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ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship Hosts Virtual Panel for Undergraduates

Last month, undergraduates from universities across the state of Oregon connected in an informational panel presentation about the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship, the first virtual presentation the program has ever hosted. ReConnect Fellows have traveled to the University of Oregon campus to present to their undergraduate Rural Health Club in prior years. A virtual platform’s positive outcome was offering the presentation to undergraduates at all Oregon colleges and universities simultaneously.

An astounding 36 undergraduates participated in the Zoom Webinar, in which alumni Fellows shared their experience and fielded questions from the undergraduate audience. Participants joined in from many Oregon institutions: University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Linfield University, University of Portland, Willamette University, and Pacific University. College pre-medical advisors proved to be great advocates of the program by sharing the promotional information with pre-medical students they advise. All undergraduates who attended the virtual presentation were entered into a raffle to win a Princeton Review Self-Paced MCAT Test Prep Course, paid for by the Area Health Education Center of Southwest Oregon. The winner, selected at random, was a student from the University of Portland.

Former ReConnect Fellows were eager to volunteer as panelists when asked. Panelists participated remotely and were happy to volunteer their evening time to interact with participants and answer questions. ReConnect Panelists included:

  • Michael Graham, Cohort of 2015. Currently practicing as a Physician Assistant at Evergreen Family Medicine in Roseburg, Oregon.

  • Audrey Taylor, Cohort of 2015. Currently a year-three medical student at College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest in Lebanon, Oregon

  • Natalie DeBell, Cohort of 2018. Currently a year-one medical student at UC Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, California

  • Mahtab Brar, Cohort of 2019. Currently a year-one medical student at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland, Oregon

  • Kayla Epperly, Cohort of 2018. Current ReConnect Fellow who is working at Aviva Health while actively applying and interviewing for medical school.

Following the panel presentation, students were asked to complete a short survey about their career goals and their experience participating in the webinar. Many of the undergraduate students who attended indicated that although they hadn’t heard about the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship before the webinar, they are excited to apply for the Fellowship after graduation. Participants were asked the question, “On a scale of 1 (unlikely) to 5 (highly likely), how likely are you to consider the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship for your gap-year plans?” Seventy percent of responses selected a five as highly likely, which is a very good figure for the next recruitment cycle. One participant commented, “It was a very helpful, informational presentation. Before this presentation, I had never heard of the Reconnect Gap Year Fellowship, but now I am interested in applying after graduation!”

One primary objective of the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship is that Fellows will have a positive experience working in rural healthcare and possibly consider working as a rural provider in the future. One of the topics that former Fellows addressed in the panel presentation is what it’s like to working in rural healthcare and providing care for an underserved population. Undergraduate participants asked great questions on this topic and were interested in that aspect of the Fellowship. When participants were asked in the post-panel survey, “How likely are you to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area upon completion of your medical certification,” seventy-five percent of respondents reported “highly likely.” One undergraduate participant commented in the post-survey, “The advice given by former fellows was very helpful. It enabled me to understand what the program is like and how rewarding it can be to serve underserved populations.”

Data points from the post-panel survey indicate that the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship Panel was an overwhelming success. This event has sparked an interest for many undergraduate pre-medical students who are now considering the ReConnect Fellowship for their gap-year plans. Following the presentation, a request was made by the president of the Pre-Med Society at Oregon State University to schedule a similar virtual presentation for their student club in the near future. Former ReConnect Fellows will unite again to offer this experience for the Pre-Med Society in February of 2021.

The deadline to apply for the next cohort of the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship will be March 1, 2021. Between now and the deadline, Program Director, Lacey Ferguson, will continue to connect with undergraduate students to answer questions about the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship and support them in their process of applying to the program. All in all, the virtual presentation was a great success, and we at AHECSW are eager to see who applies for the ReConnect Fellowship in the spring of 2021.

ReConnect Fellowship Alumni zoomed-in remotely to connect with undergraduates in the panel presentation. Clockwise from top left: alumni Audrey Taylor, program director Lacey Ferguson, alumni Mahtab Brar, current Fellow Kayla Epperly, alumni Michael Graham, alumni Natalie DeBell (bottom left).

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