Many high school students might wonder what a pre-medical path involves at a private institution like Gustavus Adolphus College. The story of recent graduate Michael Klajda ’13, who will be heading off to medical school at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) in the fall, paints a picture of the opportunities that are available.
With a degree in biology under his belt, Klajda was awarded the Kenneth Eben Bray, M.D., and Florence Little Bray Scholarship at UMD, which will provide full funding for medial school tuition for all four years.
“I feel truly humbled to be receiving this scholarship. Above all I have my wonderful friends, family, mentors, and professors at Gustavus to thank,” Klajda said.
The University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School has a unique mission to be a leader in educating physicians dedicated to family medicine, to serve the health care needs of rural Minnesota and American Indian communities. In 2010 the school was named No. 1 in the country in percentage of MDs who practice in rural areas and No. 3 in the nation in graduating American Indian physicians. The Bray Scholarship is a merit based award and recognizes students who plan on specializing in family medicine and who wish to practice in rural Minnesota.
“I am very honored to have received the Bray scholarship,” Klajda said. “The commitment of the Bray family to ensure individuals and communities in rural Minnesota have access to quality medical care is a great example of the compassion found in medicine.”
Kladja is a native of Bemidji whose decision to come to Gustavus was based on the strong science programs offered, excellent professors, and strong sense of community at both the college and the town of St. Peter.
Klajda first became interested in medicine during his junior year of high school. His initial draw to medicine was the focus on improving the human condition and educating patients about the science of health. He has immersed himself in the study of medicine by majoring in biology, volunteering in both hospitals and clinics, shadowing a variety of physicians, becoming an ER scribe and taking a very insightful medical ethics course.
Klajda’s desire to go into family medicine comes from his experiences at Gustavus and his time at River’s Edge Hospital and Clinic in St. Peter and Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. As a sophomore, Klajda was one of 16 applicants selected for a competitive January Interim Career Exploration opportunity where students observe for more than 35 hours each week during the month of January.
“While all of my experiences have been influential in helping me decide on medicine, my most influential experience came during January of my sophomore year while doing a career exploration at River’s Edge Hospital and Clinic,” Klajda said. “During my time at River’s Edge I had the pleasure to become acquainted with a middle age man with leukemia. His optimism and positive attitude was truly touching and his story really helped me cement my desire to become a compassionate and caring physician.”
During Klajda’s junior year, Gustavus and Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato partnered to develop a volunteer pilot program in the emergency room. Klajda was one of six students selected to participate in the program.
“I knew he would be a perfect fit,” said Heather Banks, Health Professions Coordinator at Gustavus said. “He has excellent interpersonal skills, he is very approachable, and has a sincere and authentic personality.”
The Mayo Clinic Health System Emergency Department Volunteer program is entering its third year and has become a valuable partnership for both the Mayo Clinic and Gustavus pre-medical students.
Prior to starting Medical School at UMD this fall, Klajda is working this summer in Cass Lake, Minn., as a student extern with an optometrist.
“I am really enjoying the experience and the chance to learn as much about the human eye and its pathology as possible before medical school starts,” Klajda said.
For more information about the pre-medicine program at Gustavus, go online to https://gustavus.edu/careercenter/health/Pre-Medicine.php.
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