Elise Chancellor finished this semester with an absolute certitude that a career in healthcare is right for her. On top of courses such as Physics II, Biology of Cancer and Medical Ethics, the senior biological science major at Mississippi State University completed 35 hours in OCH Regional Medical Center’s Premedical Shadowing Program. Although, if you ask Chancellor, she would tell you she never felt like a shadow.
“I wasn’t just someone in the background. During a procedure or when they were charting, the doctors would explain why they did something and include me. It was a great learning experience for me and exceeded my expectations,” said Chancellor.
While her personal interest is in psychiatry, Chancellor, and eight other students accepted into the program, rotated between hospital and clinic settings in specialties including anesthesiology, breast health, emergency medicine, family medicine, general surgery, obstetrics & gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics and radiology.
The program has been ongoing for several years after OCH Administration and Board of Trustees voted in July 2015, to create a partnership with MSU’s College of Arts & Sciences in order to help premedical students reach their goals, and at the same time, develop a strong relationship in the event the students may one day return to Starkville to practice.
“Earning a spot in medical school is a very competitive process,” said Dr. Rick Travis, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Mississippi State. “Many factors are evaluated by admissions boards, one of them being clinical exposure through physician shadowing. This partnership offers students around 35 hours of shadowing physicians in varying specialties, which gives students an excellent opportunity to see a physician in action.”
When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, student shadowing was put on hold. In 2021, OCH Board Certified Anesthesiologist Dr. Lance Atchley was asked to help revitalize the program and bring students back for the fall semester.
“I am honored and excited to be a part of this because I see how valuable this collaboration can be, not only for the students but also for Mississippi State University and OCH. Shadowing experience is a vital part of the process for becoming a physician, and I remember how instrumental my shadowing experiences were in helping shape my career,” said Dr. Atchley who serves as the chairman of the program at OCH.
Students interested in shadowing apply through the MSU Health Professions Resource Center and are selected based on merit. Dr. Mary Celeste Reese serves as the Director of the Dr. A. Randle and Marilyn W. White Health Professions Resource Center at MSU and advises all premedical and predental students.
“Shadowing gives students a chance to learn about the daily life of a physician and helps them determine if medicine is right for them,” stated Dr. Reese. “The OCH shadowing program has been an amazing opportunity for our students to gain this clinical exposure. Students who have participated in the program have personally told me the physicians at OCH were so accommodating and offered them invaluable advice about their own medical school journey and experiences. We are very fortunate to have this partnership with OCH.”
Chancellor said in addition to learning about different medical specialties, she was also able to develop a better understanding of what the journey to becoming a doctor looks like.
“This opportunity not only exposed me to different fields within healthcare, but also, they talked to me about my plans for medical school. Dr. Atchley shared with me his story about going through med school and the process of it all. It has made me not just more excited, but I also feel more prepared,” said Chancellor.
“It is my sincere hope that through this program we are able to bolster our relationship with the outstanding premedical programs that MSU offers and become a part of the process to help students achieve their career goals,” stated Dr. Atchley, who graduated with a degree in microbiology from MSU in 2006.
MSU graduates applying to medical school have an average acceptance rate of 41%, which is higher than the national average for public universities. Chancellor is on track to graduate in May 2022 and plans to apply for med school next year.
“As a student, I didn’t know where OCH was before I started the shadowing program, but everyone made me feel very comfortable and welcome,” said Chancellor. “Everywhere I shadowed, they were all like a family. They joked around but were also all very good at their jobs. They were happy to be there with their coworkers taking care of patients, and I’m just grateful to have been chosen to be a part of it.”
OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville offers a full line of specialty services with advanced technology like 3D mammography, 80 slice CT scanner, two hyperbaric oxygen chambers and genetic testing. In addition to the main hospital, OCH operates 12 clinics, a pulmonary and cardiac rehab program, Wellness Connection and rehab services department featuring physical, occupational and speech therapy. Click here to view a full list of the medical specialties at OCH.