Biology Boot Camp Leads to Mentoring

Dynamic duo in pre-med school preparation means tough love
Ethan Granger and Tammy Welchert

The heart of UMKC is our campus community. With small class sizes, it’s easy to develop faculty-student mentorship teams. And these rich relationships—our Dynamic Duos—are some of our best success stories.

Sometimes students start to second guess their career aspirations once they get into rigorous coursework. This is especially true for those going into the medical field. But before throwing in the towel, do what Ethan Granger did and explore how mentorship can give you a fresh perspective on your challenges. 

Granger is in his third year of the biology program at UMKC. He’s wanted to be a doctor since he was a kid, but he’s been surprised by the incredible focus and hard work his biology degree demands. Nevertheless, his experience is made easier because of the perspective and advice from his mentor, Tammy Welchert, associate teaching professor and director of student affairs and academic advising for the school of biology. The two met at Biology Boot Camp, a summer program for incoming freshman biology students. Curiosity piqued, we recently sat down to listen to them both recall how their mentor/friendship developed.

Ethan Granger 

“Tammy introduced herself at boot camp by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Tammy. I’m like the mom,’” Granger says. “I had moved in the night before and had mock lecture at 8 a.m. I was barely awake – and thinking about food – when she came up to me and said, ‘You’re Ethan Granger!’ When I asked her how she knew, she said, ‘You have a very distinct personality.’”

“It’s very important to me to learn everyone’s name,” says Welchert. 

Granger’s mouth drops open.

“That is so not how I took it,” he says. “I thought you’d seen my last mock test and knew I was the one talking in the back during lectures.”

Despite their inauspicious beginning, the two formed a natural connection. Their relationship is relaxed – they are often teasing and laughing – but there is a clear connection of mutual respect. 

“For whatever reason, at that boot camp, you all kind of adopted me as ‘Mom,’” Welchert says. “They even called me ‘Mom.’ We've never had that happen in a boot camp before, so that was a little unique. But I think part of that really contributed to you — for whatever reason — feeling like I was someone you could trust. We've talked about a lot of personal things.”

While Welchert is supportive, she is not always a cheerleader.

“I’m at the halfway point to graduation and we had to have a very frank conversation at Crow’s Coffee about four months ago,” Granger says.

“I had to tell him, if you’re going to pursue medical school then you need to focus,” Welchert says.

“I’m one of those people who will spread themselves so thin. Like, you can see the toast under the peanut butter. We were talking about medical school and we had to have a very frank conversation about how I needed to put up and do what I need to do.  Most advisors won't have that conversation with you - as frank as it was -but it needs to happen.  Someone needed to say to me, ‘You’re not going to make it the way you’re going right now. You need to change or you’re going to be out all this money for nothing.”

 Tammy Welchert

Welchert’s wake-up call made a difference.

“I was so stressed out, but she gave me a list of things that I needed to do and I started figuring it out.”

“And you’re in scribe position now!” Welchert says. 

Granger acknowledges that this job, which entails updating doctors’ and practitioners’ notes on patients’ charts, has provided a realistic view of the medical profession. And while he’s comfortable with his leadership experience and grades for med school interviews, he wanted more clinical background.

“He had a very glamorous picture of what this career was going to be like,” says Welchert, who recommended him for the position. “So I told him that he need to align his perspective with what it really is.”

Granger says his scribe experience has done that.

“Especially when you have a patient with a stroke and another who’s been in a car crash come in in an hour. It’s shown me a lot of things that need to be fixed about health care. That first-hand experience is something I can definitely talk about in my interviews. ”

Once she knew Granger was willing, Welchert was able to help him get the experience he needed.

Dynamic-Duos-with-Tammy-Welchert-and-Ethan-Granger-090-IMG_9826.jpg

“We have a recent alum who is a trainer for the scribe company and I called and said, “Hey look for this application that is going to be coming through. I think this is somebody that'll do a good job.

“It’s been interesting, because Ethan’s and my relationship is something that a lot of students miss,” Welchert says.

While their relationship grew naturally, both agree that students should feel comfortable reaching out to faculty.

 “I’ve heard before that students feel as if they’re missing these kinds of close connections. I’m a strong believer that those connections are out there, you just have to go in and work for them. It's on you to foster that connection and make something of that.” Ethan Granger

Welchert agrees that faculty is open to forming mentoring relationships.

“Our faculty will tell you that the most underutilized time that they have is office hours,” she says. “We want students to come in and we want that one-on-one opportunity to interact with the students, but we can't drag you in. There are ways in the School of Biological Sciences that we’re trying to foster that — like with boot camp. We really emphasize building relationships and having the chance to get to know your professor so that you will ask questions.”

 Ethan Granger and Tammy WelchertGranger says no one has ever given him the impression that they are not available.

“Honestly, I don’t think you’d get hired here if you weren’t there for your students,” Welchert says.  She stops and turns to Granger. “Hey, it’s like what you just framed for me!”

“The quotes! Quotes that she tells me three thousand times a day,” says Granger, good-naturedly rolling his eyes.

Welchert does not miss the opportunity to remind him of one of her favorites.

 “Never again in your life are you going to be surrounded by so many people who are more invested in your success than you are right here at UMKC.” Tammy Welchert

Granger agrees.

“If it weren’t for Tammy I would have left after the first semester.”

“Really?” she asked incredulously.

“No doubt about it. Yep. Tammy kept me at UMKC.”

Published: Apr 1, 2019

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