GMercyU Student Success Story Abigail Friel

Meet Abigail Friel

Biology, 2018


Current Position: Medical Student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

GMercyU Experience

When I first applied to Gwynedd Mercy University, I thought I wanted to be a psychology major. Then I realized that since I loved chemistry in high school, choosing biology as my major with a minor in chemistry would be the best choice for me. 

Being a biology student at GMercyU was one of the best decisions I ever made. I cannot praise the biology/sciences department enough, as they have truly been integral in getting where I am today. The professors in the biology department are so caring and invested in every one of their students and they will do whatever they can to help them succeed. They are always there for answering any questions, extra help, advice, or just to chat. They've helped me figure out what I want to do with my life and help me achieve those goals. 

Dr. Barberi helped me weave through the obstacles of applying to medical school and made sure I had all of my ducks in a row. Dr. McEliece was also a sounding board for any ideas I had no matter how weird or crazy they were. She always gave me honest feedback. 
My peers were also amazing. We were all stressed out so we kept each other on the right track. You become so close with the people here. I thought as a commuter I might not have those strong connections with my professors and other students but we developed such a close-knit community. We were together all the time and it definitely helped me get through the four years. 

When I was a sophomore, I joined the E-STEM program. As part of the E-STEM program, you get matched up with a peer mentor and develop a relationship with an older student, which is really helpful. During my senior year, I became a mentor for some of the younger students which was cool. I was also involved in Sigma Phi Sigma, the National Mercy Honor Society. It was neat to help organize events on campus and talk about social issues in the community and to make a difference. 

Undergraduate Research

I also did a lot of research during my time at GMercyU. After my sophomore year, I conducted research with Dr. Thomas Umile. He was looking at bacteria on the backs of frogs and their interaction with a fungal species. I did that work with three other students and we presented the research at two conferences. It really got my feet wet in research. 

During my senior year, I did research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I was an intern in the psychiatry department where they were working on a study on adolescent depression and the interaction with the immune system. I also did research with Dr. Robert Clewis, a philosophy professor, on his anthology on the sublime. Two other students and I helped him gather sources and put it all together. 

Transition to Medical School

After graduation, I started at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in the DO program. For me, the transition from undergrad to medical school was a little bit difficult. 

Being at GMercyU, I had access to all of my professors whenever I needed them and I had a personal relationship with all of them. They all knew who I was. Going from such an intimate setting to a class of about 270 students at PCOM was definitely an adjustment. It takes a little while to get used to it, but with any big change, you adjust and find a way that works best for you.

I learned so much in GMercyU’s biology program and without being introduced to so many wonderful aspects of science, I'm not sure I would have ended up in medical school. The wide variety of topics covered in the program helped me identify what I was and was not interested in. This allowed me to realize I was truly interested in human biology and that pursuing medicine was what I wanted. Not only did GMercyU give me direction, experience, and confidence as a student, but it has given me some of the best friends I will ever have (professors included).

Medical School Journey

As of right now, I have only a little more than a year of medical school under my belt.  My first year, as I mentioned, was a time of adjusting my studying habits and figuring out how to balance the huge workload with actually living your life. Aside from my classes, I've gotten involved in a few clubs. I am the community service chair for the OB/GYN Club on campus, as well as the treasurer for PCOM's AMWA (American Medical Women's Association) chapter. Becoming involved has been a great way to meet students, organizations in the community, and people in the medical field. 

I’ll be taking Step 1 of my boards in the spring. After that, I'll be starting my rotations. We don't find out which hospitals we will be in until the spring, but I hope to be in a local hospital so I can stay in the area.