Pre-Med Process at Washington Prepares Students for Success


A rigorous premedical committee process at Washington College helps students identify and achieve their goals for medical, dental or optometry school.

Grant Thomas '24 and chemistry professor Anne Marteel-Parrish pose in the campus garden during the chemistry honor society induction ceremony

Grant Thomas '24 and chemistry professor Anne Marteel-Parrish pose in the campus garden during the chemistry honor society induction ceremony.

Like many students entering college, Grant Thomas ’24 wasn’t sure what he wanted to do at first. He took advantage of Washington’s liberal arts curriculum and explored courses in a variety of fields: economics, anthropology, music, sociology. 

But he knew leaving high school that he liked chemistry and he was good at it, and that was his major. During his sophomore year, Anne Marteel-Parrish became his academic adviser, and Thomas credits the Frank J. Creegan Professor of Green Chemistry with helping set him on a path that now has his full interest and commitment: medical school.

“She kind of guided me in the right direction,” Thomas said. “She has been awesome in really vouching for me and making sure I’m having a positive experience and have the things I need here. She has been a role model.”

Thomas noted he has a robust support network, and Marteel-Parrish has not been his only influence, of course. Both of his parents are physicians, and as a lacrosse player who suffered a foot injury that took him out of the 2023 season, Thomas has gotten to see firsthand the work of orthopedics and sports medicine doctors as well. In fact, one of the reasons he chose to attend Washington College was that the lacrosse coach talked with him about the academic science program as well as the athletics program during recruitment season.

But as a member of the faculty committee for the interdisciplinary pre-med program at Washington, Marteel-Parrish helped give Thomas the structure to achieve his goal to become a physician. At the beginning of the 2022 fall semester, she advised Thomas to find an internship for the summer between his junior and senior years. And he delivered.

“He is a student who, once he has made up his mind, he just goes full speed,” Marteel-Parrish said. In the case of his internship search, that led to Thomas earning a place at the University of Maryland’s Nathan Schnaper Intern Program in Translational Cancer Research. “It’s a very prestigious internship. Not many students get it. I have been at Washington College for 19 years, and I don’t remember having a chemistry major going through this specific program in cancer research.”

In addition to being a prestigious internship, it is also Thomas’ top choice for medical school and offered the most complete program of any he found. For 11 weeks this summer, Thomas will get research lab training, work on cancer drug research, shadow clinical oncologists as they treat patients, and attend networking and social events.

"I couldn’t find a single other internship that had this diverse range of opportunities and was tied to a highly regarded medical school,” Thomas said. “And the mentors in the program are so highly qualified. That really drew me in.”

Thomas is aware that he needs all of these experiences, and more, to be a competitive candidate for medical school, and Marteel-Parrish and the pre-med committee have played a role in not only communicating what is necessary but helping Thomas and his fellow students participating in the committee process figure out how to achieve it all: internships, shadowing, research experience, community service, leadership roles, a high GPA, and high MCAT scores. 

“It is tough for the students to do everything they need to do to put their best foot forward,” Marteel-Parrish said. But the multi-disciplinary pre-med committee helps students navigate the expectations and criteria for admission to medical schools (as well as dental and optometry schools) while at Washington College. “Having a premedical committee is a huge strength at Washington College. We help students figure things out. Students, you are not on your own here.”

In addition to rigorous coursework and thorough advising, students in the pre-med program go through a lengthy review process that includes interviews and written essays and considerable, unflinching feedback from the committee. 

All that hard work pays off, and Thomas is just one example. Last year, everyone who went through the interview process earned admission to at least one medical school of their choice. The five-year rolling percentage of successful admission for students who go through the committee process is currently 89 percent, according to Phil Ticknor, coordinator of the pre-health professions programs at Washington. Washington offers separate tracks for other health professions, in addition to the pre-med committee that prepares students who want to be medical doctors, dentists, podiatrists, or eye doctors.

“In a typical application cycle, we are working with seven to 14 students and alumni who go through committee," Ticknor said. “Between the completion of their premedical file, the spring committee interview and review process, their initial summer applications, and their subsequent secondary applications, interviews, and admissions, our direct and personal involvement in their preparation for applying to and interviewing for medical school can last over a year!” 

Thomas recognizes the value, and the rigor, that the pre-med committee process has brought to his own collegiate experience and the work he has been doing to ensure he has the best possible chance of admission to his favored medical school.

“The committee holds you accountable,” he said. “Medical schools want to see you having a consistent engagement with medicine over your four years in school. The committee makes sure you do that.”