A childhood diagnosis led Abigail Beaver to aspirations in health care. Now the biology major at Youngstown State University is enrolled in the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC, pronounced A-Heck) Scholars program and has her eye on the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine. We sat down with this YSU junior (middle row, fifth from the left in photo) to learn more about how her career goals fit with the AHEC program, which began in 1978 in Ohio to promote primary care practice and educate health professions students about the needs of medically underserved populations.
When did you decide you wanted to have a career in medicine, and what helped you come to this decision?
Abigail Beaver: When I was nine, I was diagnosed with Benign Rolandic epilepsy. Even though I eventually outgrew my diagnosis, I spent years of my childhood going to and from doctor appointments and taking medication. However, I am fortunate that through this experience I discovered my love for the medical field and my desire to help others live a healthy life. Additionally, growing up in Northeast Ohio and shadowing multiple primary care physicians there helped me realize that I love the relationships that form between primary care physicians and their patients. Through my early exposure to medicine, shadowing various physicians, and my family’s support, my commitment to working towards my goal of becoming a primary care physician has been one of the easiest decisions I have made in my life.
The AHEC Scholars Program teaches health professions students how to help underserved populations. How did you learn about the AHEC Scholars Program, and what made you want to join?
AB: When attending NEOMED’s Health Careers Opportunity Summit, I met the center director of Youngstown State University, Maureen Drummond, who is my current AHEC Scholars adviser. She briefly mentioned the program once she discovered that I am a member of the BaccMed program at YSU [a selective, accelerated program for students wishing to pursue a career in medicine], which operates in partnership with NEOMED. I learned more about the AHEC Scholars Program during the conclusion of MEDCAMP Health-a-Thon, and then the program assistant for the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Denise Mead, helped me get in contact with Maureen regarding the program. After hearing about the many opportunities that the AHEC Scholars Program offers – from clinical to experiential to didactic – I knew that this was a program that would help me grow as a person and continue learning about my future career in medicine while collaborating with other health professions.
How has the AHEC Scholars Program helped prepare you for a career as a health professional?
AB: The AHEC Scholars Program has helped prepare me for my future career by allowing me to begin working with various health professions: medical, nursing, dietetics, public health and dental hygiene. Learning more about other health professions allows me to begin taking a more holistic approach when working towards becoming a primary care physician and offering the best care possible to my patients one day.
What has been your favorite part of being in the AHEC Scholars Program so far?
AB: Recently, the members of the Eastern Ohio AHEC Scholars Program had a meeting where we learned how to properly listen to heart and respiratory sounds and take blood pressures. Every scholar received a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer to keep. Jessica Conkle-LaGroux, D.O., taught us how she assesses patients when they come into the emergency room. We were able to practice using the equipment on each other while Dr. Conkle-LaGroux was there to ensure we were using it properly. I truly enjoyed this experience because as an undergraduate premed student, I normally do not have exposure to opportunities like this.
What are your plans once you earn your undergraduate degree at YSU?
AB: I am an early assurance student, so after earning a bachelor of science in biological sciences, I plan to further my education by attending Northeast Ohio Medical University. With my education, I hope to serve as a primary care physician in a rural area.