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Two students form organization to connect pre-health students nationwide

The National Pre-Health Conference provides students from across the country resources and access to a network of health care professionals during the pandemic


Alexia Childress, co-president of the National Pre-Health Conference, poses for a portrait on the steps of the Biodesign Institute Building on the ASU Tempe campus on Monday, April 19, 2021. 

As university campuses, programs and events were canceled across the nation last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were left with fewer options to connect with peers, professors and those in their field of study.

To counter this, Alexia Childress, an ASU junior studying medical microbiology, and Alejandra Bahena, a junior studying biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, worked to form the National Pre-Health Conference, an event beginning in 2020 designed to help alleviate the obstacles students in health care have faced during the pandemic.

Bahena drew inspiration for the program from the problems she faced during the pandemic such as not being able to meet faculty, conduct research or go to labs or classes in person. 

After Bahena reached out to her friends and presented them with her idea, Childress, one of her childhood friends, showed great interest in both participating and helping facilitate the event. The same year, Childress' cancer research program was cut short due to the pandemic, leaving her without many of the networking and event opportunities that could have helped her future career, she said. Bahena and Childress are now co-presidents of the conference.

“We wanted to create this organization to expand to other people outside of pre-med because there are so many options out there that are similar and not similar to M.D. or D.O. school,” Childress said. “We wanted to have this central event where students from all over the country can hear guest speakers ... to learn about what the application process is and the different career paths they could take in their lives.”

After working throughout June and July to prepare for their inaugural conference in 2020, Bahena and Childress were surprised to have over 1,000 students, faculty and health care professionals attend virtually. After this success, they decided to host an annual conference through their organization each August.

The theme of the second annual conference is “Unity in Healthcare,” and it will take place from Aug. 4 through Aug. 6. The event will feature guest speakers from all over the nation to share their experiences, an opportunity for students to share their research and lectures on personal and professional growth.

Bahena said the organization faced many challenges in making this all happen. 

Alejandra Bahena attends the National Pre-Health Conference. Bahena is a co-founder of the conference.

“One of the main challenges was getting a team that could communicate effectively since we were all in different parts of the country ... another challenge was getting recognition as an organization,” Bahena said. “In the beginning, the conference was first an idea that developed with a small group of students, but we weren't affiliated with any school or any other organizations since it was something independent that we were working on.”

For the upcoming conference this year, Bahena and Childress were able to recruit a team of students from schools across the country. They created an application process and searched for fellow students who matched the goals of the organization.

One of the individuals selected from the application process was Sarah Edmunds, social media director for the conference and ASU sophomore studying biomedical sciences. She said she's enjoyed interviewing people over social media and looks forward to doing more work with the organization in the future.

“This is a great organization and we're trying to help people dip their feet in the water of health care and understand it better,” Edmunds said. “It's a big project, but it’s cool we get to meet people who want to be a part of it, and who are just as motivated as we are to be successful.”

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Lauren KobleyCommunity Reporter

Lauren Kobley is a reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press. She has previously interned with the Fountain Hills Times. 

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