A recent medical school graduate gives UW-Eau Claire high marks. And she’s speaking from firsthand experience.
Alyssa Walker, a 2012 UW-Eau Claire biology graduate who received her medical degree this past May, credits UW-Eau Claire for preparing her for the rigors of medical school. As a member the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Class of 2016, Alyssa was among an impressive group of medical students, many of whom attended elite universities.
“I felt very well prepared for medical school,” Alyssa says. “At first, it was definitely intimidating having classmates from Ivy League schools and classmates who had already earned other graduate degrees. However, we all very quickly began to see each other as equal peers, and I really came to appreciate the strong science education I received at UWEC. Through talking with my medical school classmates from larger schools, I also came to see (UW-Eau Claire's) smaller class sizes and one-on-one interactions with professors as unique strengths that many college students were not able to experience.”
Alyssa, a Fitchburg native, also took advantage of the numerous opportunities UW-Eau Claire offers outside the classroom — exactly the reason she initially chose to become a Blugold. An accomplished soccer player in high school, Alyssa wanted to continue competing at the college level. And after visiting the campus, she knew that UW-Eau Claire could offer what she was looking for.
“My decision to go to UW-Eau Claire for college really came down to me feeling like it offered all of the opportunities I was looking for to create a well-rounded college experience, Alyssa says. “I was committed to playing collegiate soccer, but I wanted to be pre-med, try out new activities and have social time too — a combination I knew would be harder to accomplish at the Division I schools I was looking at. When I came to UW-Eau Claire for a visit, I knew it was a place where I would be happy. The campus was beautiful, the city was a great size for me, and the people I met both on the soccer team and on campus were awesome and down to earth. All of the great impressions I got on that first visit turned out to hold true!”
A four-year member of the Blugold women’s soccer team, Alyssa also pursued a number of other interests, including taking special classes as part of the University Honors Program. The smaller, discussion-based Honors classes appealed to Alyssa, who also enjoyed exploring topics that the professors were “extra-passionate” about.
“The Honors Program was another one of those “small” things that UWEC did that made it stand out against other universities,” Alyssa says.
Alyssa, who also completed minors in Spanish and chemistry, has found that her ability to speak Spanish has made a dramatic difference in her interactions with patients.
“I began working with a student-run free clinic through my medical school that serves uninsured members of the community,” Alyssa says. “In this particular clinic, the patient population is predominantly Spanish-speaking, and when working I frequently act as a translator during medical encounters. By communicating in their language I am able to better understand and address their concerns, as well as put them more at ease, all of which I have seen lead to improved overall care.”
Alyssa recently started her obstetrics and gynecology residency at the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, North Carolina. The OB/GYN field incorporates many of her interests: surgery, women’s health, public health and long-term patient-physician relationships that can span a woman’s lifetime.
“Whether I’m delivering a baby, learning how to perform a new surgical technique or counseling a woman in the office, I feel I am doing something every day that makes me happy and makes a tangible impact on women’s lives,” Alyssa says. “I’m thrilled to be doing my residency (four years of on-the-job training) in western North Carolina, and hope to later return to the good ol’ Midwest to practice general OB/GYN closer to home!”
In reflecting on her years at UW-Eau Claire — and a more recent visit to campus, Alyssa is thankful for the opportunities and experiences the university offered her.
“I cannot say enough good things about the amazing faculty, coaches and mentors I had the opportunity to learn from at UWEC,” Alyssa says. “As a testament to just how awesome they are, when I had the chance to spend one of my clinical rotations back in Eau Claire, I stopped into Phillips Hall and not only was remembered by faculty there, but had some great conversations catching up. I also ended up being given a tour of the new Davies Center, complete with coffee, a medical-student must, by one of my former professors! The support and teaching that I was given throughout my four years has impacted me greatly and I continue to see the impact of my college experiences in each new stage of my medical training and life. No matter how many miles I travel, without fail, Eau Claire and UWEC always feel like home to me.”
Top photo caption: Alyssa Walker, a 2012 UW-Eau Claire biology graduate who received her medical degree from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health this past May, prepares to assist during a surgical procedure as part of her residency in North Carolina.