Between 2013 and 2018, 91% of Cobbers who applied to medical school were accepted. There are 28 Concordia alumni attending the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, with a total of 72 (64 M.D. and eight D.O.) Cobbers currently attending medical schools throughout the United States. Of the 78 students who are in the UNDSMHS class of 2023, 10 are Cobbers: Collin Asheim ’18, Ann Marie O’Connell ’18, Kirsten Bokinskie ’19, Peter Bueide ’19, Erin Eidsness ’19, Mikaela Herberg ’19, Wyatt Lautt ’19, Michael Solc ’19, Luke Teigen ’19, and Nadia Toumeh ’19 – making up nearly one-seventh of their class.

We asked a few of them – along with Dr. Julie Rutherford, associate professor of biology and director of the health professions program – to share about the pre-med and medical student journey and how they believe Concordia helped prepare them for their medical paths.

Tell us about your experience so far at UNDSMHS and how you believe Concordia helped prepare you for the intensity and pace of med school.

Collin Asheim ’18
Major/Minors: Biology; Chemistry, Psychology, Religion

In medical school, a lot of information is rapidly thrown at you. I would equate the amount of information received each lecture to approximately a quarter or a third of a semester’s material in undergrad – sometimes more. The study habits formed from the rigorous classes at Concordia have definitely helped with the transition from undergraduate to medical school. We were used to studying hard at Concordia, so coming here and having to do that every day isn’t as much as a learning curve in that regard.

Anatomy at Concordia prepared us in the sense that much of what we are currently doing in medical school is what we’ve already done at Concordia. Because the information is very familiar, that frees up a significant amount of time to study other material that we haven’t seen before. This gives a significant edge for students from Concordia since there are many students who enter medical school never having seen a cadaver before. Additionally, having the Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) was tremendously helpful in the application process as it gives you a very strong letter that encompasses every area of your involvement and work at Concordia. Furthermore, several medical schools accept the committee letter as being equivalent to two or three; so, this can reduce the need to gather letters of recommendation if that is a barrier to you.

Kirsten Bokinskie ’19
Major/Minor: Biology/Chemistry

My experience at UNDSMHS has been great but not easy. While the content and expectations may feel overwhelming at times, I’m more amazed by the feeling of community created by the students, faculty, and staff. Concordia definitely prepared me well for medical school in many aspects. A strong foundation in scientific knowledge is very important in order to manage the large amount of information we are expected to retain, and Concordia provided me with that. Other aspects vital to the medical profession include cultural competency, empathy, and strong communication skills, which Concordia prepared me well for also. The pace and intensity of professional education are definitely greater than that of undergraduate education, but the high expectations set at Concordia were essential in better preparing me for success at this next academic level than other undergraduate institutions would have.

Mikaela Herberg ’19
Major/Minor: Biology/Chemistry; Credo Honors

Medical school is like trying to drink water from a fire hose: There is so much information being given to you and there is only so much that you can take in. Navigating my first block of medical school at UND was by far the hardest thing that I have ever done. I was challenged in ways that I had never been challenged before, but I am a firm believer that I could not have handled the challenges that were set before me as well as I did without the firm foundation that my Concordia College education gave me. I am grateful to Concordia for many things: the caring faculty, the exceptional courses they offer, and the support they give their students every step of the way.

The past eight weeks, however, I have been exceptionally grateful to Concordia for teaching me how to study. Concordia challenges its students to go beyond what is taught in the classroom and to think outside the box. Concordia teaches students to look at the issues that are presented to them from more than one perspective. Concordia teaches students to not only get the “answer” to a problem but to understand the meaning behind that answer. I believe that these skills are crucial, not only in the world of medicine but in all areas of life. It is so important in this day and age to not be satisfied with one perspective, one answer, and one way of viewing the world. It is necessary to look at all perspectives of a situation and to push yourself to gain an understanding that will allow you to become the most responsibly engaged individual that you can be. I believe that it is this mindset that Concordia instills in all of its students that has allowed me to adjust to the pace and intensity of medical school so far. I am so excited to continue to use what Concordia has taught me to navigate my way through the next four years and the rest of my life. 

Wyatt Lautt ’19
Major/Minor: Biology/Chemistry

My first year of medical school so far has been incredibly challenging but also rewarding. Concordia prepared me by instilling in me a work ethic and desire to learn. Dr. Julie Rutherford is the pre-med advisor, and she genuinely cares about each student and wants to see them succeed. She does everything that she can to help them get where they want to go. The Cooperative Education in Medicine program is a chance to shadow healthcare providers in various fields. It allows you to get an inside look at multiple professions, so it can help you decide what field you want to go into. More than 100 hours of shadowing is required for the co-op, which also counts as a four-credit course.

Luke Teigen ’19
Major/Minor: Biology/Chemistry

The expectation in medical school is to learn much more on your own. With this being said, the strong structure and teaching labs at Concordia prepared me tremendously for anatomy lab in medical school, which is not as guided as it was at Concordia. Having the cadaveric experience in combination with Dr. Rutherford’s teaching has arguably allowed me to be more prepared than some of my peers. Concordia has done a great job preparing me to succeed academically and professionally in medical school.

Nadia Toumeh ’19
Major/Minor: Biology/Chemistry

We just got through our first block of medical school and these past 10 weeks have been an intense time of figuring out how to adjust to many different aspects of learning. Up until now, our curriculum has consisted of participating in the cadaver lab experience, working with the same group of people on a different clinical case each week, attending lectures on topics ranging from biochemistry to clinical skills, and much more outside of the classroom. Our medical school class is full of supportive individuals who are willing to go above and beyond to help each other out. I don’t think I could have gotten through this first quarter of medical school without the support of all of my classmates. There are many things that I still need to learn when it comes to knowing what to pick out to study when tons of information is thrown at me, but I have to keep reminding myself to take it one step at a time. Taking care of my mental and spiritual health has become more important to me than ever during medical school.

For every day that goes by while I’m at UND, I become even more grateful for just how much Concordia College prepared me for medical school. My professors taught me how to be a critical thinker, which is an indispensable tool for many aspects of medical school. More specifically, Dr. Rutherford’s Anatomy and Physiology course equipped me to be familiar with many of the topics that we go through both during anatomy lectures and lab. Each Concordia professor I had taught me how to work hard to solve problems as they arise, rather than just be presented with the correct answer. My liberal arts education exposed me to disciplines that are outside of the realm of science, which is a crucial aspect of being able to navigate patient care. Although I miss being on Concordia’s campus every day, I know that it gave me the tools necessary to succeed as a medical student at UND.

Dr. Julie Rutherford
Associate professor of biology; director of the health professions program; director of the post-baccalaureate pre-medical program

Why do you believe in Concordia students?

That’s a broad question. What’s not to believe in, though? We have students who are hard workers, dedicated to making a difference in this world, and with goals that extend beyond themselves. So many of these students want to be advocates for social justice, or educators to those who don’t have access to proper health information, or providers to those who are underserved/underprivileged. These students aren’t pursuing this career for the money. They’re pursuing it because it’s what they feel called to do. It makes it pretty easy for me to believe in them.

What do you believe differentiates Cobbers from other students in the medical school application and admittance process?

That’s harder to answer, as I don’t sit on those admissions committees who discuss these students – but I have been told that for the Cobbers, the admissions process is simply more transparent in terms of the committees knowing what they are getting. Part of that is due to our letter process and the thoroughness with which we present each student. Part of it is that their personal statements are well-written. And probably most of it is that our students are everything I listed above and, on top of those characteristics, they are articulate and able to explain those above goals and desires during an interview process. I’d like to be able to say that our curriculum is such that our students always crush the MCAT and that is a huge help to their applications, but there’s way too much variability in MCAT outcomes to say that, so I won’t. I also think that the schools that already have our Cobbers (e.g., UND, UMD, U of MN) all know the quality of what they are getting and that these students know how to study, know how to drink from the fire hydrant, and know how to think critically. That makes all future applicants something of a “known entity.”

Learn more about Concordia’s new post-baccalaureate pre-medical program

Published October 2019