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Liberal studies another path to med school

 In a few weeks, 2011 Purdue University North Central alumna Jennifer Evan of Valparaiso will embark on a new chapter in her life as a student at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Evan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, intentionally took a different route to medical school.

“I was interested in so many things; there were classes that I wanted to take,” she said. “Medicine is, by nature, a field dedicated to humanity. To me, a physician should be familiar with the humanities, which a liberal studies degree ensures. A diverse education will help me better understand and communicate with patients.

“I’ve known for a while that I want to work in a field involving science. I’ve always been intrigued by math, chemistry and biology, but I want direct interaction with people. I am fascinated by psychology, sociology and philosophy. The combination of my interests led me to medicine.”

Evan was a motivated student who earned her bachelor’s degree in three years with a near-perfect grade-point average.

“I push myself and challenge myself to be the best I can be,” she said. “My work ethic was ingrained from how I was raised.”

Her most memorable PNC activities reflect her eclectic interests.

“I was involved in research in chemistry, applying what I was learning in organic chemistry and biology classes,” Evan said. “I enjoyed thought-provoking lectures of Dr. Janusz Duzinkiewicz in a capstone series for liberal studies majors. The class pushed the envelope on what I thought I knew about Western civilization and the philosophies developed over thousands of years that shaped what we as a society ... understand. I’d leave class exhilarated.”

The past year was spent preparing for the rigors of medical school. A clinical internship allowed her to shadow a Chesterton family-practice physician, and she volunteered at Indiana University Health LaPorte Hospital.

These experiences helped acquaint her with medical terminology and procedures and become more comfortable with patient interaction.

“As medical school is rigorous, I have prepared rigorously,” Evan said. “Since graduating, I’ve kept up with health-care research by reading the New England Journal of Medicine and kept up with the pipeline of drugs going through clinical trials for FDA approval.”

Evan is not sure of a medical specialty; she has interests in family practice and neurology.

“Health is one of the basic needs of humanity,” Evan said. “Everyone deserves to live life to the fullest. I want to be part of the field that helps people maintain their health to have a high quality of life. “My passion for biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology will enable me to embrace medical school and guide me with each patient.”

She is one of three Evan sisters who made their way to PNC. Athena graduated in 2009 and recently earned a master’s degree in social work; Lexie is a PNC student, and a brother is in high school.

“My parents raised us to embrace and appreciate the opportunities we are given,” Evan said. “My father was an immigrant, so the importance of taking advantage of education was not lost on us.

“Ambition is a quality I value. My sisters embody similar characteristics that have inspired us.”

At PNC, Evan regularly earned academic honors. She was a member of the Multicultural Club, the Astronomy Club and Physics Club president.

She took home honors in the Portals Literary and Art Contest, and the Hyde Park Forum Speech Contest.

Eager to learn outside the classroom, she attended social science forums.

Evan also tutored about 10 students at area high schools and universities; volunteered at Spring Valley Homeless Shelter in Valparaiso and with Junior Achievement of LaPorte County.

As a summer volunteer at a New York City Alzheimer’s care facility, her most vivid memories were of conversations with a woman who had been imprisoned in a concentration camp.

She’s worked in a Valparaiso dental office since high school.

Evan has simple advice for other students.

“Be involved and take advantage of opportunities that are everywhere,” she said. “You have to take the initiative; it’s up to you to make yourself what you want to be.

“Be proud of your work.”

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