While many students come to Lehigh unsure of what they want to study, let alone what they want to do after college, Jessica Latona ’09 had a plan before she even stepped on to campus.
When Latona was young, her grandmother died of pancreatic cancer. Losing someone she loved was painful, but watching someone go through the medical process was inspiring. Latona knew she wanted to go into medicine and help people like her grandmother.
At Lehigh, Latona majored in chemistry. Unlike many students in the department, she chose to get a bachelor of arts degree instead of a bachelor of science. And she minored in sociology and health, medicine and society, an interdisciplinary program that provides social science and humanities perspectives on health and illness.
“When you’re going into a career where you’ll be working with people all the time, it’s important to understand the ways they behave,” Latona explains.
“A lot of the classes in the health, medicine and society minor were classes I never could have imagined, like meditation. In medical school now, they talk about a lot of the same topics, like alternative and complementary medicine. I feel like if I hadn’t taken those classes at Lehigh, I wouldn’t understand it as well now.”
Because she knew she wanted to attend medical school, Latona worked with the pre-med adviser in Career Services and met often will her adviser to get help with the application process.
She also spent a summer as a research intern in the Biosystems Dynamics Summer Institute at Lehigh. She worked with other students and professors from computer science and engineering, chemical engineering and biological sciences to develop a software platform to study genome sequences. Their work was recently published in an academic journal.
Now Latona is a medical student at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
“For someone who’s interested in pre-med or science, I thought Lehigh offered a lot of opportunities,” she says. “I felt like I was well prepared for medical school. Especially during the first two years, I had already learned a lot of the subject matter at Lehigh.”
Of course, with late nights spent on rotation, medical school is very different from Lehigh.
“There are days when I’m tired or stressed out, but this was definitely the right choice for me,” says Latona. “Now I’m in a hospital doing rotations. The hours are long, but the things you get to see and do keep you going. I’m helping people and saving lives.”