Elena Haarer; University of Connecticut 2020; Major: Molecular and Cell Biology; Minor: Bioinformatics; Duke University School of Medicine; MD/PhD program class of 2030
To read more about Duke University School of Medicnie, Click here

Why did you choose to pursue a career in healthcare?

There are many careers where you can help people and make a difference in their life. There are many careers where you can build upon your current knowledge base each day and apply newly acquired information. There are many careers with opportunities to learn from others and to teach others. But there are few that have all three, and to me, becoming a physician can encompass all of these aspects that I was looking for in a career.

What were some meaningful extracurricular activities that you were involved in while at UConn?

Doing research in the Campellone Lab, being a Teaching Assistant for MCB 2210 (Cell Biology), and UConn Pep Band

What did you do during your growth year(s) and what did you learn?

I worked at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston conducting research on the epigenetic mechanisms driving leukemic development and progression. In addition to learning new technical skills common to this area of research, I learned a great deal about how to navigate research projects that have a more translational end goal in mind, as well as the importance of knowing which avenues of one's research are worth pursuing and which are not. Boston is a very medically and scientifically stimulating environment to work in; the opportunity to conduct high-impact research, volunteer at Boston Children's, shadow physicians who are experts in their fields, and attend engaging seminars from leading scientists and physician-scientists local to Boston and from across the world made it worthwhile for me.

What advice do you have for aspiring pre-health students?

Choose extracurriculars that you are passionate about, stick with them in the long-term if the option is available, make connections with others involved in them, and keep a record of key anecdotes/interactions you experienced during them — this is essential for conveying your story in any written/oral aspect of an application.

What’s something that you wish you knew when you were in college?

If you feel like minoring in turf grass management, do it! If you feel like starting a campus-wide pickleball league, do it! If you feel like becoming a part-time soccer referee, do it! If you feel like becoming an amateur balloon-animal artist, do it! Basically, if there's anything that you feel like doing, stop putting it off and just do it. If you pursue little or big opportunities like this that you're passionate about, chances are that will make your story unique and set you apart, which will not only help you grow on a personal level but also show others that you have your own interests/goals and are capable of taking action to pursue them.