UC Davis Pre-Health Conference shifts to free, live virtual event due to COVID-19

UC Davis Pre-Health Conference shifts to free, live virtual event due to COVID-19

More diverse workshops, speakers, exhibitors planned 

The 18th annual UC Davis Pre-Health Conference, the nation’s largest pre-health conference, will take place as a live virtual event on Oct. 17, 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. The virtual conference will now be free of charge and all previously registered attendees and sponsors will be issued a full refund. 

“We know a lot of families and people in general have been affected by this pandemic, so we wanted to make [the conference] as accessible as possible for everyone,” Pre-Health Conference Co-Coordinator Lillian Wu said. “Our conference is definitely not about making profit.”

According to the conference website, the event provides community college, university and post-baccalaureate students, as well as pre-health advisors, with the information and skills necessary to succeed in the health professions school admission process. The conference invites representatives from a wide variety of health professional programs and organizations to network with attendees and offers the opportunity to explore options in pursuing a health career. Over 250 health professions schools from across the nation and over 100 speakers from various health careers attend the conference every year. 

Although all interactive workshops were removed from the schedule, the Pre-Health Conference Planning Team plans to host more workshops. It will also maintain the Pre-Health Fair part of the program, where attendees are able to network with exhibitors from health professional schools all over the nation on a virtual platform. The rest of the program will be structured similarly to previous in-person conferences. 

“Instead of doing interactive workshops, we’re expanding on the number of workshops we’re offering every hour and we’re also offering four workshops blocks [rather than three] with each block having around 30 to 40 workshops,” Pre-Health Conference Co-Coordinator Shivani Patel said. 

Wu said the planning team is working to offer more diverse workshops, such as mental health and gap-year related topics. 

“We want to have more health professions represented and implement more mental health related workshops because that’s been really popular in terms of people pursuing a career in [mental health], so just expand to a more diverse range of health professions and more diverse topics beyond admissions panels,” Wu said.

In addition to more workshop options, Pre-Health Conference Co-Coordinator Sare Kilic said she hopes the number of participants for the virtual conference will increase by thousands. 

“Since it’s all online and there are no travel fees, I’m hoping that we can reach people across the country now,” Kilic said. “We’re hoping for at least the same amount as previous years of 3,500 to 4,000 attendees, but we think it might increase even more up to 10,000 [attendees].” 

Pre-Health Conference Co-Coordinator Linda Chen said the biggest benefit is being able to reach a wider audience.

“Because [previous conferences] were in-person and in the small town of Davis, only a select number of people around the area could come, mostly in California,” Chen said. “Now, anybody can come from wherever they’re living, like rural Ohio or even upstate New York.”

Chen said she hopes the team will be able to recruit speakers, exhibitors and representatives from schools in different parts of the U.S. that have never attended the conference before. 

Although organizing a wide scale virtual pre-health conference for the first time comes with challenges for the planning team, UC Davis Pre-Health Conference Advisor and Director of Health Professions Advising Joanne Snapp said she still welcomes the thousands of prospective participants. 

“While we’ve gotten pretty good at golf-carting people around campus, we’re excited to try to orchestrate all of those people through hundreds of private links and online presentations,” Snapp said. “We’re up for the challenge and we hope that the UC Davis and national pre-health population will join us for this exciting event.”

Registration for the Pre-Health Conference is now open for attendees and exhibitors with more information on the official website and social media accounts on how to get involved. 

Written by: Graschelle Fariñas Hipolito — campus@theaggie.org