“Pre-health advising is one of the best things at Transylvania. They give you all the tools. You just have to do it.”
Haylea Sweat '09 once roamed the halls of Transylvania's academic buildings. Today, she's roaming the halls of hospitals. A third-year medical student at the University of Kentucky, Sweat is doing clinical work, applying what she's learned in the classroom to the real world.
"It's scary and exciting all in one bag," Sweat says. "People look and talk to you like you are their doctor, which is scary, but really cool as well."
Moving beyond the protected environment of "medical actors," Sweat is practicing medicine for "real people with real problems."
Sweat's academic achievement and dedication have taken her beyond medical school and across the Atlantic. Last July, she and neurologist Greg Jaicha presented the results of a neurology research project on Alzheimer's disease at a conference in France.
Clearly, Sweat is excelling, finding success in and outside of the classroom. She attributes much of that success to her experience at Transylvania.
"I was pleased with the level of preparation I got," Sweat says of her time as an undergraduate, adding that the discipline required to excel in Transylvania's biology program helped her to gain a step on her fellow medical students. "In order to do well in biology at Transylvania, you had to study. In med school you start studying for the next exam as soon as the last exam is over. It was less of an adjustment for me than for other people."
Transylvania also prepared Sweat for the demands beyond the classroom. As a Transylvania student, she worked on a research project with biology professor Belinda Sly that focused on the genetic differences between different breeds of dogs, culminating in a presentation at a biology conference in Atlanta. Transylvania professors also were instrumental in providing Sweat with opportunities to participate in research programs at Duke and Indiana during the summers of her undergrad career.
Today, Sweat is a promising medical student, donning the white coat and gaining clinical experience. Without Transylvania, none of it may have happened. "I didn't really consider pre-med at first," she says. It all started with the recommendation of chemistry professor Jerry Seebach and a promise of pizza at a pre-health meeting. It ended with Sweat finding a field she wants to devote her life to.
Already, she's paying it forward, mentoring UK students who are considering a pre-health field.Sweat hopes to be a face at the university level for some time after she completes medical school, helping others discover the excitement that lies beneath the "scary." Can she do it? Sure—no sweat.