Jeri Oranski (Class of 2021)

photo of Jeri Oranski

  • junior double major in International Studies and Sociology, with a Premedical Studies co-major
  • minors in Global Health and Spanish
  • from St. Louis, MO
  • interned in Bangalore, India for a community health preceptorship
  • student advisory board member for the Mallory-Wilson Center for Healthcare Education
  • Vice President of Delta Epsilon Mu Pre-Health Fraternity
"As important as it is to apply yourself and be dedicated to your studies, make sure to jump into new things. The more experiences you have outside your own discipline, the more you'll learn empathy and critical thinking skills that you will need no matter where your path leads."

Why Miami?

"I started looking at Miami because it's one of the only universities that offers a global health program. I was really drawn to the fact that there was a well-developed minor here with so many opportunities for students to learn about and explore this growing field. Meeting some of the professors in the program, learning about their passions and research, and beginning to take classes both within and outside of global health really solidified that Miami is where I should be.

"The connection that you get with professors is the best part of being a Miami student. Miami is smaller compared to many state schools, so you get a one-on-one connection. The opportunities that I've been afforded have been because of professors who care deeply about undergraduate education and support students who show interest and passion.

"As a first-year student, I definitely did not know what I wanted to study right away — I've changed my major around 5 times! I don't think I decided my international studies and sociology majors until spring of my sophomore year. That's why I always tell people that you can change your major as many times as you want. For me, it was a process of taking introductory courses for different majors, talking to professors, and thinking about my long-term goals."

Best Miami Experiences

Habitat for Humanity 'construction crew': Jeri Oranski (center) and co-workers

"I'm happy and confident now with my two majors after that two-year process, and many of the professors and advisors I connected with during that time have become my mentors today. They have been incredible in guiding and supporting me, making sure I was where I needed to be, and encouraging my interests and passions.

"Miami has connections to Bangalore, India, through Christ University and St. John's Medical College, and I joined a pilot program which sent me and three other Miami students to India for a 3-week community health preceptorship. This experience was amazing, giving me more insight into what I want to do in my career as a physician. It reaffirmed my decision to follow a track in medicine that is focused on community and connecting with individuals where they are.

"I have also had the opportunity to be a part of three research projects in different departments over the years — biopsychology, sociology, and anthropology. The best part was that these teams were often majority undergraduate women with primary investigators (PIs) who were genuinely invested in our involvement and education. We were able to attend and present at conferences, help create research posters, and be involved in data collection and publication. I served as a laboratory research assistant helping to carry out trials with voles, as a coder gathering and formatting data about domestic terrorism and political violence in the U.S., and as a research assistant analyzing nutrition and health data for different communities. The PIs and other students really created an environment that fostered critical thinking, curiosity, and life-long learning."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

"My goal post-graduation is medical school, and my long-term vision is to work in global or community health. I deliberately chose majors that I felt would prepare me for those fields. I've always loved learning about international relations, world events, and the interconnectedness of people and communities, so I wanted to apply that holistic understanding to medicine.

"Miami's liberal arts education does a really good job encouraging students to venture outside their discipline, giving you a chance to develop those interdisciplinary skills. My professors and academic advisors have been very supportive, helping me navigate majors and minors and the more nuanced path that I wanted to follow. Both of my majors involve trying to understand what life is like from another perspective.

"More specifically, international studies offers students the chance to see from other perspectives and gain a transdisciplinary understanding of the increasingly interconnected world that we all live in. We take classes in economics, political science, geography, history, anthropology, sociology/social justice, and a foreign language! The major weaves together these different disciplines and perspectives to prepare students to critically understand the complexities of global issues and the stakeholders involved at many levels. It also places a strong emphasis on empathy, which is absolutely invaluable.

"Regarding sociology, being able to look past superficial assumptions and biases to understand the 'why' and 'how' behind social and cultural phenomena in specific contexts is very applicable to medicine and healthcare. Frequently, someone's health outcomes or ability to access healthcare is not a personal decision; much of it has to do with their social context and larger institutional structures. It's fascinating to examine society in this fashion. Overall, sociology gives students the tools to study and understand issues that arise from social processes and institutions and to collaborate with people in other disciplines to begin addressing these issues."

Community Medicine in India: From Countryside to City Streets

Jeri Oranski (standing, in turquoise shirt) with friends at Anganwadi, a children's day school in Bangalore, where medical students collected health metrics for the children to track their health.

"During my community health preceptorship in India, I took classes with third-year medical students at St. John's Medical College and did clinical rotations with physicians in various subspecialties. We were in both rural and urban settings — in the clinics that the medical college has ties to.

"During the program, I spent 3 weeks doing what I may pursue in my career as a physician: working in community medicine. Having this experience was confirmation that I am on the right track — I'm doing the right things now to get to where I want to go. My advisor and mentor in global health is Cameron Hay-Rollins, who is also chair and professor of anthropology, played a huge part in making this preceptorship happen and encouraging me to go for it. Joseph Carlin, professor of microbiology and director of the Mallory-Wilson Center for Healthcare Education, was also extremely supportive of me joining the pilot team despite being the youngest team member. For those interested in global health, community health, and epidemiology, this preceptorship is perfect.

"More than anything, my time in India showed me what community medicine and global health look like on the ground, how it operates on a day-to-day basis, and what it takes to develop and sustain such programs. It also confirmed that this is what I want to do. The medical students and physicians gave me a concrete example of what it is exactly that I am working towards and that gave me even more motivation to power me through my studies, through MCAT prep, and through every step I need to take to reach my goals."

Advice to Students

"You're not going to know everything, and that's okay. I've been lucky to serve as an advisor on the student advisory board for the Mallory-Wilson Center, which allows me to talk to incoming freshmen, prospective students and their families, and undergraduate pre-med students about my path to medical school and advice as a pre-med. My own path has been full of major changes, doubts, and questions about my future. It's important to acknowledge that you're probably not going to have everything figured out in those first years. You're not supposed to! Miami provides a support network to help you succeed. You're allowed to ask for help and take the time you need to figure out your path.

"Everything students are going through right now to discern and decide their futures is intense and overwhelming at times, but the advice that I take with me is that in 10 years you're not going to remember what grade you got in organic chemistry or on that one physics exam. As important as it is to apply yourself and be dedicated to your studies, make sure to jump into new things. The more experiences you have outside your own discipline, the more you'll learn empathy and critical thinking skills that you will need no matter where your path leads. Learning to lean into discomfort and the unknown has only ever paid off for me, because no matter the result, it has always taught me something new!"

[January 2020]