Off to med school: Biology grad readied herself for the challenge at UMSL

by | Jul 13, 2016

Along with her degree, Nicole Dmytryk's efforts in the Pre-Medical Society, Chemistry Club, honors college – and in the research lab – have her prepped for this fall at Mizzou.
Nicole Dmytryk is headed off to med school at Mizzou with a UMSL biology degree and everything she learned from Pre-Medical Society, Chemistry Club, the Pierre Laclede Honors College and undergraduate research. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Nicole Dmytryk is headed off to med school at Mizzou with a UMSL biology degree and everything she learned from the Pre-Medical Society, Chemistry Club, the Pierre Laclede Honors College and undergraduate research. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Nicole Dmytryk was nine years old when she observed neurosurgery for the first time.

“My mom was called into work one day when I was with her, so I went in with her,” says Dmytryk, who is the daughter of an operating-room nurse. “I was sitting in the nurse’s office when one of the neurosurgeons came in and said, ‘Hey! Do you want to see a surgery?’ I, of course, was excited and said yes. So there I was, in oversized scrubs and a scrub cap, watching this surgeon perform brain surgery. He said to me, ‘If blood makes you woozy, just step out.’ I never did.”

That day, Dmytryk says, she fell in love with medicine. She followed that dream to the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology in May. Dmytryk is now off to medical school this fall at UMSL’s sister school, the University of Missouri–Columbia.

“My degree in biology gave me the science background necessary to be prepared for medical school,” Dmytryk says. “UMSL has some of the most dedicated, personable and excellent science professors. Not only that, my classmates were incredible. We really worked as a team at points to help us better ourselves in our field.”

Dmytryk says her favorite course was Cell Biology.

“That class was difficult, but it really made me make connections with the material.”

Studying at UMSL to one day become a doctor may seem surprising since the university doesn’t have a medical school itself, but many students have found earning their pre-med undergraduate degree at UMSL to be an excellent first step to getting accepted into medical school elsewhere. That was Dmytryk’s plan with her biology degree.

“The most fascinating thing to me about the human body is its intricacy,” she says. “There are so many parts to the human body, all of which have to work in harmony in order for the body to function normally. And the human body is so good at doing so. If something happens to go haywire, the body ultimately signals that it needs help. That’s when medicine comes in.”

At UMSL, Dmytryk was a member of the Pre-Medical Society and was secretary for the Chemistry Club. She was also a Pierre Laclede Honors College scholarship student. She combined that funding with her Chancellor’s Scholarship to pay for her undergraduate degree.

When she wasn’t enjoying honors college courses like the Genius of Alfred Hitchcock, Dmytryk was conducting undergraduate research in E. Desmond Lee Professor in Zoological Studies Patricia Parker’s lab. There, she studied parasite-host relationships with mentor and PhD candidate Gideon Erkenswick.

“I mainly observed blood smears of individual primates, Saguinus fuscicollis and Saguinus imperator, searching for blood parasites,” she says. “The main goal of the research is to see if there are unique dynamics between parasites and their hosts, especially because these two hosts are closely related Neotropical primates.”

Outside of her academic responsibilities, Dmytryk’s experience as an emergency room scribe has also prepped her for her future.  In her two years in that position, she discovered possible specializations she might have interest in, mainly cardiology, dermatology, radiology or primary care. But she isn’t ready just yet to commit to any one area.

“Ultimately, I just want to be happy being a physician that my patients come to with their health concerns and put their trust in me to do all that I can to improve their situations,” Dmytryk says. “Building those physician-patient relationships and trust is something that I think the medical field could use more of, and I am excited to start this journey.”

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