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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 17, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 35
Where Do They Go From Here?

Barkha Gurbani discovered public health as a freshman and will use her Fulbright Scholar grant to spend a year doing research in India en route to medical school.

Johns Hopkins diplomas will send 5,819 alums on their next adventures

By Amy Cowles

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 headed.

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," Savage said.

Last year, four undergraduates applied to dental school, a pursuit that along with veterinary medicine is gaining in popularity on campus, particularly with female students.

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 school.

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 talent.

"Music has made me a better listener," she said, "And I hope I can use that skill when I study to be a doctor."

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 experience."

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 wanted."

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 spring 2005."

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 article.


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