With an undergraduate degree in sociology, Sarah Perou Hermans has always been drawn to people. She’s interested in understanding their problems and also the broader social sphere underlying their lives that connects them with others. But after moving to Chicago after graduating from college, she discovered she wasn’t quite able to find a way to continue pursuing her interests in the way she wanted. She’d considered going to graduate school in sociology, but she’d already realized by this point that she wanted more direct involvement when it came to helping and working with others.
It was an aunt of hers, a surgeon at the University of Chicago Medical Center, who first suggested that she look into a career in medicine. Sarah hadn’t really considered that as an option before, but she quickly realized that a lot of what had drawn her to sociology would also be part of her everyday practice as a doctor. But if the prospect of a medical career immediately seemed the perfect fit, a different sort of barrier quickly arose to stand in her path. She didn’t have the educational background in science required for medical school. Luckily, her aunt had an answer for that one too. She told her about the Graduate Student-at-Large (GSAL) program at the Graham School and how it would be a great way to complete her premed post-baccalaureate.
“I took Biology, Chemistry, and Physics through the GSAL program,” Sarah says. “They were challenging classes taught by distinguished professors and the classroom experience was intense and inspiring. Meeting and becoming friends with UChicago students was also an important part of the GSAL experience for me. They’re very proactive and unique and I developed new perspectives spending time with them.”
Sarah also talks about the resources she was exposed to while a student at the University of Chicago. During her time in the GSAL program, she worked as a research assistant for the Department of Endocrinology and as a project coordinator for the Department of General Medicine, positions in which she provided support over a range of areas, including study development, database design, and interviews with research participants. Not only did the experience grant her valuable exposure into how the world of medicine works, she also found a wonderful mentor in a doctor she worked under. Everything the GSAL program opened up for Sarah was pivotal to preparing her for her next step in life.
“It’s something I noticed during my interviews with medical schools that they appreciated my willingness to challenge myself by pursuing post-baccalaureate classes at UChicago,” Sarah says. “I think a lot of students choose post-baccalaureate programs that are more likely to raise their GPAs, but showing them that I was ready for the rigor and competitiveness of medical school and that I had it in me to persevere through the challenges that are sure to come was more important than just having a perfect GPA. I was accepted into several medical schools and was fortunate enough to be able to select my top choice. I’ll be starting the MD/MPH combined degree program next year at Tulane.”