Charting the Course to Health Careers: Inside RWU’s Transformative Pre-Health Program

Students and alumni are empowered to excel in diverse health professions, with a program open to all majors and tailored to every aspiration.

By Jordan J. Phelan '19
RWU graduate Matthew Kowalczyk works alongside peers to conduct screenings on underprivileged youth in the Caribbean.
Matthew Kowalczyk '22, right, a student at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, was part of a volunteer group that helped conduct tests on underprivileged students at a St. Maarten school to determine their motor skills and development.

BRISTOL, R.I. – In the world of health care, the path to becoming a doctor, dentist, therapist, or any other medical professional is a challenging and competitive journey. For Roger Williams University students, however, this route is illuminated by a comprehensive Pre-Health Program designed to support, guide, and empower aspiring health care providers from the moment they step on campus until long after they graduate.

RWU’s Pre-Health Program, led by Director Jon Albert, combines academic advising, experiential learning opportunities, and dedicated mentorship that prepares students to become well-rounded individuals and compassionate and impactful health care leaders. Since Albert’s arrival in February 2023, he has brought renewed attention to these pathways and fostered an inclusive community through coordinated outreach, campus events, and career fairs. Under his leadership, the number of Pre-Health scholars at RWU has expanded by more than 50 percent.

“Our undergraduate students gain hands-on experience early on that is invaluable for their résumés and demonstrates initiative and practical application beyond coursework,” he said. “The Pre-Health Program assists students throughout their undergraduate career, from Orientation to Commencement and beyond, so we're here to guide you every step of the way."

Many students and alumni credit this new individualized approach as instrumental in their academic achievements, professional growth, and acceptance into prestigious graduate programs. 

Nicole Corey
Junior Nicole Corey

For junior Nicole Corey, a Biology major with a minor in Psychology from Dighton, Mass., her journey into the Pre-Physical Therapy track at RWU was a serendipitous fusion of her academic pursuits and personal experiences. Initially undecided, Corey found her calling after a softball injury led her to discover the transformative power of physical therapy, she said. With Albert’s direction, Corey seamlessly aligned her coursework toward her goal of becoming an outpatient physician and landed an internship with Pappas OPT in Bristol, R.I.

“The Pre-Health Program turns the long-term path to career success into attainable steps," she said. "The many opportunities available encourage you to connect with others who are pursuing similar paths, and Jon is always there to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for what you want to do.”

Matthew Kowalczyk
Matthew Kowalczyk ’22

Echoing this sentiment, Matthew Kowalczyk ’22, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology, credits his current success at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine to the pivotal connections he made at RWU. Kowalczyk's resilience and determination, coupled with the mentorship of Biology Professor Lonnie Guralnick and the guidance of Albert, propelled him toward his dream of medical school where he is now studying to secure a residency in internal medicine and one day work for the State Department, he said.

“Jon has been a great support and advocate for any student who wants to get into medicine," he said. "In my experience, working with students from the start of their academic careers is vital to their success, and his advice ahead of my interviews with medical and [physician assistant] schools last fall was crucial to my success."

Eden Ladouceur
Eden Ladouceur ’23

Reflecting on her experience, Eden Ladouceur ’23, a Forensic Science graduate with minors in Psychology and Chemistry, underscores the pivotal role of the Pre-Health Program to open doors to rewarding research and professional development opportunities. As part of the Pre-Dentistry track, Ladouceur was able to present at Harvard’s National Collegiate Research Conference, and her involvement with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children gave her the chance to educate others about the importance of oral hygiene.

"The chance to conduct meaningful research allowed me to delve into topics I was passionate about, contributing to my growth as a student and a future health care professional,” she said. "Working with Jon kept me on the right path, and it’s super helpful to have one designated person I can contact for anything from application assistance and useful resources to even reassurance about academics and employment.”

The opportunity for learning outside of the classroom is one of the many things that Albert said makes RWU’s programming exceptional. “Being able to offer these courses in a small class-size setting at RWU, while maintaining the diverse resources of a larger institution, is a significant advantage," he said. "Unlike larger schools where undergraduates can sometimes be overshadowed by graduate students in research, our undergraduate students gain hands-on experience early on.”

Another hallmark of the program is its promotion of an interdisciplinary education. At RWU, Pre-Health is a complementary track that students follow alongside their chosen fields of study, which allows them to pursue their passions in disciplines such as Biology, Psychology, or Forensic Science and prepare for their selected health profession. This approach broadens their knowledge base and fosters critical thinking, empathy, and adaptability to prepare them to address the complexities that come with being a physician, Albert said. It also mirrors the realities of health care practice, where teams of specialists work together to provide comprehensive care for patients.

“There's no more powerful combination than having a strong background in the humanities while studying the sciences, because it makes you a better provider," he said. 

Eden Ladouceur poses for a photo alongside her colleagues at Rhode Island Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics.
Eden Ladouceur ’23 poses for a photo alongside her colleagues at Rhode Island Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics.

As an orthodontic assistant at Rhode Island Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics, Ladouceur’s educational background is key to her approach to patient care.

“Being trained across different fields has really made a difference in how I help patients," she said. "Thanks to my Psychology studies, I am able to connect with children, adolescents, and anyone who may be anxious about going to the dentist and work with them to overcome their fears and worries. Digging into the chemistry of our bonding agents has made me think of ways to make treatments more pleasant. And my Forensic Science background helps me grasp dental anatomy more quickly. It’s pretty cool how all these subjects blend together to make my care more personal and effective.”