Consider Cost When Applying To Professional School

June 12, 2017

When choosing a professional school, there are many things to consider: location, proximity to family / support system, curriculum style, weather, small town vs city, etc. One very important factor that often gets overlooked is cost. The total debt for the average medical school graduate was $183,000 in 2015 and is expected to increase steadily from year to year.  While most students are simply focused on getting accepted to professional school, it’s extremely important for you to consider the costs of your prospective medical school and for cost to factor into the schools you apply to. In most cases, cheaper means lower quality. Luckily, that’s not the case with medical schools. While each school has its own nuances, challenges and air of competitiveness which can influence performance; for the most part, the education one will receive should be fairly uniform. So there is no need to fear that you are compromising quality for cost when you choose a school from this list. Furthermore, just taking a look at the list you will see that there are several well-known, well-respected institutions on the list. Here is a recently published list of the top 20 cheapest medical schools.  And because we never like to leave our future dentists outs, here is a short list of the most affordable dental schools.

One  way to decrease the amount of professional school debt is to do well on entrance exams and craft a very competitive application so you can qualify for the very limited number of academic scholarships that exist for professional school. Other options  to consider as you plan ahead for decreasing your total medical school costs are:

  1. National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program
  2. Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  3. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
  4. Army/Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
  5. Army/Navy Healthcare Professions Loan Repayment Program
  6. Army/Air Force/ Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program 

These programs are competitive and not guaranteed to remain from one political administration to the next, especially the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. 


Leveraging A Science Degree – Dr. Jeanette Richards Ph.D.

March 14, 2017

Jeanette Richards P&G Pic

I’m really excited about this interview!  One, Dr. Richards is our first non-Oakwood grad being featured and two, her experience highlights the secondary focus of this blog – showing students what options exist outside of medicine / dentistry.  Most times when students with science degrees think about doing research they think of research that still has a clinical emphasis or benefit. Dr. Richards started along this path but was able to translate the skills / knowledge she acquired in undergrad/graduate school to the beauty industry. See her story below…

HEALTHOU: When did your interest in and love for science emerge? 

Dr. Richards: My passion for science must have developed at a very early age.  It seems that I was always curious about living things in my surroundings that were unusual to me and that typically involved insects and unique plants.  By the time I was 8 years old, I had a fascination with ladybugs and was convinced that I could hatch them from ‘jumbie beans’ (brightly colored red seeds with a black spot) which are common in the Caribbean.  While I waited on my glass jar of beans to do something else besides rattle at the back of my sock draw, I moved on to collect live bugs in containers filled with leaves that I hoped would keep them happy and hidden in my school desk, but they were destined to escape in swarms and horrify my 3rd grade teacher.

Fortunately, that curiosity was nurtured early on by my mother Mrs. Vernice Hughes who even with meager funds, bought me tools such as a microscope and scientific books for kids.  My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Henry who believed that 5th grade was the foundation of the rest of your life, helped channel that interest with simple projects that introduced me to the scientific method in an age-appropriate way.

HEALTHOU: What did you major in in college? What led to your decision to pursue that particular course of study? 

Dr. Richards: I majored in biology at the University of the Virgin Islands because I had enjoyed that subject in high school more than any other and believed that would provide a good basis for my career; however once I took General Chemistry in college and survived the first semester of Organic, I was surprised to find that chemistry was equally interesting. hards:

HEALTHOU: Did you ever have an interest in pursuing medicine or any other “typical” science career?

Dr. Richards: I was on the pre-med track when I started undergrad as I had plans since elementary school to become a pediatrician.  The experience that profoundly changed my path began when my organic chemistry professor, Dr. Meledath Govindan asked me to be a part of his research program that focused on application of chemistry and chemical ecology for isolation of bioactive compounds from marine sources.  This was done in collaboration with Dr. Teresa Turner, a marine biology professor who would become one of the most influential persons in my life.  I was 18 years old and felt that I was making a difference at that age and could envision how my small contribution could help advance the knowledge in this area and lead to drugs for diseases such as cancer.  That was important to me because my grandfather was losing his fight with multiple myeloma.  In addition, I had worked at the hospital the year before and while that was valuable, the up-close experience with human suffering was difficult for me.Still, I kept the goal of medical school while I continued to conduct research in natural products chemistry and lipid biochemistry throughout college and trained for both the MCAT and GRE as required by my department.  My intent was to pursue the MD/PhD path until an academic advisor in my junior year helped me to identify what I really wanted to do and that was research.

HEALTHOU: How did you decide to pursue a PhD in biochemistry?

Dr. Richards: Most of the graduate programs to which I applied were pharmacognosy/medicinal chemistry ones because of my interest in drug discovery and biomedical research; however the interdisciplinary biochemistry program at The Ohio State University provided training and research opportunities at the interface of chemistry and biology that appealed to my desire to solve problems with multiple approaches.  I was fortunate to eventually work on breast cancer in a broad-based research group where my particular focus was on biochemical pathways of aromatase and cyclooxygenase regulation.

HEALTHOU: What did you do after graduate school?

Dr. Richards: My advisor, Dr. Robert Brueggemeier was a considerate person who allowed his students to continue to work in his lab during the transition period after grad school which enabled me to figure out my next steps.  For about a year I did a short post-doc focused on gene expression profiling of breast and colon cancer and dabbled in biochemistry lectures for pharmacy students while I explored future career paths.   

HEALTHOU: Oftentimes when students think of pursuing a terminal degree in a scientific discipline they usually think academic or clinically related research.  Did you ever imagine a career in industry during your training?

Dr. Richards: I never imagined a career in industry because I simply was not aware of the disciplines and depth of science involved in industry.  To be frank, there was a stigma associated with industry at least by ‘scientific purists’ that made it seem like less rigorous science and a less challenging path than academia.  I had also been supported by NIH training programs throughout my undergrad and grad studies and was interested in NCI but at the same time the additional 6 to 9 years of post-doctoral positions that would be required in order to be competitive for that or even academia was not enticing to me. Ultimately, I wanted to find a way to make a more immediate difference and pragmatically that led me to industry.

HEALTHOU: How did you land a job in industry?

Dr. Richards: Procter & Gamble has an annual 3-day recruiting conference for PhD students/recent PhD graduates who are under-represented minorities, which provides considerable insight into research careers in industry.  The program FIRST, was my first exposure to the actual science behind each consumer product which was impressive and the engineers and scientists who have thrived in these business areas.  I participated in this conference during my transitional post-doc period which enabled me to meet hiring managers, one of which was a Director in Beauty and that resulted in a day interview in the following month. 


HEALTHOU: What is a typical day at work like for you? 

Dr. Richards: My role is one where I spend more time in meetings and none at all in the lab.  Some other scientists spend more time at the bench which has its advantages.  I interact with people across different functions e.g. product development, legal and also with external academic research groups and business partners.  I spend dedicated hours on Fridays thinking and also reading scientific papers in more quiet time since my work arrangement allows me to work from home that day.  In a typical year I get to travel for clinical studies and to attend scientific conferences in areas such as microbiology and dermatology. 

HEALTHOU: Ok, so you work in industry for Procter and Gamble, what exactly does that mean?  What do you do? What are some projects that you are currently or have worked on in the past?

Dr. Richards: I develop technical strategies and lead multi-disciplinary teams to discover new materials and clinically evaluate potential technologies for next-generation hair and scalp benefits.  Much of what we do involves elements of the drug discovery process including genomics and other molecular profiling techniques, target identification and validation, bioassay development and in vitro analysis in pre-clinical models.  A key difference from basic research is that our work needs to have a business purpose and it is imperative to demonstrate how the work can impact business directions and/or results as soon as possible.

My current program is dandruff, which means that I have responsibility for the development of new materials for future Head and Shoulders™ products.  This has been a fascinating assignment as it requires me to learn about both scalp biology as well as the biology of the fungus Malassezia that lives on everyone but triggers a flaking, itchy response only in susceptible people.  There are several unanswered questions that we hope to resolve.

Five years ago, I led the initiation of a passion project to develop deep technical knowledge of African Ancestry hair, which was a venture I longed to explore as a new hire and continues to be my side project.  This has evolved into a much larger business effort to better serve these consumers of multiple hair textures and address their needs and frustrations.  It has been so rewarding to see the launch of Pantene™ Gold Series and know that my work helped to influence Black hair care and the creation of products to improve the lives of consumers who share both my hair struggles and its unique delights.

HEALTHOU:What tips would you give to a science undergrad student regarding success in undergrad and transitioning to graduate school and the workforce?

Dr. Richards: Practice.  It’s best to uncover what you enjoy and where your strengths lie if you put into practice what you learn in the classroom early on as a student.  Find ways to get internships or other experience in your field of interest that will allow you to take the appropriate time and efforts to determine whether this is something you truly want to pursue. 

I think the types of students who are drawn to STEM fields are often driven and self-disciplined with much of their lives mapped out; however I want to encourage those of you who don’t have a 5 or 10 year plan, who may need a break to assess your options or still have questions about your abilities or purpose.  There may be major obstacles that you have to overcome but if something is your passion, it will be hard to deny that part of yourself or escape your calling.  You owe it to yourself to follow it to success or until the road leads you to somewhere else where your talents can be better utilized.

As you transition to graduate school and beyond, always take time for personal development.  Diversify your skill-set by attending seminars or deliberately taking classes in subjects outside of your area of expertise.  Exposure to different disciplines allows you to make new observations and connections.  All of your experiences, no matter the degrees of productivity will add to who you are as a person and ultimately make you better equipped as a scientist or health professional.

Finally, no matter how much I’ve learned, my best tool remains prayer.  I pray about opportunities that I desire and for God to direct my path, to close doors not meant for me and to open my eyes to His purpose for my life.  In these times where both science and religion are under attack and are often positioned as disparate domains, I hope that you will continue to embrace and engage your faith in God for your best chances of success in your scientific/health career and other aspects of your life.


Dr. Jeanette Richards was born in Dominica and grew up in the US Virgin Islands. She currently works as a Senior Scientist in the Beauty Technology Division at Procter and Gamble. Among many other things, she is an amazing cook, baker and hostess. She credits family support and God’s providence and leading for her success.


Summer Plans – Make some!

January 13, 2017

The pre-health students I have the privilege of advising one on one will hear me say this often, “You must have plans for the summer.  You cannot go home and work for the GAP”. Now, nothing against the GAP, but the point is, they cannot afford to waste a summer in an activity that will not help them develop their application for medical school.  While the GAP may offer a great discount and many other benefits, improving ones medical school application isn’t one of them, so its a no no for the summer.

Basic Summer Plan Ideas By Classification


  • If you’re a freshman who will not have taken General Chemistry 1 and 2 by the end of the current semester , you should plan to take that course during the summer, so you can enroll in Organic as a sophomore and then Biochemistry  as a junior. ( Remember, 1st semester biochemistry is on the MCAT, so you need to set up a schedule where you will be able to take Biochem by Fall of your Junior year.
  • In addition to the course, you need to : shadow, health related volunteer work, short term enrichment program like SMDEP
  • If you’re a freshman who is currently taking Chemistry you should plan to do summer research or  summer enrichment program this summer. My favorite summer enrichment program is SHPEP, but there are many others.


  • If you’re a sophomore who will not have completed Organic Chemistry 1 / 2 by the end of the current semester, you should plan to take that course during the summer, so you can enroll in Biochem in the fall of your Junior year.
  • If you will have to take Organic during the summer, also plan to shadow, health related volunteer work,  short term enrichment program like SMDEP
  • If you don’t have to take Organic, plan to do summer research and incorporate some shadowing also.


  • If you’re a junior, if you have a solid MCAT study plan and haven’t done any research, plan on doing summer research.  Do not plan to do summer research if you are planning to study for and take the MCAT over the summer.  There’s not enough time for both.
  • If you have done some research and have a solid MCAT prep plan, will be taking the test in April / May  and anticipate a good score on the test, you could enroll in research again.
  • If you have done research, planning to take the MCAT in  May / June but aren’t super confident in how you will do, plan for a light summer, that way you can take June, July, August to do some additional studying and retake the test in Aug/Sept if need be. So you could plan to shadow or health related work / volunteering, a mission trip etc.

If you’re looking for summer research now, in January, you’re late!!!  Lots of opportunities have closed, but there are still some available.  The goal is that each of  you will do something productive this summer.  If you are not able to find a summer research program I would suggest taking some courses during the summer to lighten your overall academic load (preferably some science courses) while shadowing extensively.  Below is a list of summer research opportunities.  As stated, some deadlines may be past. 

Suggested Starting Points 
1.  Summer Programs  database Can select by state.

2. Good list that offers a bit of insight into deadlines without needing to look deep into the application.


Lists organized by state

  1.  Another already compiled list of tons of programs. Organized by state.

2.  Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

3.  Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

More Extensive Lists


List with later deadlines  ( Note:  This is a old list of  opportunities from a few years ago, but typically the programs recur and the links remain the same.  What I know is that these programs had deadlines that were a bit later in late January, February and even some in March  So even if the link if outdated, it would be beneficial to look up each individual school’s website and find their program) ( Feb 15)  ( Feb 1)  (Jan 13)   ( Feb 1)  (March 17) (DEADLINE IS JAN. 31, 2015) ( Jan 27th)  (Feb 28) ( Several programs with different deadlines) ( March 1)  (Feb 1) (for students pursuing PhD.)




June 2, 2015

Coming up for air after a long hiatus!  We had an electronic hiatus but face to face meetings with students definitely picked up over the past 3 months and as a result, online posting fell to the wayside.  Definitely plan to work on that for upcoming busy periods.   Look forward to continuing to provide valuable content as you journey towards becoming a healthcare professional.

Senior year timeline and interview questions

September 15, 2014

I had the pleasure of speaking at last week’s OBMA meeting. Heres some of the valuable information you missed.  Dr. Vanterpool and Dr. Moss provided their insights as well!  Please make an effort to attend the meetings arranged for your benefit!

For seniors, your prime focus is getting your AMCAS or AASDAS applications sent out, and preparing for interviews.  Attached you’ll find your tips and some questions for both traditional and MMI type interviews.

OU Fall Timeline – Senior

Feel free to contact us at, with any questions.

Have the best day ever!

August 19, 2014

After  a summer that seemed far too short, WE ARE BACK!!!! Back and excited about the start of a new school year.   HealthOU had the opportunity to connect with some of the incoming Biology / Biomedical Sciences majors and it was fun to see the excitement and anticipation. Wishing you all a great first  day of classes!  Hope its one of the best days of your life 🙂


1.  Start strong.

2.  Study everyday!  Yup, you read that right.  STUDY EVERYDAY!  It will make life immensely easier come test time, if you build daily upon what you learned the day before.  Review everyday after class for your core classes ( at the very least).

3. Don’t forget to have fun!

Next week, after things settle down a bit, we’ll post our fall timelines for each classification, so you’ll know what you should be doing to stay in the game and on track for working towards your goal of professional school.



Financing Professional School

March 5, 2014

You’ve did it!  You’ve been accepted to professional school!  You are one step closer to your dreams!  In the midst of that large acceptance packet, I’m sure there were instructions for filling out your FAFSA to apply for thousands and thousands of dollars worth of student loans.  The truth is, the majority of professional school students fund his/her education with loans without considering other options. While admittedly there are fewer options for “free money” for professional school, ( compared to undergraduate education) there are some.

  1. Federal and State Funding

For decades, the NHSC has offered full tuition benefits in exchange for 4 years of practice in an underserved area after completion of residency training.  These awards are limited to primary care specialities ( family medicine, obstetrics / gyn, pediatrics, internal medicine,  general dentistry) .  Next week, check out this month’s alumni profile to learn about Dr. Kiesha Fraser – Doh and her experiences as a NHSC scholar. To learn more about the NHSC scholars program, visit their website.

List of loan repayment and scholarship programs for medicine

Link to state and federal repayment options for dentistry

2. Military Service

Military service is another popular option, providing compensation for a commitment to serving your country by providing medical care of members of the armed forces and their families. Each branch of the military offers the Health Professions Scholarship program.  See the links below for details.



Air Force

3. Institutional Scholarships

Most professional institutions have money ear marked for scholarships for students with exceptional academic performance or unmet financial need. Consideration for these scholarships is sometimes being done simultaneously while admissions committees are making decisions of who to accept.  These are usually not awards students apply for, but rather, get notified that they have received.  So, how do you qualify for these awards?  Some awards are merit based.  Other criteria for institutional awards vary, but may include: a demonstrated desire to practice in underserved areas, financial need, member of an underrepresented minority group.

Some schools are notorious for providing scholarships to students. For those of you who are preparing to apply this year or next year, you may want to consider these schools as you generate your list of schools to which you will apply.   The University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Vanderbilt school of Medicine, Mayo Clinic are some of the institutions that offer merit based scholarships.  Also peruse this listing provided by USNews listing medical schools that offer  the most financial aid.

4. Private scholarships

There are many organizations will offer private scholarships.  These awards typically do not cover the total expense for professional education, but every little bit counts.  A good place to start is the professional organization for your desired career.

American Medical Association

American Dental association

National Medical Association / National Medical Fellowship     ( see this link as well )

Student National Medical Association

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education

Specific  Organizations and Awards include:

List of scholarships offered by private organizations in the field of medicine:

American Medical Association (AMA)

1. Minority Scholars Award and  Physicans of tomorrow scholarship program

Tylenol Future care scholarship

List of Scholarships from UCI’s financial aid department

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

List of scholarships offered by private organizations in the field of dentistry:

American Student Dental Association:

American Dental Education Association  


List of several scholarshi p offers from

List of scholarships offered by private organizations in the field of pharmacy:

(At first glance this list is outdated and seems useless, but it’s not.  If these organizations gave scholarships last year, they will likely be offering awards for the upcoming year.  The value of this link is that it identifies organizations that are willing to offer funds.  Check the actual websites for the organizations listed to see when the application cycle opens up for 2014 – 2015 awards)

Tylenol Future care scholarship