Spotlight on Emily Hagan-Howe ’15

Meet UVM Career Center’s fantabulous Marketing Manager, Emily Hagan-Howe, who works passionately behind the scenes as part of our Operations Team. Her creativity and vision with digital and social media communications keep UVM students and alums well-connected to our career-oriented resources. In fact, her encouragement and talent have been instrumental in helping the Health Professions Interest Group (HPIG) successfully launch The Steady Pulse.  

Emily (she/her & they/them) is pictured above with her wife, Christa Hagan-Howe (she/her), a Diversity Educator in the Center for Cultural Pluralism at UVM. The precious bundle in Em’s arms is Rowan, whom they welcomed to the world on 11/11/20! The family’s recent experience at UVM Medical Center has inspired Emily to share some of her own words of wisdom with all of you who aspire to become health professionals.  

We met the most amazing UVM Medical Center nurses, midwives, LNAs, fetal medicine doctors, medical students, residents, physician assistants, anesthesiologists, and lactation consultants during our time at the hospital. Their collaboration was amazing to watch– so many different skill sets and training backgrounds coming together to keep us safe, educate us about newborns, and ultimately take care of our family. I was deeply moved by the authenticity of our interactions and their genuine care for all three members of our family – throughout our labor, delivery, and recovery process, and during our son’s brief stay at the NICU. Their commitment to celebrating the shape of our family as a queer couple was also significant and helped me feel at ease as the non-gestational parent of our child. 

I share this both to underscore that we were connected to many kinds of providers each of whom played a key role in our care, and to encourage current students and recent alums to celebrate the interconnectedness of different careers in healthcare. And please know the world of a difference that your smile, patience, and transparency can make. I also hope to encourage UVM students to be brave in their clinicals; have the courage to ask questions, make a mistake and then ask how to do it better next time if appropriate, and get to know your patients if they seem open to chatting!  

A Proud Catamount: 

As an undergrad, Emily earned dual degrees (BS, Education; BA, History) and was an Honors College Scholar. A memorable course was American Sign Language, where the kinesthetic style of learning and physicality and beauty of the language inspired (and continues to inspire) her. Emily’s experience as a TA for a D1 course informed her thesis, which centered on peer social justice education.   

Service and social justice defined her engagement as an undergrad, particularly through involvement with Alternative Spring Break and Alpha Phi Omega (co-ed service fraternity). As a junior, she was the recipient of the Vermont Campus Compact Engaged Student Award. Participation in the Examining White Identity Retreat as an undergrad was transformative for Emily, and after graduation, she transitioned from participant to retreat organizer and facilitator. Emily shares, “Unpacking my racial identity as a white person and working towards anti-racism through dialogue, reflection, and action has been critical to my own growth, and facilitating those experiences for our students has been so meaningful to me.” 

Emily has worked as a UVM staff member ever since graduating in 2015. Her first role was as the office manager for UVM’s Office of Student & Community Relations, using her people-skills to help build community between off-campus students and their neighbors. She appreciates OSCR’s embrace of restorative practices.  We at the Career Center feel incredibly fortunate that Emily joined our team in 2018 where she adds value to every aspect of our work.  Emily is also a part-time student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration (HESA) program, working toward her M.Ed. in Higher Education. 

Life Outside of Work   

Emily loves to craft, working mainly on textile and fiber arts projects (hand quilting, knitting, embroidery). She listens to a wide diversity of podcasts.  Hanging with her wife and the family pup, Annabelle, is a constant source of joy. Of course, right now, new parenthood – despite its inevitable sleep deprivation – is transforming her daily life in exciting ways. Somehow, she found the time to offer these reflections about her son and the goals she has for herself in this new role: 

am so in awe of this tiny human and his resilience. As a parent, I hope that I can create an environment in which he has the freedom to explore the world and who he is, express himself and his own ideas, and build a community of love and support through connections with friends and family. In time, I hope to teach him about the power of vulnerability, the importance of speaking his truth, and the awe-inspiring courage it takes to be intentional in giving and receiving love.”  

Supporting Pre-Health Students/Alums  

Although not a healthcare professional herself, Emily has a pretty clear vision of what it takes to be one and the importance of being an excellent one.  Her grandmother was a social worker in the Rhode Island State government who championed healthcare policy for older adults; both Emily’s and Christa’s moms are nurse practitioners, and her mom continues to practice as a cardiology NP, caring for patients on an inpatient cardiology service in Rhode Island. Emily’s brother earned an MD/PhD in May from UT Houston and is now a psychiatry resident at Brown University.  

Emily is deeply committed to supporting all UVM students/alums as they seek out paths to impactful careers, and she is eager to continue to support UVM’s pre-health community.  The HPIG community is lucky to have her on our team. 

Congratulations, Emily & Christa on the birth of your beautiful son! 

Spotlight is On: Julia Smith ’19

This week, we contacted Julia Smith, a 2019 UVM alum with an interesting path to her future (and unique) career as an an anesthesiologist assistant (AA). While a student, Julia was actively involved in UVM Rescue. Since graduating, she has worked full-time as an emergency department technician at the UVMMC Emergency Department. In August, she will begin the Master of Anesthesia program at the University of Colorado.

Experience at UVM 

Julia came to UVM in 2015 as a biology major though soon shifted her focus to Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. In the microbiology department, she was able to establish connections which helped her attain many goals at UVM and beyond, including eventually getting accepted into the University of Colorado Masters of Anesthesia program. She feels incredibly lucky for the people she’s met and the path she chose at UVM: “I surely would not have had the experiences I did without everyone’s guidance.” 

Julia arrived at UVM with life experiences that were a driving force behind her desire to give to others and to be there in times of need. She says that it almost feels like it was her “destiny” to find UVM Rescue. Through Rescue, she discovered the satisfaction of learning how to manage a person’s needs in a time of crisis and loved being able to directly apply new skills in the service of others.  Julia reflects that each of her classes within the Microbiology Department challenged her to evaluate how learning and knowledge fit into her pursuit of a career in medicine. Her experiential learning as a first responder allowed her to view her coursework  “less like a wall to achievement and more like a conduit to it.”   She is amazed at the breadth of knowledge needed to care for patients, and the challenges of applying that knowledge in real life situations.  She has come to understand that a career in healthcare is a lifelong journey, not a final destination.  

Inspiration for Career Path 

Julia’s introduction to healthcare came at an early age. She remembers a time when she was eleven years old, sitting in the corner of an operating room while her mother, a nurse anesthetist (CRNA), quickly set up the equipment and medications she would need for her next case. Since that day, Julia has wanted to pursue a career in healthcare.  She was fortunate that her mother was able to coordinate many unique shadowing opportunities for her during high school, across a wide variety of medical roles at the hospital.  

At UVM, Julia dedicated an exceptional number of hours on the Rescue crew, being trusted in multiple roles, and responding to hundreds of calls.  She sees Rescue as her most significant accomplishment at UVM.  

In the growth years she’s had since graduating, Julia has been working as an Emergency Department (ED) Tech at UVMMC ED. Being full-time in the ED has allowed her to learn a lot about the realities of patients in Vermont, and about the complexity of the healthcare system. Through her work, she interacts not only with physicians, but with physician assistants, pharmacists, dentists, residents, and even certified anesthesiologist assistants (CAA). Her role as an ED Tech involves phlebotomy, and performing EKGs, but also more unique tasks, like running the mass transfusion machine (known as the Belmont), and obtaining intravenous access on all critical patients including those who are presenting to the emergency department after significant trauma, or with strokes, myocardial infarction, and other acute illnesses. It is probably no surprise that by this point, Julia feels she has learned how to work well, and communicate clearly, with patients and coworkers, even in very stressful situations.  

During much of her time as an undergraduate, Julia thought medical school was the one and only path that she could see herself following. Her thoughts were broadened by the many immersive clinical experiences, and due to certain poignant events in her life.  She is grateful for the resources available at UVM, including pre-health advising, which she utilized throughout her time at UVM. “Cara [Calvelli] was always available to me as a sounding board and quite often helped and encouraged me” to explore different options.  “In fact, it wasn’t until I had a meeting with her after graduation that I had even heard of the AA career.“  Once she became more acquainted with the field of anesthesia, Julia knew it was the right one for her.   She likes how the career will draw upon her undergraduate interests in anatomy & physiology and pharmacology, and she’s also excited about how compact and affordable the education is relative to medical school: In 2+ years, she will be working in the field of her choice. The fact that she will be relocating to Colorado for her education is an extra bonus!  

Role of an Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA) 

A certified anesthesiologist assistant (CAA) works in hospitals and surgical centers and delivers anesthesia under the medical direction of an anesthesiologist. Furthermore, CAAs can focus within a specific specialty if desired, such as pediatric anesthesia, neurology, or even trauma.  

To become an anesthesiologist assistant, a Master of Science in Anesthesia (MSA) is required, which is typically 24-28 months in length, and involves didactic instruction, simulation labs, as well as hands-on clinical training. More often than not, MSA Programs get students into the operating room within the first month of the program, allowing them to observe and apply concepts from the classroom to real-life situations.  A certification examination is then required to use the initials “CAA.”  

 Advice to Current UVM Students: 

Julia says, “The best advice I can give to current UVM students is to utilize your resources! UVM has so many people available that can offer you so much support. Do not wait until your senior year to start making these connections. Although you may feel like a small fish in a very big pond your freshman year, professors want to help and guide you down the right path. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people within the Burlington community as well.”  

Other advice from Julia: 

  • Get involved in a club of interests but also go out of your way to meet people with many different interests.  
  • Keep in mind that the friends you choose your first year at UVM will shape your college experience. Make sure that friend group includes people who are supportive of your desire to study hard.  
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new or something that may challenge you!  

Julia wants to remind students that everyone’s college experience is unique, “so don’t compare yourself to other people. Don’t fret if your college life does not look like it does in the movies or completely match the ideas you had in your head.” She recommends frequently reminding yourself that you are capable of achieving anything you put your mind to. “Take every opportunity as a learning opportunity. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Also, make sure you learn from others’ mistakes and successes.” 

A final thought from Julia: “It is ok to not know exactly what you want to do when you graduate. Your path to success does not have to be linear. As I reflect on the last few years of my life, I appreciate the time I took to figure out exactly what I wanted to pursue. At first, I was very hesitant to take a GAP year (now called growth year), but now I’m very thankful for the time I have had after graduation. “ 

Julia’s parting words: “Aim high and don’t give up!”  

Keep anesthesiologist assistant on your radar as you consider your future as a healthcare professional. 


Spotlight is On: Sydney Caldwell ‘22

By: Maddie Panyard ’21

We have amazing students at the University of Vermont who get involved in wonderful organizations. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Sydney Caldwell, a junior molecular genetics major with a Spanish minor.  She is passionate about the research and clubs she has found at UVM.

Career Interests: 

Sydney has always been interested in the world of medicine. In the past, she has toyed with whether to pursue a PhD, MD, or combined MD/PhD degree. With over 6 years of research experience, a PhD may seem liked the logical choice, but after doing clinical shadowing, Sydney realized that she loves patient interactions. Regardless of whether she goes on to obtain an MD or MD/PhD,  she wants a career in which she an care for patients while also continuing research of her own. Sydney plans to wait a year after graduating UVM to apply to medical school but is hoping that during that year off she can spend time in a Spanish speaking country to continue to improve her ability to communicate in Spanish. 

Her Research Experience: 

Sydney started doing cancer research in high school at Stony Brook University near her home on Long Island, and also was able to spend a short period of time doing research at UC Davis. Her research involved the study of the spice, turmeric, specifically a component known as curcumin, as a potential therapeutic for cancer.  

Once at UVM, Sydney did not let her passion for research die. She met with her advisor during the first month of school and found out about a professor that was doing immunology research. Using her advisor’s connection, she sent out an email to the professor expressing her interest in his lab. The professor responded, and she met with him in person to discuss her passion for research. By October, she was actively involved in the professor’s research lab learning all about immunology and obesity. As a junior, she is still working in this research lab, spending approximately 9-10 hours a week there doing experiments that focus on the effects of a long non-coding RNA in immune cells and obesity. 


Sydney is co-president of UVM’s club MedVida. MedVida is UVM’s chapter of the national organization MEDLIFE. MEDLIFE is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide medicine, education, and development to people living in rural areas of Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, and Tanzania where access to care is extremely limited. Students involved in MEDLIFE help provide short term relief during one to two weeklong trips by setting up health clinics in rural villages.  

In May of 2019, Sydney and other club members traveled to Peru to assist doctors for 10 days. Sydney appreciated the opportunity to learn firsthand about the importance of public health while interacting with others from a cultural experience different from her own.  Generally, the Peru trip happens every year. However, with COVID this fall, MedVida is holding a virtual trip in December. This virtual trip will occur over a week and feature interviews with patients and doctors. Throughout the week, there will be a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions.   

Interested in getting involved in MedVida? 

MedVida is still holding weekly in-person meetings, despite COVID. The meetings happen every Tuesday at 6 pm. To get more information, send an email to one of the co-Presidents ( and  Other Involvement: 

Sydney is an active member in the UVM and Burlington community. Besides MedVida, she also is the UVM Club Gymnastics President and a volunteer for Red Cross. Pre-COVID, she spent time shadowing doctors at the UVM Medical Center. She achieved her shadowing hours by going to the UVM Medical Center’s webpage and emailing doctors from departments of interest to her. She did not hear back from some, but others responded. Specifically, Sydney had the opportunity to shadow an orthopedic surgeon. She was able to spend 10 hours in the OR observing a surgery and found it fascinating.  

Advice for Peer Undergraduates: 

Sydney’s advice for her peers is to recognize the importance of connections. Whether these connections are with your professors, advisors, or peers, they will help you significantly further your career. Speaking from her experiences, Sydney says without connections, she would not be in her research lab nor would she have been able to obtain shadowing experience. All it takes is some simple, professional emails or conversations to find a path to a new and rewarding experience. Sydney also warns her peers not to lose hope if you do not hear back from a connection. There may be lots of rejections or lack of responses at first, but “everything works out for a reason and you will find yourself exactly where you need to be.” 

Spotlight is On: Ryan Quinn ’16

By Julia Sexton ‘21   

Ryan Quinn graduated from UVM in 2016 and is now in his 4th and final year at the Colchester, VT campus of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science (ACPHS).  In May, he’ll receive his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. A fun fact about Ryan is that he met his wife on UVM’s Trinity campus during his sophomore year.  

While at UVM…  

Ryan majored in biochemistry and (not surprisingly) completed a minor in Pharmacology. During his first two years, he was on the UVM Crew team. He describes that as “an awesome experience [that] I would recommend to anyone who likes early mornings, great exercise and team building experiences.” 

Why pharmacy?  

Ryan knew since he was young that he wanted to help people. By the end of sophomore year, he realized that a career in the lab wasn’t for him, and he began to explore other options where he could put his biochemistry background to use. After some research and with help from his academic advisor, he narrowed it down to medical school or pharmacy school. A toxicology course in junior year was the introduction to pharmacy he needed to fall in love with the field. That motivated him to apply for a job as a pharmacy technician at a local pharmacy, and “the rest is history.” 

 3-year program vs 4-year pharmacy program: 

PharmD programs vary in length from 3 – 4 years. The shorter programs generally require summer sessions. ACPHS offers a 4-year curriculum in Albany and a 3-year accelerated path in Colchester (although when Ryan began, both programs were 4 years in length).  Ryan says that for him, a 4-year curriculum was the right choice. He weighed the appeal of finishing a full year earlier, with the tradeoff of a heavily increased workload. He opted to decompress the training to give him more time to spend with his wife and the ability to keep working part-time.  

Favorite part about pharmacy school?  

Ryan’s “absolute favorite” part of pharmacy school is the ability to take what he learns during class and immediately be able to apply that knowledge at work, which he finds “incredibly satisfying” and an efficient way to retain information.  He also is excited to experience the constantly evolving nature of pharmacy and the opportunity for daily learning.  

After graduation from ACPHS?  

Ryan will have to take and pass certifying exams to become licensed to practice pharmacy. He plans to find a position in a community pharmacy, ideally in the Burlington area, and is excited to make a difference in his community.  

Advice for an undergraduate considering a career in pharmacy: 

Ryan offers this advice: “Pharmacy is an incredible, multi-faceted career path… Getting a job as a pharmacy technician is a great first step…It will be a fantastic way to make sure you enjoy the work you will most likely end up doing one day.”  Not only that, having interactive experiences with pharmacists and customers will help you create a compelling and genuine application that showcases your motivation for the career and your understanding of the joys and challenges that come with it. 

Spotlight is On: Key Nguyen ’21

By Health Professions Interest Group Leader Maggi Davis, ’21

We have amazing students at the University of Vermont who get involved in wonderful organizations. This week we’d like to introduce you to Key Nguyen, a senior Nursing major currently applying to graduate programs. This interview gives an insight into the flexibility of the nursing profession.

Campus Involvement:

Key is actively involved both on and off campus. In his first few years at UVM, he held leadership positions as a student senator in the Student Government Association and as a Resident Advisor. He used this time to develop more of his soft skills, like leadership and communication, and to gain strong connections on campus before diving into the nursing curriculum. Junior year, clinical rotations begin, and Key slowed down on his campus involvement to focus on academics. He is currently a student leader for SGA, the President of the Boulder Honor Society, and a student representative for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Dean search committee. He wishes there were more than 24 hours in a day so he could be even more involved!

Converse Home:

Key started working for a local nursing home, The Converse Home, his sophomore year. He is a patient care assistant, working 25 hours a week to help support his family. Key feels fortunate to have had an early start into patient care, as many nursing majors don’t dive into this until junior year. He took Health Assessment (one of the first nursing-related classes) at the same time he started working at the Converse Home. Key was trained well and picked up a lot of skills as he went. He says he loves working at the Converse Home because of the great team and leadership.

Gerontology Interest:

Gerontology has always been Key’s area of interest and was the reason he applied to nursing school in the first place. He says he connects easily with older adults , and attributes some of this to his culture. Key is originally from Vietnam and was taught from a young age to venerate older adults. Throughout his life, caring for older adults has defined him, and helped him feel comfortable quickly in his role at The Converse Home. Communicating and interacting with the geriatric population comes naturally to Key, and because of this, he greatly enjoys his work at the nursing home.

Advice for younger nursing majors:

Key’s advice for younger nursing students is to start to get involved and to communicate with upperclass peers. To urge younger students to reach out, he says, “We are not that scary, and we love talking to underclassmen students and give advice to help them out.” He hopes first and second year students will be more proactive about asking juniors and seniors about the interesting opportunities they have had on their journeys. He also says it is a good idea to plan ahead. He feels it was an advantage to start working with patients way before starting clinicals in the hospital. This helped him have patient communication and assistance skills in his back pocket, so when he was in the hospital for clinicals, he only had to worry about the more technical skills he was learning. He says younger students do not have to wait to get to the hospital to start learning these communication skills, so start reaching out for opportunities!

Future Career Goals:

Key is currently in the process of applying to graduate programs, and has been working on his personal statement. He has gotten help with his applications from the pre-health advisor, Cara Calvelli, and from the UVM Writing Center. He is applying to Adult and Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner programs. This will allow him to focus on more preventative care for anyone 13 years or older. He says this is relevant to his minor in Behavioral Change Health Studies from the Larner College of Medicine. He believes the future of health care will be outside the hospital, and more focused on keeping people healthy and away from hospitals. After becoming a nurse practitioner, Key hopes to get a doctoral degree to hold a higher leadership position. His focus is also to help people from underserved communities, and more specifically, from immigrant or refugee communities. As an immigrant himself, he has a closer tie to some of the injustices within the US healthcare system, and he wants to dedicate his future work to change that. He wants to serve the people he holds close to his heart, who have similar backgrounds. Key also would like to move toward the political aspect of healthcare after gaining clinical experiences. Because a lot of change in healthcare starts at a federal level, Key wants to start tackling these changes from a legislative aspect. Key says his future career goals may change in the future, but he is open to change. This is something nurses are very good at, being flexible to changing however they need to in order to provide the best care.

DNP vs MD:

A DNP is a Doctorate in Nursing Practice that prepares students to become nurse practitioners (NP). An NP has similar responsibilities to a medical doctor. However, there are many important distinctions between the two. There is some confusion about the titles, since NPs are nurses who hold doctoral degrees. A DNP follows the nursing model for care, which is a more holistic approach to care that incorporates the whole person. The MD pathway uses the medical model, which is focused on disease processes and treatments. Both are necessary for patient care, but Key Nguyen identifies more with the nursing process. The DNP provides the opportunity for him to learn about both the clinical and leadership aspects of nursing care.

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