Mary-Patterson Suggs ’24 knows how difficult it can be for students lacking clinical experience to choose career specialties in health care. 

For that reason, Suggs, a biology major on the pre-med track from Charleston, South Carolina, picked Clinical Internship in Medicine as the final Interim course of her Wofford career. 

“I’m a senior and have some pretty big decisions coming up,” Suggs says. “I wanted to challenge myself and explore at least some of the options out there. Interim is such a special tradition and, this being my last one, I wanted to make the most of it.” 

Suggs was one of 25 Terriers in the course, co-taught by Dr. Natalie Spivey, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Stefanie Baker, professor of biology. The course was open to juniors and seniors who plan to apply to medical school or pursue jobs in health care-related fields. 

Spivey and Baker enlisted 36 local physicians, many of them Wofford graduates, to serve as mentors for the course. From that list, each student picked six to work with on a full-time, rotating schedule to accrue 100 shadowing hours, the number typically required by medical schools. 

The choices for specialties included anesthesiology, cardiovascular surgery, ENT, family medicine, gastroenterology, OB-GYN, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pathology, pediatrics, plastic surgery, primary care, sports medicine, surgery and urology.

Students maintained a daily journal and capped their experience on the final day with a presentation on some aspect of their work, such as an interesting case or treatment. 

“I’ve done some shadowing in the past, but not like this,” says Mark Hannah ’25, a biology major on the pre-med track from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “This Interim gave me the opportunity to explore a wider range of specialties and to see what each one does on a daily basis.”

Spivey and Baker say the course aimed to strengthen transferrable skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Students also formed relationships with physicians who can provide evaluations or letters of recommendation for their medical school applications. 

“There’s really no substitute for clinical experience,” says Baker. “This is valuable for our students because they’re seeing what happens in the daily lives of clinical workers. It isn’t the glamorous stuff you see on TV. In many cases they’re learning from physicians who were once in their shoes.” 

“Most students have the experience from the patient’s perspective,” says Spivey, associate professor of biology. “This gives them some understanding of the professional side. We know they have the academic talent. This helps them ensure this is what they want to do.” 

Skyler Hays ’25, a biology major on the pre-med track, has worked part-time as a scribe in the emergency room at Spartanburg Medical Center for nine months. She decided to take the course to sharpen her focus as she prepares to take the MCAT and apply to medical school.

“There’s a huge difference between classroom and clinical learning,” Hays says. “I saw this as a great opportunity to improve my skills. I have learned a lot.”

It has been almost 30 years since Drs. Grant Warren ’96 and Michael Hoenig ’98 both took a similar Interim course as part of their undergraduate studies at Wofford. Warren and Hoenig agreed to be mentors as a way of giving back to their alma mater. 

“This is fantastic,” says Hoenig, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor with Carolina Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Associates. “I get a lot of energy from working with students. Why did I choose to participate? Because someone gave of their time to do the same for me.” 

Warren, an OB-GYN with the Medical Group of the Carolinas, has some advice for students interested in taking the course.

“This course helps you gain a much better understanding of what you will face as you advance in your career,” Warren says. “If you want to go to medical school or pursue a profession in health care and you can do this, do it. It’s very valuable.”