How to Pre-Health at Tech is a new series of stories and experiences with our faculty, current students, and alumni working in healthcare and medical fields. Check back throughout the spring for interviews with:
- Alonzo Whyte, faculty member, academic advisor for the Health and Medical Sciences (HMED) Minor, director of academic advising for the Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience, and development leader in the School of Biological Sciences
- Ritika Chanda, fourth-year neuroscience undergraduate with dual-minors in health and medical sciences and leadership studies
- Jeffrey Kramer, first-year biology undergraduate
- Jenna Nash (NEUR '21), physician assistant graduate student
From the moment Charles Winter stepped onto campus freshman year, he was ready to use his time at Georgia Tech to prepare for a pre-health career. Over the next four years, engaging classes, global study, extracurricular activities, and research with a number of supportive professors paved the way for his current career as an anesthesiologist assistant.
At Georgia Tech, Winter shares that while success was a struggle, through studying in the Library and leaning on the support of professors and peers, he successfully entered graduate school and kick-started his career. He shares with the College of Sciences how he did it all – and what he’s up to today.
Here are Winter’s recommendations for “How to Pre-Health” at Georgia Tech:
Q: What degree did you receive from Georgia Tech and when did you graduate? Where did you go to graduate school after graduation?
A: I received my Bachelor of Science in Biology from Georgia Tech in 2012. I attended South University in Savannah, Georgia and graduated with my Master of Medical Science in Anesthesia in 2016.
Q: What were your extracurricular activities at Georgia Tech?
A: I did Crew my first year, and I spent a good amount of time at the Campus Recreation Center. I really enjoyed it, but I eventually decided to do intramural sports instead. I studied abroad in London for a full year after that (doing undergraduate research and taking classes) at the University College of London. I received the STAR award, a scholarship found via the Office of Internal Education, in 2010 for a project called "Keeping a Tab on Hope," where I would locally source tabs from cans to upcycle while raising awareness on lowering one's carbon footprint. My third and fourth year I did undergraduate research for various labs: professor Francesca Storici in 2011, professor Philip Santangelo in 2011, and professor J. Todd Streelman in 2012.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a pre-health career at Georgia Tech?
A: I was pre-health from the moment I stepped onto campus. I planned out all the prerequisites I'd need to take over the next four years as well as relevant extracurriculars and service projects. I had a plan, but I didn't have a mission. “What's the primary reason why you're doing all this work? Will this career path make you happy? Are you doing this because all your peers are as well?” These were hard questions I had to answer during my time at Georgia Tech.
My early medical shadowing motivated me to continue the pre-health career. It showed me that I could make a positive impact in someone's life in real time. I would urge anyone in the pre-health career track to do medical shadowing as soon as possible.
Q: What resources did you use at Georgia Tech to support your career aspirations, such as clubs, advisors, or professors?
A: I want to thank Paul Fincannon, assistant dean Jennifer Leavey, and associate professor Matthew Torres. Without these individuals, I wouldn't be where I am today. Paul Fincannon was my undergraduate advisor for biomedical engineering. He had a candid conversation with me, telling me if I wanted to pursue my pre-health goals, I needed to adjust my trajectory to hit that target. I took his advice, and I changed my major to biology. My undergraduate advisor for biology was assistant dean Jennifer Leavey. She was a wealth of knowledge throughout my remaining years at Georgia Tech. She opened the doors to medical shadowing at Piedmont Hospital, where I learned about the various programs for anesthesiologist assistants. Finally, associate Professor Torres offered me advice and a position in his lab during the time between graduation from Georgia Tech and entrance into the South University anesthesia program.
Q: What role do you hold today, and what does your typical routine look like?
A: I am an anesthesiologist assistant, and I work at a hospital in the metro Atlanta area. I work as part of a “4-1 care team model,” where an anesthesiologist supervises four anesthetists in the clinical care setting. My shift can vary, depending on the department I'm assigned to that day. I'll do anesthesia for neurovascular, orthopedic, abdominal, and other various cases. In the morning we prepare for our first case with our anesthesiologist, discussing the various aspects of our anesthesia care plan, which is tailored to each patient. We're in the operating room or procedural area during the whole time anesthesia is administered, and we finally hand off to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) or relevant post-procedure care area when the case is complete. You get to see your positive impact on patients every day, and it's such a good feeling.
Q: How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your career?
A: Georgia Tech is tough. I had classmates that could breeze through undergrad with straight A's. That definitely wasn't me. I had to work hard for my grades. I spent a majority of my evenings and weekends in the Library or Student Commons studying. Georgia Tech increased my mental fortitude by making me comfortable under stressful situations. I realized early on that if I wanted to have a career in medicine, and finally, anesthesia. then I had to work as hard as I possibly could now to do that.
You realize when you get into college the terrifying truth that you're responsible for your future. You have to schedule your activities and parties around your studies, and you have to plan both short-term and long-term. Georgia Tech helped me become a self-motivated individual. Talk to the teachers. Talk to the teaching assistants. Ask for help from your classmates. I want to thank senior academic professional Edwin Greco for getting me through physics. He and his teaching assistants were amazing, and they took the time to explain everything to me during office hours. All of the College's resources are there, but you have to want to use them.
Q: What advice do you have for current Georgia Tech pre-health students?
A: If you're doing pre-health, then you don't have to choose the “hardest” major. I made it into anesthesia as a biology student. You just have to perform really well in your prerequisites. Most (not all) parties and events can wait. Allocate your time wisely. You may think you have all the time in the world in undergrad, but it has a way of disappearing rather quickly. Finally, take advantage of every single opportunity you can at Georgia Tech, whether it's an undergraduate advisor or research position.
Q: What are some of your favorite Tech memories?
A: I did write President Emeritus G. Wayne Clough when I was in undergrad, asking him for advice and what he liked the most about his time there. He had recently left Georgia Tech to start his position as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. I was more than surprised to find he not only read my letter, but he also wrote back! He said that it's the people there that have made it the amazing institution it is today, and he encouraged me to work hard. That letter motivated me along with the individuals previously mentioned.
I also was an extra for “The Internship” when they were filming on campus, and I got into the final cut of the film! I'm in one of the Quidditch scenes, cheering on some of the players. That was pretty fun.
Overall, Georgia Tech played a major role in who I am today, and I am grateful for that.
Winter spoke about his experience as a frontline healthcare worker to the Alumni Magazine in their On The Front Lines of A Pandemic feature.