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Program Overview

Student Spotlight: Martha Hoffman


martha hoffmanWhat were you doing prior to this program? 

Since college I’ve tried out a variety of fields. I taught kindergarten in Egypt, I worked on a goat farm, and I opened and operated my own coffee shop. All of these jobs were interesting and exciting, but I didn’t feel passionately about any of them and I never felt fulfilled. 

In each of these positions, there were two aspects that I found myself most drawn to. First, the joys of caring for another being- the development of a 5-year-old child, tending to baby goats or baby lettuce plants, getting to know my customers and learn about their lives. And second, the hands-on problem solving- how can I help this student stay focused in class? what is the best way to plant this garden bed to make sure all of the plants get what they need? Which part of the coffee grinder is broken?

What motivated you to begin your path in the health professions?

Shortly after selling my coffee shop in 2015, I went with a friend to visit a dog at an animal shelter. As soon as I walked in the door I knew that I wanted to be working with animals. I applied for a position at the shelter and was hired two weeks later. The job felt natural and all-consuming. I went to sleep thinking about the animals and woke up excited to get back to the shelter.

In December of 2015, we had an outbreak of pan leukopenia (feline distemper) a disease that kills 95% of kittens it infects. With information and support from a local vet, my coworker and I worked overtime tending to the 30 kittens infected. We saved 17 of them, over 50%. I was struck by how much of a difference we could make with limited knowledge of the disease and longed to learn more.

Looking back, it seems obvious that I should have been working with animals all along. As a child, I was very focused on caring for and thinking about animals, I even told people I was going to be a vet one day. Finally, at the age of 32, I’m on my way!

What drew you to attend the U of R’s post-bac pre-health program?

I was drawn to U of R’s program for 3 reasons: 1- it seemed like a program where students would receive a lot of support, 2- it offers the freedom to take the pre-requisites needed for your specific career path, and courses you are simply interested in, and 3- having a cohort of classmates in a similar position, rather than being alone in a sea of undergraduate students, was appealing.

What have you liked about your experience so far?

University of Rochester is a very supportive environment. I have found that the workshop structure of the science courses makes the material more approachable and encourages students to really interact with and think about what they are learning. The faculty is available and engaged despite the large class size, and it’s been easy to get to know them. 

How is your experience at Rochester preparing you for your professional goals?

The classes themselves are in depth and demanding with a focus on applying knowledge rather than regurgitating. In addition to the actual material I’m learning, I think this approach has been helpful for drawing connections between subjects and developing better problem-solving skills.

In addition to your coursework, what other opportunities have you been able to get involved in/take advantage of?

I am currently a workshop leader (U of R’s version of a TA) for an introductory biology course. Teaching has definitely deepened my understanding of the material. In addition to leading two workshop sessions, workshop leaders must take a course about teaching. This course has been extremely valuable for my thinking about group dynamics, metacognition, learning strategies, and the impact of identity and environment on a person’s ability to learn. Tools and theories I’ve learned in this class will be applicable in and out of school for years to come.