Like many of her classmates, Barkha Gurbani entered
her freshman year with her sights set on a career in
medicine. Four years later, she still wants to be a doctor,
but now her heart is set on a slightly different path
— a career in public health.
Gurbani's focus shifted from her anticipated major,
neuroscience, during her freshman year after learning about
the Krieger School's public health studies program.
"I thought it was an awesome concept," the 21-year-old
said. "That inter-session I volunteered in a medical camp
in Budj, India, and realized that even as a doctor there
are medical issues I would not be able to address without
the skills of public health to aid me."
A Fulbright Scholar, Gurbani will receive her
bachelor's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins this
Thursday. She expects to pursue her M.D. and a master's
degree in public health after using her Fulbright grant to
conduct research at the AIDS Research and Control Center in
Mumbai, India, and completing a public service project for
Indian women widowed by AIDS.
Gurbani is one of many Johns Hopkins undergraduates
who will go on to pursue a higher degree. But they don't
necessarily make a beeline for an advanced degree right
after earning their bachelor's degrees, according to Mary
Catherine Savage, director of the Office of Preprofessional
Advising on the Homewood campus.
"They don't always take a direct route, but we are
able to support them — we're ready when they are,"
said Savage, who counsels students preparing for careers in
health and law.
While hard numbers aren't available for the class of
2004, figures from Savage's office for the class of 2003
are an indicator of where the newest Hopkins alums may be
In 2003, 30 of the 994 undergraduates in the schools
of Arts and Sciences and Engineering applied to law school
and 92 to medical school. Nine applied to M.D./Ph.D.
programs with eyes on becoming research scientists. "We are
very well-regarded for sending students on that track,"
Last year, four undergraduates applied to dental
school, a pursuit that along with veterinary medicine is
gaining in popularity on campus, particularly with female
At the School of Nursing, nearly 50 percent of the
class of 2003 in both traditional and accelerated programs
combined stayed in Maryland to work after graduation.
Twenty-two percent of the School of Nursing's baccalaureate
graduates went directly into graduate study, including the
Nurse Practitioner, M.S.N./M.P.H. and Midwifery programs,
all of which are among the most popular programs at the
school. Most of those students are working part time while
attending graduate school.
The class of 2003 weren't the only alumni known to
apply to graduate school last year. Thirty-seven alumni
from other classes returned to Savage's office for help
with the law school application process, along with 60
alumni who applied to medical school.
Whether they take time off or apply fresh from earning
their bachelor's degrees, 85 percent to 90 percent of
Hopkins alums are accepted into the graduate school
programs of their choice in her experience, Savage said.
Like Gurbani, classmates Julia Wu and Wen Shi have a
full plate between now and their first days of medical
Wu, an East Asian studies major, plans on getting her
master's degree at the Mannes School of Music in piano, her
minor, before applying to medical school. "I truly feel
that a huge part of me is music, since it influences what
activities I do, what clubs I join and what I enjoy talking
about," said Wu, who studied at Peabody with Corey McVicar.
"So I felt like it was almost necessary for me to achieve a
goal higher than what I've accomplished so far."
Wu tried to involve herself in music as much as she
could while she was at Hopkins, she said. As a Woodrow
Wilson Research Fellow, she traveled to Taiwan last winter
to spend some time with aborigine tribes to study their
music. She also was chosen this year as one of the winners
of the Louis Sudler Award, given annually to a graduating
senior or fourth-year medical student who does not plan to
pursue a career in the arts but displays artistic
"Music has made me a better listener," she said, "And
I hope I can use that skill when I study to be a
Shi, a Rhodes Scholar, will conduct cancer research at
Oxford University's Weatherall Institute of Molecular
Medicine before starting medical school in 2005 or 2006,
Savage said. "And we always have students taking time off
to teach through AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps," she said.
"Most schools are happy to work with people who have life
For Joan Tycko, a member of the class of 1988,
graduating from the Art as Applied to Medicine master's
program at the School of Medicine has been a long time
coming. As the recipient of this year's prestigious Inez
Demonet Scholarship from the Vesalius Trust for Visual
Communication in the Health Sciences, Tycko sets a great
example for members of the class of 2004 who may try
different paths before finding their calling. Ever since
her days as a biology undergrad, Tycko, 37, says she'd
wanted to do medical illustration, taking art classes
whenever possible to boost her experience and portfolio.
Finally, in 1999, after a lengthy hiatus from art for an
M.B.A. and work in international marketing, Tycko started
preparing full time to enter Hopkins' program.
"When I began classes, my husband suggested I write
down my expectations for the program and my future career,
since it was such a shift from what I'd been doing," said
the former Joan Karr, who is married to Jonathan Tycko, an
attorney and 1989 Hopkins grad. "Of course, with an infant
and a 2-year-old to care for, I didn't do it. Looking back,
I can't remember exactly what I expected the program to be
like, but I'm fortunate that it has been everything that I
After the "massive amount" of artistic and scientific
training the two-year program provides, she feels confident
in taking on the next phase — a full-time job of
networking and building a freelance career.
Next year at this time, the university will have a
more precise picture of the class of 2004, thanks to a new
online survey to capture the data about the activities of
recent graduates, according to Susan Martin, coordinator of
the Enrollment Management Research Office of Enrollment and
Academic Services. The Class of 2004 Post-Graduation Survey
is available for graduating seniors at
"Our goal is a 75 percent return rate — we are
aiming high," Martin said. "We will be compiling the data
in the late fall, and a summary will be available in early
Seniors who request it will receive the summary, which
will contain aggregate numbers for the class and by
academic areas rather than information about individual
students. The summary report will also be used to inform
faculty, academic departments, staff, prospective students
and employers about what undergraduates in the Krieger
School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of
Engineering go on to do within the first six months after
graduation. To receive updates, Martin reminds graduating
seniors that it is important to update their contact
information through the alumni Web page,
Though she's headed to India, Gurbani is planning to
come back to the States next year for six weeks to
interview for medical school. She's already applied to the
Bloomberg School of Public Health for the master's program
in health sciences in the Population and Family Health
Sciences Department, deferring her admission so she can
complete her work as a Fulbright scholar. She's considering
a return to her home state, California, for both her
medical and master's degrees through a five-year program.
Either way, Hopkins will always have a special place in her
heart, she said.
"I have many people to be grateful for," Gurbani said.
"You cannot apply for a grant of this caliber by yourself.
I had many professors read my grant, they wrote supporting
letters, and even my friends and family were important
assets that helped to ensure the success of my application.
I am grateful to them all for believing in me and helping
make my dream come true.
"Hopkins has helped me see that learning isn't
confined to a textbook but can be experienced from every
aspect of life, even from just discussions with my
classmates," she said. "I definitely feel that I have made
the most of my time in college and that I will be prepared
to achieve my dreams."
Joanna Downer and Ming Tai contributed to this