From left to right Matt Gerrelts, Nathan Ruff and Ashlin Lzalanski work on a science/math problem during a study skills workshop in the Continuing Education Building on the University of Colorado campus. The workshop is part of a pilot program to help students transition onto the medical field.

University of Colorado student Christine Grimm grew up on a farm in Wyoming helping her parents run a horse outfitting business, so it was no surprise when she decided a job in finance just wasn’t going to cut it.

Grimm, 24, graduated with her finance degree in 2008 and after two years in the banking industry she left her job in loans and lending for a receptionist job at an animal clinic in Arvada.

“There was this huge animal deficit,” Grimm said. “I’ve always had animals in my life and I wasn’t ready to give that up.”

Grimm took her Bachelor’s in finance and her change of heart and enrolled in CU’s new Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program — a certificate program intended to prepare graduates for medical school.

Classes began Tuesday for the 12 students enrolled in the pilot program, which provides a one-year intensive science curriculum intended to help those who already hold a Bachelor’s degree in a non-science field transition into the health care industry.

Grimm is hoping her certificate will get her into veterinary school and put her on track to one day own her own clinic where she can use her finance degree to run a business.

Carol Drake, executive director of CU’s Continuing Education, said a $15,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the cooperation of the Arts and Sciences department have made the much-needed program possible.

“There’s an incredible demand for health care professionals in the state, because of so many recent and future retirements,” Drake said.

The certificate is modeled after similar programs at the University of Virginia, University of California at Berkeley and Georgetown University.

Drake said besides catering to medical school prep, the program offers unique assistance workshops in science-specific study habits and keeps the group together for all classes and labs, giving the students a community of support.

“This is a big life decision for these students and the team aspect, ads a certain consistency,” Drake said. “They’re grownups with lives, and experience and this program allows them to can count on getting the classes they need quickly.”

Grimm said she was having a hard time getting into a full chemistry class at CU when she heard about the program, and would have already been a semester behind if she were not accepted into the pre-medical certificate.

Emina Mujezin, 26, was also considering finding her own way into medical school before she was accepted into the program.

Mujezin said the program will provide her with all the necessary resources to help her get into medical school.

“I see this as the full package in one year,” Mujezin said.

Mujezin got an Associates Degree in nursing from Front Range Community College and a Bachelor’s in nursing from CU-Denver. After working as a Registered Nurse for over three years, she realized she wanted more.

Mujezin said after witnessing war in her home country, Bosnia, as a little girl, there was no question the medical field was for her.

“I saw horrible things during the war and a lot of people don’t have the hope, so they say they have god to pray to and doctors to save them,” Mujezin.

And doctor is the next step in Mujezin’s progression toward her ultimate goal of traveling the world to help people in war-torn countries like Bosnia.

Anne Bekoff, associate director of preprofessional advising at CU, said the students are typically above average academically and socially separating them from the typical undergraduate, often still struggling to decide their path.

“Theses students have a substantial amount of life experience and often some good clinical experience,” Bekoff said. “They had a chance to be out in the world and see other possibilities and know this isn’t the right path I’m on and I need to make a change.”

The pilot will continue next year with a second group of students, but Drake said she’s confident that the need for this kind of certificate will extend the program permanently.

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