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BW primary care pre-med program marks 10 years of success


With its first graduates now doing their hospital residencies, BW’s distinctive Primary Healthcare Advancement Program is providing top talent to the medical community.


"I first realized the fragility of life at 10 years old," recalled Sarah Kittelberger '24 of Columbia Station, Ohio. "My three-year-old cousin had gone swimming in a pool without his life jacket. He was found blue and lifeless at the bottom of the pool's deep end. The paramedics performed CPR on him, restoring his life and allowing him to fight the long road ahead.

"The next week, we watched him teeter between life and death. The doctors performed the unimaginable and saved his life when all odds were against him. I knew from then on that I had to repay the effort and do that for another family," she said with heartfelt reflection.

As Kittelberger prepares for graduation next year, she already has her pathway set thanks to BW’s Primary Healthcare Advancement Program (PHAP). She is an aspiring and proud member of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OUHCOM) class of 2028.

Competitive Edge for Med School

For Nathan Katz '17, D.O., it was happenstance that brought him to PHAP as its first enrollee. He recalled stumbling upon it at a BW pre-medical student meeting and being impressed by its broad, holistic and thorough approach to medicine.


With all eyes upon him as the inaugural graduate, Katz set the bar high for success. In 2015, the Columbus, Ohio, native received medical school acceptance at OUHCOM through PHAP’s early assurance partnership. He was a BW rising junior at the time.

Today, the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation resident is entering his second year of training with the MetroHealth System. Also at MetroHealth is Bailee D’Amore '18, D.O., a rising second-year Family Medicine resident who graduated from BW’s PHAP before going on to OUHCOM as well.

"PHAP builds a foundation for aspiring physicians to look at patients holistically, with emphases in prevention, continuity of care and population health," explained Katz.

"It has an impressive public health curriculum that emphasizes the essential epidemiologic subject matters that are utilized every day in medical practice to aid in clinical decision-making. In addition, it offers experiential learning that brings students close to the community we serve in Northeast Ohio," continued Katz.

He went on to say that the foundational anatomy and clinical reasoning courses gave him a remarkable step-up to engage in anatomy courses at medical school, a boost Katz believes gave him a great competitive edge in his medical career.


"Gaining early acceptance into medical school was a huge relief for me," remarked Donavan O’Brien ’23, who is headed to Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) this fall. “It allowed me to focus on my academics, research and campus involvement in my senior year at BW with less stress."

O'Brien doing research at the Cleveland Clinic.

The Toledo, Ohio, native followed his brother’s footsteps in coming to BW. "I was looking for a place with a thriving sense of community that would afford me the best opportunities to get into medical school. BW had an early assurance program with NEOMED that offered a nontraditional, more successful route to medical school.

"The early assurance program at BW is intertwined with the PHAP initiative and the Choose Ohio First (COF) Scholarship. As a recipient of the scholarship and a student on the PHAP track, I had to be a public health major with a biology minor. But honestly, I am glad this was chosen for me because otherwise, I would have chosen a more typical pre-med major, and I do not believe I would have received nearly as much insight into community health and related areas," he remarked.

"Through PHAP, I received academic support and professional development through the STEM Scholars Program. Also beneficial were significant networking opportunities, from which I secured a position as a research student at the Cleveland Clinic," he noted.

"The COF program benefited me in numerous ways. It offered a very competitive scholarship, which was one of the deciding factors to choose BW. As a recipient of the scholarship, I was involved in a success initiative for STEM students that included goal setting and accountability, soft skill enhancement, professional development opportunities, and several networking events. Though my favorite and most beneficial part of the program were the success coaches. My success coach was a pivotal part of my time at BW," admitted O’Brien.

Acceptance and Elation

Under the leadership of founding director Dr. Joseph Yavornitzky for the first nine years, the program is now headed by Nanette Canfield (associate director of Stem Scholars) and Dr. Colleen Nye (associate professor of biology). BW has three partner schools – OUHCOM, NEOMED and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Acceptance allows direct entry into medical school upon graduation from BW.

"Reading the acceptance application was one of the first times I truly felt validated for the countless hours of work I had put into my education," recalled Kittelberger. "I truly do not know where I would be without BW and the Choose Ohio First scholarship. I have the opportunity to pursue my goals and follow a path that may lead to pediatric medicine."

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