GMercyU 2016 Commencement Speaker Sean Welch

Meet Sean Welch

Biology, 2016

Current Position: Medical Student at Drexel University

Story Last Updated: November 2019
Current Position Updated: November 2019

I have always been interested in science. Growing up I loved astronomy and geology then as I got a bit older I got really interested in biology, chemistry and the processes that make us living and different. That’s why I chose to study biology and minor in chemistry and microbiology. 

My path to Gwynedd Mercy University was a little more convoluted. I really didn’t know where I wanted to go or where I was going to end up. I applied to a whole bunch of colleges and got accepted to pretty much everywhere and got scholarships to a whole bunch of places but when I came to GMercyU there was just something different about the people who interviewed me and the environment.

GMercyU Experience

During my time at GMercyU, I had a lot of hands-on research which led me into my thesis which was based on Alzheimer’s disease. I had always been interested in mental health so I looked into diseases that involved mental health disorders but also diseases that aren’t that well understood. I wanted to have my own take on it instead of rewriting something that was already out there. 
I started looking at current research and where it was going. A lot of it was involving the immune system in the brain. There are cells in the brain called microglia. There are so many things that can go wrong with their function and there are some ties between irregular activity of microglia and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. I looked more deeply into that and over time found really concrete links binding the two together. I also found that after working through my thesis, there’s a lot more research being published about this and a lot of it is right in line with what I was thinking a year ago. It’s really interesting to see that come to fruition and to see this weird, little idea I had as a junior turn into something real. 
The faculty is really dedicated to helping students learn. They give all of their free time for any student who wants it and their doors are always open. I really love that small-school experience and it’s part of the reason why I came to GMercyU. There are so many people here who have transferred from bigger schools because they went to a large inner-city school thinking it would be an awesome experience but  they start panicking because they don’t know their professors or they don’t know how to get ahead because they’re just one random person in a sea of people. 

Here, I was in a class with nine people. Some people might not like but at the same time we get such individualized attention. We actually progress as we move through the program because we’re critiqued to such an extent early on that you have to be able to adapt to that change and it makes you a better person. It makes you a better student. I feel a lot of larger institutions miss out on because you just go through the motions and you don’t actually improve. At GMercyU, you are constantly improving every single day. 

Medical School Experience

Following my graduation from GMercyU's biology program in 2016, I was accepted into the 2020 class at Drexel University College of Medicine (DUCOM).  At first, it seemed like the polar opposite of GMercyU. With DUCOM being one of the largest medical schools in the U.S., I felt a bit distant and disconnected from the other students and faculty whereas at GMercyU, I knew everyone in the biology program as a close friend.  It felt as if I had been thrown from a small lake into the ocean, but thankfully, my professors at GMercyU prepared me extremely well.  

A large portion of what we learned in the first year of medical school had been covered in my classes at GMercyU with some notable exceptions in the form of gross anatomy and neuroanatomy. For my classes at DUCOM, I relied heavily on a foundation of knowledge in molecular biology, immunology, virology, microbiology, biochemistry, physiology, all of which I had gathered from the amazing professors in the biology program. Having entered medical school with such a strong background in the sciences allowed me not only to survive, but also to take on volunteer experiences outside of the classroom.  It provided me with the ability to balance my personal life with my education, an issue which plagues many medical students.

While I certainly miss GMercyU, I feel that I have had a great time over the last four years at DUCOM and have learned an incredible amount from the professors, clinicians, and students I have worked with. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Program for Integrated Learning for my first two years at DUCOM which more closely resembled my experience at GMercyU, with smaller class sizes and a focus on case-based learning in groups. We covered mostly basic sciences, but were able to apply them to scenarios based on real-life medical cases in order to better integrate the subject material with what we would be doing as future physicians.  

Throughout the past two years, I have progressed through clinical rotations ranging from surgery to pediatrics, as well as the SHELF exams that accompany each rotation and the overarching STEP exams at the end of second and third year. It's been tough, I'm not going to lie. Anyone who has gone through this process can tell you, medical school is not for the faint of heart, you will be tested every day for four years and that is just the beginning. With Intern year of my residency staring me down, I'm certainly nervous, but once again I feel prepared for the road ahead.

With more time and clinical experience under my belt, I was able to make a decision regarding my residency application and I have decided to pursue a career in Internal Medicine. I will likely be staying in the Philadelphia area, but I'm keeping an open mind and interviewing throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. I really enjoy the dynamic nature of internal medicine and how it has its hands in nearly every issue that can affect a patient, as well as the multitude of options for fellowships to subspecialize in fields including Cardiology, Pulmonary and Critical Care, Nephrology, Endocrinology, Infectious Disease and many other fields.

What first drew me into medicine was the delicate balance between finding the reasoning behind chronic illnesses and acting fast in emergency scenarios such as rapid responses and codes when a critically ill patient needs immediate care. So far, I'm really enjoying my exposure to the field and am very happy about my decision. As far as whether I will stay a generalist and work in a hospital setting or subspecialize, that's a decision for another day!

Now, as I prepare to enter the next chapter of my life while interviewing for residency programs, I can't help but look back on what got me to this point.  I've dreamed of becoming a physician for as long as I can remember.  It was something that really starting gaining ground in high school and was later cemented during my time in undergrad.

I can say without any doubt in my mind that the friends I made at Gwynedd Mercy University, the professors there who lifted me up and empowered me, as well as the experiences I had as a student leader, a volunteer, and a tutor were all invaluable in helping me to reach my goal. Gwynedd Mercy University was much more than "the next rung on the ladder," to me it was an amazing place with some truly fantastic people.

I genuinely don't think I would have made it this far without the support of the professors at GMercyU. Drs. McEliece, Lettini, Barbieri and so many others who took the time to truly teach, to go above and beyond, to expect more from me than I expected from myself. GMercyU was my home, my family, and the time I spent there gave me the strength and knowledge I required to pursue my career.  

To anyone who may stumble upon this while considering attending GMercyU, especially those going into biology or seeking a career in medicine: I can tell you that it's going to be really hard, but the amazing professors at GMercyU will give you the tools to make it possible.