Jordan Scher makes pirouettes look effortless. A 2009 honors graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Scher double majored in anthropology and dance. Her facility for turns came in handy when she decided to take her career in a completely new direction.
“As an undergraduate I took one lab science,” says Scher. But she had always been interested in medicine, and when the California native returned home to work as a medical assistant in a plastic surgery practice, she admired the positive impact the surgeon made on his patients’ lives. “As a dancer I had been thinking about training to become a physical therapist, but learning more about the life of a doctor moved me toward medicine.”
Without a premed background, however, Scher had some catching up to do. “Learning the sciences for the first time is like learning a new language,” notes Scher. A self-described “type AAA personality,” Scher researched programs and moved to Chicago in 2010 to enroll in Northwestern University School of Professional Studies’s post-baccalaureate program in premedicine. “The faculty hold you to the same high standards that traditional undergraduates must meet,” says Scher. “Those were some of the best classes I’ve ever taken, especially Dr. [Barry] Coddens’s organic chemistry course, which truly prepared me for the MCATs.”
Evening classes gave Scher time during the day to volunteer at a community health clinic and direct fundraising for a national organization dedicated to preventing deaths caused by seizures. After completing the certificate program in 2012, Scher took a challenging job as a clinical research coordinator at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Working in a clinical setting,” says Scher, “I see the importance of the scientific mindset I learned in class at Northwestern, the idea of starting with a problem and thinking systematically to a solution.”
Scher’s classmates in the premed program included professional athletes and English majors, but despite their diverse backgrounds, Scher says that many of them had in common a parent or sibling in medicine. “I didn’t have that,” says Scher, who will be the first person in her family to attend medical school when she enters the highly competitive East Coast school that was her top choice. “If you are like me and don’t come from a medical background, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. In fact, it shows that my desire to do this is truly my desire.”