Numerous students walk in and out of Marguerite Degenhardt’s office, in room 208 of the Kroehler Science Center, in any given week.
As North Central’s pre-professional health program coordinator, she is the main resource for students seeking help to prepare themselves for careers in the health field.
In fact, students were quick to take advantage of the pre-health advising service when Degenhardt first took on the position in January 2011.
“From the start, students came to ask for appointments to see what we could do,” Degenhardt said. “There was interest from the beginning.”
Overall, declared interest in pre-health has been growing at North Central.
Of the students who have made commitments to the college for the fall 2012 term, 12.5 percent indicated an interest in pre-health sciences, according to Director of Admission Martha Stolze.
In addition, Stolze said that although more incoming students in fall 2011 came in as “undecided,” the biology major comprised the largest group of students who did specify an academic interest. Biology is one of the most popular majors for undergraduate students preparing for further education in the health sciences.
With the increasing interest in pre-health sciences at North Central, Degenhardt fills a need at the college by taking over a responsibility that was previously left to full-time science faculty members who may not have had the first-hand experience working in a clinical health setting as Degenhardt has done.
She has been involved in the nursing profession for more than 30 years, working as a neonatal nurse practitioner.
In addition to her clinical experience, she has spent more than 15 years in advising, directing and teaching at nursing programs for different universities.
Most recently, she spent six years at Rush University before bringing her talents and expertise to North Central, where she serves students who would like to pursue a broad range of career paths.
“Students who come to see me have a wide variety of interests,” Degenhardt said.
“The top five are medicine, physical therapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physician assisting. I’ve also been working with nursing, dentistry, and nuclear medicine technology students.”
Degenhardt is also the adviser to the college’s Pre-Health Organization. PHO provides students with opportunities and resources to prepare them for careers and continued studies in the health field.
“As adviser to the Pre-Health Organization, Marguerite Degenhardt is an invaluable resource for all students seeking information and guidance regarding post-undergraduate studies in all areas of health, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physician assisting, and many other fields,” said Becky Kirk, ’13, vice president of PHO.
PHO organizes a number of unique opportunities for students, including a speaker series with North Central alumni in the health profession, other practicing health professionals and representatives from health science universities.
Degenhardt’s involvement in promoting and developing the pre-health sciences programs at North Central also goes beyond her advising duties.
This past summer, she worked with a group of students from the Premier Scholars program, a summer bridge program for incoming high school students who were interested in the health sciences.
Earlier this year, she met with 16 prospective North Central students on a special pre-health visit day in January.
All of these efforts were designed to reach out to incoming and prospective students who may wish to pursue careers in the health field.
What’s next on the agenda for Degenhardt? “We’re hoping to establish articulation agreements with (health science) programs,” she said. Degenhardt explained that three articulation agreements have been accepted and are pending full approval.
Degenhardt may be involved in a number of pre-health initiatives, but she emphasizes that her focus is on one-on-one interaction with students to work out a plan that will help them meet their goals.
After nearly one and a half years of working as a pre-health advisor at North Central, she has appreciated the relationships formed with members of the North Central community and looks forward to the possibilities for pre-health moving forward.
“I feel warmly received,” Degenhardt said. “Everyone has been really supportive, and I think there is a lot of opportunity for future growth in the health sciences here.”