Nutrition sciences offers perfect route to medical school
By Bob Cunningham
Alanna Meadows always knew she wanted to go to medical school, but she wasn’t necessarily interested in taking the traditional route by majoring in biology or chemistry.
Bowling Green State University’s nutrition sciences program tipped the scales in its favor according to Meadows, along with its supportive faculty.
Meadows is graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science on May 4 before enrolling in medical school at Ohio University, where she plans to obtain a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
“I decided to go the nutrition sciences route because I have a passion and a love for food and I feel like that connects people,” said Meadows, who grew up in Blacklick, Ohio, east of Columbus. “I also feel that nutrition is something that will help give me a different perspective as a physician. I feel like it affects every aspect of your life so I wanted to study that, and it ended up being the perfect path to medical school for me.”
Meadows credits the faculty at BGSU and research opportunities for helping her achieve success and pushing her toward her goals.
“I’ve had a lot of support in the food and nutrition programs, especially from faculty mentors Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy and Dr. Dawn Anderson,” she said. “I’ve been able to do research with them and they have always pushed me to be my best and excel, be innovative and think creatively and do well in classes.”
She also cited her adviser in the the Office of Pre-Professional Programs, Clare Spathelf, as a major resource. Spathelf assisted in Meadows’ pursuit of medical school by helping schedule classes and serving as a sounding board.
Meadows visited BGSU several times before officially choosing the University, and always was happy to return because of the friendly vibe on campus.
“I was always drawn back to BGSU because the faculty and the staff and everyone I met on Preview Days were always so supportive,” Meadows said. “I felt like they truly cared about me — even though I hadn’t yet picked BGSU. I also could see a lot of potential for myself as far as opportunities, and I knew there were a lot of good things happening at BGSU. I could see myself stepping up into leadership positions and having a lot of different platforms to grow.”
After Meadows picked BGSU, she received even more support through several programs.
“I got a head start through the AIMS (Academic Investment in Math and Science) program,” she said. “It’s a four-year scholarship program, geared toward females and people of color who are pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. I did a four-week summer bridge program, which is one thing that got me ahead right off the bat.
“...they have always pushed me to be my best and excel, be innovative and think creatively and do well in classes.”
“I was here for basically the whole month of July. I came here with a cohort of 20 students and we took mock classes and got to meet faculty members ahead of time and get used to campus before actually matriculating and participating in fall semester. That was one of the many things that exceeded my expectations at BGSU, the immediate support I got even before I stepped on campus as an official student.”
Once her freshman year started, she was able to hit the ground running and participated in research with a graduate student.
“We looked at bacterial presence on common surfaces at bar and grill restaurants in Bowling Green,” Meadows said. “We swabbed several things at the restaurants, then went back to the lab to see what kind of bacteria grew. We were looking to see if it was the type of bacteria that lead to foodborne illness.”
Meadows said her collegiate highlight was serving as president for two years of the student organization MEDLIFE, which is dedicated to service worldwide in the form of medicine, education and development.
With MEDLIFE, Meadows traveled to Peru and Nicaragua for separate weeklong volunteer abroad experiences during winter breaks. She volunteered at mobile medical clinics and rotated among several medical stations from dentistry, OB-GYN, triage and pharmacy.
“You get to work at all those stations and provide medical services for people of those countries in addition to working on a development project,” she said. “That’s been one of my main leadership roles on campus, and I just loved it.”
Meadows’ experiences abroad helped solidify her career ambitions of working mainly with urban communities.
“It’s something I have a real passion for,” she said. “I’m still undecided on a medical specialty, whether it’s family medicine or primary care, but eventually I want to work with people who are from low-income communities or who are affected by health-care disparities.”
Some of her other highlights included being a finalist for Outstanding Senior Award, serving on the 2017 Homecoming Court, addressing her peers during the 2015 Convocation and completing the leadership certificate program. She also was on the planning committee for the fourth annual Midwest Pre-Health Conference, interned in the Office of Pre-Professional Programs and was a peer mentor in the Health, Wellness and You Learning Community.
All in all, BGSU supplied a perfectly tailored education for Meadows.
“Because with my curriculum I would say about one-third of it is nutrition and then the other two-thirds is science, which is what you need to get into medical school,” she said. “I was able to incorporate everything I wanted into my major, which was another thing that attracted me to BGSU in the first place. It had the program that I wanted and the track in which to pursue my goals.”