Pre-Health & Pre-Vet

Pre-health and pre-vet advisor 
Professor John Morrissey  
(434) 381-6190    
[email protected]

If you’ve always wanted to be a doctor or veterinarian or physical therapist, we can help you pursue your dream. If you think you want a career in medicine or animal science but aren’t sure what kind, we can help you identify the one that’s right for you. Our graduates are in myriad careers, including genetic counseling, drug testing, dentistry, occupational therapy, wildlife husbandry and chiropractic and osteopathic medicine.

Why should you do your pre-professional coursework at Sweet Briar? One very good reason is that our students are accepted to health and veterinary professional schools at more than twice the national average! 

What is the Sweet Briar secret?
Our goal is to make you the strongest, best-prepared candidate you can be. We help you make the most compelling case possible in favor of your admission. 

Our pre-health and pre-vet advising is done by professors, not administrators. That means that in most cases, we will see you in our courses three or four times a week, in addition to those times when you meet with us to consult about your career. When we write your letters of evaluation, it will be clear we really know you. We will speak to your strengths and illustrate the letter with comments from our many interactions with you in class or laboratory. We know from experience that admissions committees highly value letters that speak to your specific talents and abilities.

Our classes are small, so you work closely with your professors. Dr. Kaba Berhanu (right), Class  of 1997, studied medicine at the University of Massachusetts and is now a hospitalist. Recently she was on campus to talk to current Sweet Briar pre-med students. She praised the close, personal attention and feedback she received from her professors. “Having moved from Ethiopia and being submerged in a learning system that was completely different … at times left me bewildered,” she said. “Having professors only a door knock away was a valuable asset.”

Another reason to choose Sweet Briar is the abundance of research opportunities. Conducting research as an undergraduate demonstrates independent scholarly achievement and makes you a better candidate. Sweet Briar undergraduates perform novel, publishable scientific research. Some examples are: 

  • Katie Wood Rea ’01 conducted cancer research with biology professor Robin Davies. Katie went on to become an intensive care nurse and then switched careers to become a drug safety associate at a clinical research organization.
  • Dr. Brieanne Vogler Midura ’01, who graduated from George Washington University School of Medicine, conducted Honors research in chemistry and cancer cell biology.
  • Cara Cherry ’06 conducted more than one year of research on monarch butterflies with professors Linda Fink and Lincoln Brower. Cara received her DVM in 2010 from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and a Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota in 2014.  Cara joined the CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer assigned to National Park Service
  • Abby Adams ’06 studied insect population genetics at Sweet Briar before being accepted at Johns Hopkins University to become a neonatal nurse.
  • Lisa Ruffle ’08, who graduated from SUNY State College of Optometry, sequenced plant genes with professor Janet Steven. 


Talk with our alumnae

Our alumnae tell us they are well prepared for graduate studies. Kendra Hawkins Simpson M.D. ’07, a pediatrics resident at the University of Tennessee, said, “I cannot count all of the times that I have looked back and been thankful for my education ... Especially in subjects like embryology and development and cell biology, where many of my classmates are struggling, I definitely feel that I came in with a stronger background.” 

Lisa Ruffle (left), a Doctor of Optometry, said, “Sweet Briar allowed me to pursue a variety of interests in class, labs, and in my own research ... I went into graduate school with a well-rounded and thorough education.”

When you study at Sweet Briar, you will connect with a network of alumnae who are committed to assisting you. Alumnae physicians and veterinarians welcome SBC students for shadowing or internships.

Dr. Kristy Winstead Anderson ’98 says, “If anyone is ever coming to Texas and would like an opportunity to work in a clinic, I would be more than happy to have them.”

Our alumnae want to see you succeed, and will welcome you enthusiastically to the Sweet Briar family of health care and veterinary professionals.

What are the components of the Sweet Briar pre-health and pre-vet careers program?

1. Advising
In addition to your academic advisor, Professor Morrissey will help you plan the coursework, extracurricular activities and internship experiences necessary to make you a strong candidate for admission to graduate programs in your chosen field.

2. Coursework and major
The specific coursework required is dictated by your career choice and mandated by the professional schools. We will help you plan a course schedule that will allow you to complete your required courses on time.

There is no specific “pre-med” or “pre-vet” major. Although many pre-health career students major in biology or chemistry, you can fulfill your pre-professional requirements in any major.

  • Alex St. Pierre '12 majored in Classics and minored in Biology and Music.  She will attend veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Shanthi Ramesh ’06 completed a French major before attending Wright State University’s School of Medicine.
  • Pediatrician Anne Lombardi Hladik ’01 majored in Physics and Mathematics with minors in Chemistry and Religion. 
  • Dr. Nancy Weigel ’95 majored in Spanish and now practices family medicine. 
  • Kathleen H. Hartman '92 majored in English and Creative Writing before obtaining an M.S. in Animal Science, a D.V.M., and a Ph.D. in Veterinary Medical Sciences. She is a USDA-APHIS aquaculture epidemiologist, investigating diseases of ornamental fish stocks.

3. Internships and Experiences
Shadowing, internships and volunteer work allow you to investigate your chosen career to be sure it is the one for you. Participation in these areas demonstrates your commitment to professional school admissions committees and gives you plenty of experience to draw upon in your professional school interviews. We provide advice, suggestions and contacts to help you obtain this essential experience.

  • Pre-medical students in the SCRIBE program at Lynchburg General Hospital work with emergency room physicians, electronically transcribing their notes.
  • Leslie Price ’11 spent one summer as an intern in a physical therapy practice in Virginia and the next summer as an intern with an occupational therapist in Texas.
  • Jess Franklin ’11 gained experience with marine animal husbandry in the New York Aquarium Comprehensive College Internship Program.

4. Preparation for Standardized Tests
Professional schools require you to take a standardized test for admission. Among these are the MCAT, GRE, DAT, OAT and PCAT, for medicine, veterinary medicine and physical therapy, dentistry, optometry and pharmacy, respectively. We will help you design the best test preparation method for you.

5. The Pre-medical and Health Careers Committee
This committee of faculty members will serve as the panel for your practice interview, which helps you to prepare for the real thing. The committee will also provide input in the letter of evaluation required by many health professions programs.