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May 24, 2022

SVSU students accepted into medical school early through partnerships

SVSU students accepted into medical school early through partnerships 

Five Saginaw Valley State University students have taken the next step to become medical doctors through their acceptance into Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine through SVSU’s Early Assurance Program (EAP). 

The agreement allows SVSU students to apply to medical schools the summer before their senior year. Through this program, each college SVSU has a partnership with reserves a certain number of seats for SVSU students. 

The five students accepted into MSU’s medical school for 2022 under the program include: 

  • Shannon Coughlin, a health science major from Frankenmuth 
  • Allison Kowatch, a biochemistry major from Gaylord 
  • Lauren Rice, a pre-health professions major from Bay City  
  • Skyler Steward, a biology major from Auburn 
  • Janae Whyte, a biology major from Pinconning 

Heidi Lang, SVSU pre-health professions advisor, said many SVSU students are driven to serve others through careers in medicine, and the early assurance program is a reward and a relief to the students selected.

“Applying to medical school is a stressful and lengthy process; the students appreciate having this acceptance early,” Lang said. “In addition, the EAP students are invited to participate in enriching experiences with their respective medical schools before entry, which allows them to meet future classmates and gain greater insight into the program,” said Lang. 

Preference is given to students who are the first generation in their family to attend college, graduated from a low-income high school, are eligible for need-based grants, and/or who express and support their interest in a high-need medical specialty area. 

Currently, SVSU has partnerships with medical schools at Central Michigan UniversityMichigan State University and Wayne State University

Below are profiles on each of the recipients: 

Shannon Coughlin

Shannon Coughlin was first interested in SVSU because of how close it was to her home, but over her college career, she’s made SVSU her second home. 

“No other tours came even close to my first college tour at SVSU and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I changed my major a couple times, but I always found a whole community holding my hand and challenging me on every step of my journey,” she said.

The health science major from Frankenmuth has been involved in many different registered student organizations, such as Standing in the Gap, a campus ministry organization; Health Professions Association; and the pre-health mentorship program. She is a founder of the Women in Healthcare, an organization dedicated to promoting the empowerment of women across different medical careers.  

Throughout her time at SVSU, she has volunteered in the local area and beyond. 

“I have spent time volunteering at several COVID-19 testing events with Great Lakes Bay Health Centers, giving out food at Old Town Christian Outreach, helping with a summer camp at the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region, holding donation drives and volunteering at The Underground Railroad, raking numerous yards for the elderly with Standing in the Gap, creating cards for people staying in nursing homes and spending a week in New York serving several underserved populations,” Coughlin said.

Applying for the EAP was proof that having varied campus involvements supported her goals. 

“Anyone in the know will tell you applying to medical school is not just about scores or grade-point-average,” Coughlin said. “SVSU has given me so many great opportunities to be involved and serve others in my community, while gaining valuable skills for my future as a physician.” 

One of the biggest challenges she faced was during the winter semester of 2020: switching to online learning and working through the COVID-19 pandemic at a drive-through COVID-19 testing center. 

“Continuing to learn during online classes was a challenge. Although professors went out of their way to support us in our learning, it was still very challenging to continue to gain new knowledge from home.” 

Coughlin has plans to become a family medicine physician focused on serving underserved populations. 

Allison Kowatch: 

Allison Kowatch, a biochemistry major from Gaylord, has made the most of her time at SVSU. 

“Growing up in a small community, I knew I would want to enroll in a smaller university, which has allowed me to make strong connections with both my peers and professors.” 

As a freshman, Kowatch received the President’s Scholarship. She has served as a pre-health mentor for freshmen, has been a part of Health Professions Association, and was a participant of an Alternative Breaks trip that traveled to Springfield, Missouri, to volunteer with individuals with special needs and disabilities. 

Kowatch has held four leadership positions within Phi Sigma Sigma, a social sorority on campus, and two positions within Phi Delta Epsilon, a pre-medical fraternity. In the community, she has volunteered with many off-campus organizations including Mustard Seed Shelter, Old Town Christian Outreach Center and Hurley Medical Center. 

“One obstacle I faced during my time at SVSU was learning how to manage my time between school, extracurriculars and working night shifts in the ER. I have gained leadership skills throughout my multiple leadership positions, a strong academic platform while inside the classroom, as well as time management skills while juggling school, work, and extracurriculars.” 

Kowatch has worked as a medical scribe at the emergency department of Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, completing the charting for the physicians. She also completed the Rural Pre-Medical Internship Program with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine where she gained interview, shadowing and volunteering experience. 

“Being accepted into medical school means that I can pursue my dream career of being a physician and return to rural communities, like my hometown, to provide care to people who often have limited access to medical care,” Kowatch said.

She is considering emergency medicine or family medicine but is open to different specialties. 

Lauren Rice: 

Lauren Rice, a pre-health professions major from Bay City, initially chose SVSU because it was the most affordable option for her, and her involvements show that the choice was worth it. 

“As a first-generation college student, saving money by living at home and graduating from undergrad debt-free were very important to me when picking a university to attend,” Rice said.

She quickly became involved in a number of programs on campus: she worked on campus as a Club Red tour guide and telerecruiter in Admissions, as a Biology Department research assistant, and a social science and biology and chemistry tutor. She also served as director of public relations for Biology Club, vice president and co-founder of Cake Club and member of Health Professions Association. 

“Being a campus tour guide since my freshman year has had a profound impact on my communication ability and my ability to interact with a wide range of individuals,” Rice said.

“Most importantly, my involvement in four Alternative Breaks has prepared me to be open to new ideas, cultures and people. This is something that will be profoundly important at MSU’s College of Health and Medicine and in my career as a physician.” 

After losing her research mentor and friend Dennis Gray to suicide, Rice leaned on her support system to help her through this difficult time. 

“This was a difficult time for me, but my SVSU community that I built provided me support through this and helped me,” she said

Rice would like to work in primary care with underserved populations in family medicine or as an OB-GYN. 

“My time at SVSU has given me the communication and leadership ability to be able to succeed at MSU’s College of Health and Medicine.” 

Skyler Steward: 

Skyler Steward, a biology major from Auburn, values the support system and connections she made at SVSU. 

“I have made so many connections that will continue for the rest of my life with each of these individuals preparing me for the future with both their experiences and kind words of affirmation,” she said. 

“I am a member of the Health Professions Association on campus where I serve as the pre-medical senator, as well as the medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon where I previously served as the vice president of finance. I have also been a biology and chemistry tutor in the Center for Academic Achievement since my freshman year at SVSU and previously took part in research on campus as well.” 

Steward found her experiences in registered student organizations invaluable to her goal of going to medical school.

“Without Health Professions Association and Phi Delta Epsilon, I would not have understood the process of applying or what to expect throughout my journey,” she said.

When Steward began the process of applying to medical school, her mother and grandmother had both been diagnosed with cancer. She wasn’t sure if she could mentally follow through with the application process, but both family members reassured her that she should not give up on her dreams during their struggles. 

“Both of these women are the strength that I continue to carry with me today and the inspiration behind my aspirations. I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for them,” Steward said.

She is interested in becoming a pediatrician but is keeping her options open. 

“My EAP acceptance reassures my ability to one day serve a rural population facing many similar disparities that I experienced in my hometown growing up,” Steward said.

Janae Whyte: 

Janae Whyte, a biology major from Pinconning, grew up close to SVSU, and even visited campus twice as a child: for a dance recital and for a field trip in sixth grade. 

“I came here because I knew it was a good school,” she said. “I loved the environment and the scholarship opportunities, and tuition rates were better than other schools.” 

In high school, Whyte had a lot of close friends who formed a strong support system. 

“I, like many people, thrive from having a support system to get help from and contribute to. When we all went to different schools, I was alone and was really bad at making friends because I hadn’t had to in so long.” 

Through her major, clubs and other involvements, she made friends who shared her interests and goals. 

“I joined the Health Professions Association my freshman year and Phi Delta Epsilon, our pre-medical coed fraternity, my junior year which both helped me confirm that I wanted to go into the medical profession,” Whyte said.

Whyte also has participated in the Kantzler Fellowship, which provides scholarships and a highly selective four-year leadership program, and has been involved in registered student organizations such as Honors Corp and National Society of Leadership and Success. 

She works as a medical scribe at Covenant Healthcare in Saginaw in the Emergency Care Center, as well as the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

“In my job I have gained invaluable experience in the health care setting and started becoming proficient with medical terminology, which will be of great use in the coming years,” Whyte said.

As a first-generation college student, Whyte appreciated having a support system as she prepared her EAP application. 

“The extra time to prepare for such a big move is very welcome as I have never lived outside of Mid-Michigan and that change is exciting but frightening as well,” she said.

Whyte plans to specialize in pediatrics, either as an oncologist or neonatologist.