Georgia Tech has a fairly large Pre-Health community, and with that comes the need for an invested and willing pre-health adviser. Since the departure of Andrea Clark, we have been without one until Francisco Castelan stepped in as the new adviser.
Francisco has been in pre-health advising for over ten years, nine of them spent at Northwestern University. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, he double majored in Spanish and Psychology and later obtained a masters degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although he has been at Georgia Tech for only three months, Francisco says he really enjoys being here and getting to know the students. He also states that students have suggested many things that he should do or see in Atlanta and a few even offered to show him around!
When it comes to getting into professional school, Francisco believes in encouraging students to take their own paths and think outside the box. His philosophy is to think of one’s major, research, leadership experience, and other factors as a set of skills and tools to help students later down the road. He also says that starting college is dramatically different from starting high school in that everyone does different things and picks his or her own path.
While at Tech, his long term vision for the pre-health program is to embed pre-health into other resources on campus and to make it available to people of all majors. As an example, he talks about a girl he recently spoke with who loves art, and she wanted to incorporate it into her pre-health experience through a project in class. She came up with the idea of designing and drawing coloring books for children about the importance of hygiene. The idea was very well received and should she choose to pursue this idea further, it would really make her stand out as a medical school applicant. Francisco endorses this approach, and he often helps students find what is unique about them, articulate, and connect it to their passion for medicine in order to differentiate the student from a typical applicant.
He encourages the younger college students to “not do things like everyone else,” and instead think about what they really want to do in life, as a health career is a long-term profession often carried through the entire lifetime. His message to the college students nearing graduation is that it is never too late to pursue a health career if they are willing to be two things: committed and passionate. He gave an example of a student he worked with at Northwestern University who graduated in 2011, struggled GPA wise, and was not sure of what he wanted to do. After obtaining his bachelor’s, the student went on two mission trips and attended a post-baccalaureate program, and he was recently accepted into medical school. With this story in mind, Francisco tells students not to put a timeline on themselves; he even works with people who did not decide they wanted to go into healthcare until after graduating.
Although Francisco supports people of all ages pursuing a career in healthcare, he does want pre-health students to think about their motivations for taking this path. He suggests that pre-health students gain clinical experience, as this gives students a chance to work with people in the community and actually practice in person instead of simply observing others. This also gives more exposure to the diversity of people with whom students will be working in the future. As Francisco points out, “You don’t get to pick your patients.”
With all of this wisdom and knowledge, Francisco encourages students to follow him on his twitter @premedadviser, where he frequently tweets and retweets upcoming events, new advances in healthcare, as well as the latest tips on professional school applications. Students wishing to talk to Francisco can make appointments via GradesFirst or visit http://prehealth.gatech.edu for additional information as well as utilize walk-in hours.