Canisius pre-med experience lands grad at Georgetown

""Rather than something our group did for others, we also served with others. The Jesuit ideal of ‘men and women for and with others’ came to life for me.""

Dylan Conroy

Dylan Conroy made the decision to become a doctor at a young age. “My brother was born with a rare heart defect, so many of my earliest memories were those spent in the hospital with him. The surgeon who saved my brother’s life became a hero to me.”

Now a student at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, Dylan credits his undergraduate experience at Canisius for his decision to attend Georgetown, and for shaping the type of doctor he would ultimately like to become.

As a pre-med major, Dylan transferred to Canisius for its strong science program, small classes and one-on-one interaction with faculty. Dylan’s mother, Elizabeth Conroy, a Canisius alumna and physician, encouraged him to look at her alma mater. Dylan says he had a great experience from the moment he arrived on campus. “I found a close-knit community of faculty, staff and students.”

Dylan enjoyed everything a Jesuit liberal arts education offered. “I loved the diversity of my classes, which in addition to science included philosophy, religion, history and literature. I also immersed myself in the college’s many service opportunities.”

Dylan traveled to Jamaica and worked with underprivileged children in nurseries and abandoned girls’ homes in Kingston. There, his idea of service began to evolve.

"Rather than something our group did for others, we also served with others. The Jesuit ideal of ‘men and women for and with others’ came to life for me."

But it was a medical mission trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica that Dylan described as one of the greatest experiences of his life. On this two-week trip, Canisius pre-med students assisted physicians and hosted medical clinics in impoverished communities. They lived with local families and learned first-hand the history of both countries. “Understanding different cultures helped me better understand the challenges people face in their daily lives and how these challenges impact their health. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Allyson Backstrom, PhD, director of the Dr. George E. Schreiner ’43 Pre-Medical Center at Canisius, notes that “these experiences empower our future physicians and healthcare providers to be advocates and activists. We hope that our students will not only be excellent practitioners – effectively treating patients who are sick or injured, but also be change agents who help shape their communities in ways that keep people healthier in the first place.”

Dylan is a prime example of the impact of these experiences. He says that participating in the many medical mission trips Canisius offered was not only life changing but career defining. “Service will not only be a part of my life but also a part of my medical career.”

Because service became an integral part of Dylan’s life while at Canisius, he wanted to attend a medical school that placed equal importance on serving the community. He chose Georgetown, a fellow Jesuit institution where similar values including concern for social issues in healthcare, are part of the educational mission. “The best compliment I can give Georgetown is that it feels like what I imagine a medical school run by Canisius would be!”

Dylan also credits Canisius’ rigorous academics for preparing him to transition to Georgetown, a top-tier medical school. “Professors at Canisius gave exams that were extended-response as opposed to multiple-choice, which forced us to know the material inside and out. I learned to study efficiently and manage massive amounts of material.” Group work is built into the Canisius curriculum as well. “Collaboration is becoming imperative in medicine, so this was an important exercise.”

And when it was time to begin the lengthy medical school application process, Dylan said his professors were there every step of the way. “Dr. Backstrom went through each part of the application with me, hosted mock interview sessions and met with me on several occasions.”

Advice Dylan would give high school students on a pre-med path: “There is a great benefit to attending a smaller university where you can stand out and get to know and work side-by-side with faculty. The one-on-one attention is invaluable, especially when faced with the rigors of applying to and attending medical school.”