works as a nursing assistant at McLaren Bay Region in Bay City, applied at several institutions. Knowing the tough standards at Ivy League schools, she considered it a long shot to make the final cut at Cornell’s Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, which admits 32 students yearly.
Two weeks after an October interview there, though, she received the good news via a phone call.
“That’s unheard of,” she said of the quick turnaround. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Those exposed to Allison’s academic wherewithal — her SVSU GPA was 3.94 — and professional drive were less surprised by Cornell’s decision.
“I’m so proud of her,” said Rene Hernandez, SVSU assistant professor of health science and a trained physician assistant. “She deserves it. That’s a pretty substantial setting.”
Hernandez said Allison followed an unconventional route for physician assistant prospects by enrolling in SVSU’s health science program rather than a more traditional pathway. The health science curriculum offers more of a clinical perspective for students, she said.
Hernandez said Allison’s acceptance at Cornell provides an endorsement of sorts for SVSU’s health sciences programs.
The news follows a growing trend for SVSU students studying either the health science or hard science curriculums, Hernandez said: “To have that combination of programs is really going to better prepare students for the graduate programs. We are seeing a significant amount of undergrads being accepted into P.A. programs, in and out of the state.”
Allison said that her choice of studies at SVSU may have helped open the gates for her at Cornell.
“With SVSU’s health science degree, I’ve been able to take classes others (in physician assistant programs) don’t,” she said.
Allison said other SVSU opportunities paved the way, including her participation in the student-run Health Professions Association, where she served as vice president.
“It’s a great place for people who are in the pre-health professions,” she said of the organization. “We all come together, and although we have different professions, it’s nice to relate to each other.”
Allison said she’s excited her SVSU opportunities led her to Cornell, where she expects both the 26-month physician assistant program and the sizable city environment — Manhattan’s Upper East Side, specifically — will broaden the view of a student born and raised in a small town.
“In a way, it might be good that I’m not going to be close to home,” she said of the approaching adventure. “That would be easier. This way, it will be an intense two years.”