An alignment of people and situations conspired to persuade Sarah Dodd to enter medical school – a combination Dodd realizes not every student at Colorado Mesa University is lucky enough to find.
Her first break came with a job during her undergrad years as a gastrointestinal technician at an endoscopy practice where she absorbed a full range of medical experiences from assisting with procedures to watching the diagnostic process and seeing both good and bad news delivered. It was there she realized that her plan to become a nurse was turning into a dream to become a physician.
“I can look back and see that my life forked right there,” she says. “I decided I liked being the person who made the plan. You need a whole team of people to carry it out, but I liked putting it together like a puzzle. I wanted both the intellectual challenge and the caring role. I liked the mix.”
Then there was a supportive college biology teacher who helped guide her studies. But he advised anyone in the health sciences including veterinary science, dental medicine and physical therapy, not just pre-med students. “He did his best but for lots of different specialties.”
When she entered CU School of Medicine’s rural health track, Dodd, who went to high school in Grand Junction, decided to try to find a way to help other western slope students learn about medicine.
That’s how her capstone project Western Colorado Rural Health Scholars came to be. Students interested in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy are provided with volunteer and shadow opportunities are given the chance to participate in review courses for entrance exams and take part in mock interviews.
“In the rural health track we already have a number of projects working with middle and high school students,” Dodd, 25, a member of the Medical Student Council and the Admissions Committee, says. But she realized that once they got to Mesa University “a lot of people are actually lost. They can’t get access to medical school information. They don’t know what to do.”
Dodd’s efforts to help other students also extended to initiating the School of Medicine’s first student organized scholarship, awarded to students for outstanding service to the school, class and/or community to help offset medical students’ increasing debt.
“We wanted to send a message that we care about debt enough to do something ourselves,” Dodd says.
After her residency at the Mayo Clinic, she hopes to return to western Colorado to practice anesthesiology. She chose that specialty because of the variety it offers in a small town practice including delivering epidurals, managing chronic pain, providing palliative care. She also likes being part of a surgery team with everyone working toward a goal.
“I like to be the one to say to the patient ‘I will be watching you the whole time.’”