Pre-Health Specialized Studies ‘20
Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara ‘17
As an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara, Eliana Jolkovsky was a member of an extracurricular club called MEDLIFE (Medicine Education and Development for Low-income Families Everywhere), which gave her the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip to Ecuador and Peru. This experience opened her eyes to medicine, and she decided that she wanted to go on to medical school. Since she majored in chemistry, Eliana knew that there were pre-med classes she hadn’t yet taken, so she began to look into post-baccalaureate programs. She chose Penn’s Pre-Health Programs because she thought it would be the perfect opportunity to “bolster” her academic credentials.
Eliana enrolled in the Pre-Health Programs as a specialized student in the fall of 2018. She says, “One of my favorite things about the program is that they have you take classes that you would in med school, so students feel really prepared.” She admits that having graduated as a chemistry major, she was no stranger to the rigorous coursework that she found at Penn. However, what did stand out to her was the supportive environment that the advising team provided. Eliana says that she was “excited to go to class every day,” which made her work harder than she ever had before, and as a result, she finished the program with a 4.0 GPA. To her, this numerical value is a symbol that “hard work truly pays off,” and she says, “I’m going to keep that with me throughout my career and let it motivate me.”
While enrolled in the Pre-Health Programs, Eliana didn’t just succeed in improving her academic credentials, she also actively participated in extracurricular opportunities. The fall that she began at Penn, she joined the UPENN American Medical Women's Association (AMWA—formerly known as Penn Future Women in Health). Upon attending events that the organization held, she was “instantly enamored by the community of such driven, compassionate woman who were leaders in science and medicine and who advocate for gender equity in healthcare.” The speakers and events inspired her to become more involved. Through the club, she started a tutoring society specifically for post-baccalaureate students who can get tutored by students who have previously taken the class they need help with. The tutoring society became well-utilized by students, and Eliana is proud that it has continued even after she completed the program.
Eliana was elected chapter president of UPENN AMWA in the spring of 2019. As chapter president, she strived to organize events with speakers who would empower her fellow female pre-med students. She also focused on the importance of gender equity and organized an event on transgender health to bring recognition to the importance of inclusion in the medical field. Eliana also organized volunteer opportunities, specifically with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center near Penn, which she chose to partner with because her father is a veteran of the US Air Force. Another opportunity that she is grateful for as chapter president is helping to organize the regional AMWA conference. She says of AMWA, “It’s a great community. I decided it is something I want to be a part of for the rest of my career.” And she is on that path, having been recently elected as regional director for her local AMWA.
In spring 2019, Eliana also became a volunteer with the Academic Associates Program. This program allows students to do medical research and experience the health care environment. She describes her first research shift where she watched doctors giving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to a patient in cardiac arrest. She found this “direct exposure” motivating. “It made me study even harder because, when I was studying, I would think of those patients that I had just seen. It made me envision the end goal and the overall reason that I'm studying.”
It was also through the Academic Associates Program at Penn that Eliana was introduced to its medical director, Dr. Benjamin Abella, who became a mentor to her. “I'm just really thankful for him because he is so passionate about being a mentor. It seems one of his goals in life is to give younger people opportunities and stepping-stones.”
Dr. Abella was also the principal investigator on a project that Eliana is proud to have volunteered for: researching hydroxychloroquine’s role in the prevention of COVID-19. The subjects of the study were healthcare workers with high exposure to the virus. She describes spending day and night in the ICU. “It was quite the experience. It was really taxing, and I was sleep-deprived, but I think it's an experience that only made my desire to become a medical professional stronger.” This March, she was hired as the Academic Associates Program Coordinator and now manages the 12 volunteers in the program and meets with the study teams.
In recognition of her academic excellence and extracurricular initiatives, Eliana received the 2020 Mid-Atlantic UPCEA award for Outstanding Professional, Continuing, and/or Online Education Student. She certainly made the most of her time while attending the Pre-Health Programs and she encourages others to do the same. As she awaits decisions from her medical school applications for fall 2021, her advice to new students is: “Study hard and get good grades because that's very important but also do something else. Get involved in clinical research and then when you get involved in clinical research, take another step; you will be amazed how much you can achieve in just a few years because this school truly has so many amazing opportunities.”