MAPS benefits OHIO students seeking careers in health and medicine
Rich-Joseph Facun, University Communications and Marketing
Through an experience with the Ohio University Chapter of the National Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS), Noël Gordon found his passion for working with children and insight into his career path. .
Gordon worked with the Center for Family Safety and Healing, an organization within Nationwide Children’s Hospital, to plan an event to teach pre-health students how to recognize factors of negative childhood experiences (ACEs) in the children. Knowing about these factors can help healthcare professionals identify potential abuse or neglect in children.
“I guess I always knew I wanted to work with children. I just needed to find the right opportunity to be able to actually learn that,” Gordon said.
The event reassured Gordon that she had chosen the right career path at Ohio University. She started college as a computer science major, but found she wasn’t passionate about the subject. Gordon decided to explore the health field instead. Her membership in MAPS, a community of minority students seeking a career in healthcare, made her realize that she didn’t want to be a doctor. Now a psychology student, Gordon plans to pursue a career as a family psychologist.
“Being part of MAPS gave me the clarity to figure out what I wanted to do. After figuring out what I wanted to do, it was a support system to help me get there,” Gordon said.
MAPS serves underrepresented students who are considering pursuing studies in medicine or health professions and provides them with access to a professional network and social support system of their peers in health programs. The organization has different chapters at universities across the country; The Ohio University chapter was established in 2005.
The national organization is geared toward pre-med students, but the OHIO chapter has been adjusted to accommodate all students who want to pursue healthcare careers. One of the largest colleges on campus, Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions offers students a wide variety of pathways to healthcare careers.
“I think it benefits the students a lot. Not only academically, but personally and professionally. It’s definitely an opportunity to network and bond on campus with faculty and opportunities related to the area of study you’re interested in,” said Shannon Nicks, assistant professor and faculty co-advisor for MAPS since 2017.
The Ohio University MAPS Chapter embraces all minority identities – including people of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigrant students, women, and first-generation college students.
“On top of that, having this social network around you that can offer support, not only to the community at large, but also to people you know are underserved and underrepresented, really goes a long way,” said Nicks. “Generally, medicine, STEM fields, and social science fields are underrepresented when it comes to people of color, women, and first-generation college students. If we have more representation and more voice in decision-making, research and practical application around health and improving health and promoting health equity for the future, so I think we can make a lot of progress.
Ohio University MAPS Chapter Co-Chairs Noël Gordon and Jalen Warren have both been involved with the organization for all four years of their college careers. Warren, a senior exercise physiology student, transferred to Ohio University and knew he wanted to join the MAPS chapter.
As chapter co-chairs, Gordon and Warren attend the organization’s district and national meetings. They are able to network and connect with professionals and other MAPS students across the country.
“Being in this position opened a lot of doors for me. It has helped me a lot in preparing for my future and trying to help others who are following similar paths in their undergraduate careers,” Warren said. “My involvement with MAPS has connected me with other national MAPS members who have connected me with countless physicians who are now mentors, professional opportunities such as virtual writing and volunteering, and finally invitations to meetings, conferences and forums that I would not have known about without MAPS.
Warren has also built relationships with deans and faculty members from various medical schools, such as the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, who will further assist him on his journey to medical school.
The organization also serves as a support system for their experience at Ohio University. Students are able to work together and help each other succeed.
“I feel like having an organization like this allows minority students to have community and to feel cared for and welcomed and thought of to try to help them succeed,” Warren said.
“When I’m able to surround myself with other like-minded students who are trying to achieve the same goals, I’m able to follow their tips and advice. We’re able to work together so we can both get to where we want to be,” Gordon said.
MAPS students are also committed to being agents of change in the community. The group often hosts events and volunteer panels to address current issues.
“It’s about a group of students who take it upon themselves to recognize challenges and come up with solutions that they think they can solve,” Nicks said. “When it comes to COVID-19 issues, for example, they took to social media. They have set up social media campaigns to try to encourage appropriate health behaviors around social distancing and mask-wearing among college-aged students. Finding organizations like this with peers who go on this journey together, and with academic advisors who can also help connect them to resources, is really beneficial because it allows them to be set up for success.
Students can access more information about MAPS through the Bobcat Connect website. Stay up to date on organization members and the latest happenings by following them on Instagram @ohio_maps. The group also holds meetings on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.