Finding her way

Danielle FordNew health sciences program inspires passion

With a passion for people and for learning, Danielle Ford, a 2011 Drake graduate, says she knew a job in health care was for her.

“I’ve always envisioned myself around people, and what better way to be around people than to help them,” she says. “Plus, I love learning and school. The health care field is always evolving, so I will always be learning.”

Ford entered Drake in the fall of 2007 as a health sciences major — one of the first students admitted to the University in this new major within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. A self-proclaimed “huge advocate” for the program, Ford enjoyed working closely with faculty members who constantly tweaked the curriculum based on the feedback that she and her classmates provided.

“It is not easy being one of the first students in a new curriculum and program,” says Renae Chesnut, associate professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean for student affairs. “Danielle, along with her peers, has helped the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences develop a high quality and reputable program that will be of great benefit to future students.”

Choosing a Path

Built upon the expertise of Drake’s faculty, the interdisciplinary program offers three distinct tracks: health services management, clinical and applied sciences, and pharmaceutical sciences.

Depending on the track students choose, the program will prepare them for medical school, physical and occupational therapy programs, research and lab positions, hospital administration, graduate studies in research and more.

“If students are interested in a health care profession, the major can help lead them in a very specific direction,” says Bob Soltis, professor of pharmacology and department chair of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Administrative Sciences.

A key component to the program’s success is its emphasis on experiential learning. In addition to classroom work, each student in the program completes a two-semester capstone project at an off-campus site. The capstone helps the students connect what they learned in the classroom to real-world situations in their field of interest.

Finding a Direction

The experiential learning opportunities made available to Ford helped her focus on a specific interest area and ultimately helped her decide on a future in health care management.

During the spring semester of her first year at Drake, Ford job shadowed an administrator at Mercy West Clinic. The following summer she held a human resources internship at On with Life, a brain injury rehabilitation center in Ankeny, IA.

The experiences led her to an internship at a small clinic that specialized in spinal injections in Philadelphia. There, she worked closely with the clinic administrator and began working with electronic health records.

“That was a turning point in deciding what I wanted to do,” she says.

Her capstone experience at Pleasant Hill Family Practice solidified her decision. During the year, she helped the clinic update its system of record keeping to an electronic format. She enjoyed the work and found she excelled at it, so she began searching for careers in that area. Even before graduation, Ford had secured a position with a Washington D.C.-based company as a health information technology analyst doing this same type of work.

“The health sciences major provides a lot of opportunities,” she said. “The faculty members really want to help you and support you. People in the community get excited about what you are doing and want to help you too.”

– Elizabeth Ford, JO’07, AS’07

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