Heidi Lang has spent two decades empowering college students seeking careers as medical professionals. Now members of that industry are shining a spotlight on her career guiding prospects at Saginaw Valley State University.
Lang, the pre-health professions adviser at SVSU, received the Father Joseph L. Walter Award for Outstanding Health Professions Advising. The honor was presented by the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, which features members from 12 states.
“I know nearly all of the former recipients, and I am humbled that my colleagues put me in the same caliber as some incredible professionals,” said Lang, who served as president of the association from 2013-15.
She also knew the namesake of the award, giving the honor even more significance to her personally, Lang said. Walter, who died in 2012, was a leader in the pre-health professional industry for decades.
“Father Joe Walter was a trusted colleague and mentor,” Lang said.
Each year, SVSU students are accepted into medical schools, dental schools, pharmacy schools and the like at rates well above national averages. Students and alumni treasure the guidance and support Lang has provided them.
Derek Williams met Lang when he was a biology major at SVSU. Now an optometrist at Great Lakes Bay Health Center in Saginaw, Williams said Lang's guidance as his adviser empowered him in more ways than one.
“Heidi's advising helped me reach my main goal of being accepted into optometry school,” said Williams, who attended the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University after graduating from SVSU in 2014.
“However, what she taught me in the process will impact me the rest of my life. She constantly encouraged me and other students to become involved in the community through volunteering and taking on leadership roles, facilitated me learning how to communicate with other health care providers during the panel discussions she hosted, and helped me develop many professional skills during resume and interview workshops.”
Tyler Sadilek, a biology major now in her third year at SVSU, said she has more easily faced the challenges of preparing for medical school because of Lang's advising.
“Heidi is a shoulder to lean on throughout the rigorous process of applying to graduate school and a smiling face that makes it less overwhelming,” said Sadilek, a Chesaning native.
“Heidi's advising has given me the resources necessary to be a competitive applicant, and I feel as if she goes above and beyond any other adviser to make sure that her students are well prepared for their future careers. She knows what it takes for students to successfully be admitted to post-graduate professional schools, and will stop at nothing to ensure that we get there.”
Lang was announced as the award recipient during a Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions regional meeting March 21 in Chicago. During the gathering, anonymous remarks were shared from the letters submitted by colleagues who nominated her. Those comments echoed many of the sentiments expressed by her students.
“When you talk to Heidi, you feel as if you have her undivided attention,” read a passage from one letter. “She is able to gain consensus in challenging situations and bring people together. She genuinely cares about the community of students and advisors that make up her world and always goes the extra mile.”
Prior to arriving at SVSU in 2012 as a pre-health professions adviser, Lang served in similar roles at Ferris State University, Loyola University Chicago and Michigan State University. She also earned leadership roles both with the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions as well as its national component.