Division of Mathematics & Natural Sciences

Healthcare Professions

Health Professions Committee

What is the Health Professions Committee?
Most health professional schools require, or at the very least strongly prefer, all applicants to submit a single, summary letter of evaluation that is written by a committee. The Health Professions Committee was formed at Penn State Altoona to provide students with the opportunity to have such a letter written with input from faculty members who best know the applicant. The letter is written after the committee collects information about the applicant and interviews the applicant.

Who needs the services of this committee?
Any Penn State Altoona student or alumni applying to a health professional school can use the services of this committee. This includes most allopathic and osteopathic medical, dental, optometry, and podiatric schools. Students should contact the potential schools to determine if a committee evaluation letter is recommended.

Some important factors for admission to professional schools include:

  • Timely completion of prerequisite courses for the school. These may vary between programs so check each school's requirements carefully.
  • Overall GPA, possibly science GPA, last 60 credits GPA or grades in specific courses. Review the schools' web sites to determine if your GPA will be competitive.
  • Performance on appropriate standardized test (GRE, MCAT, OAT, DAT, PCAT …) Review the school's web site to identify policies and viable test scores. Schools may use most recent test scores, highest score, average test scores, or some combination.
  • Well written personal statements. Excellent resources on personnel statements can be found at Medical Students' Resource Guide and the Purdue Online Writing Lab. This is not always an easy essay to write but do not think of it as a hurdle to overcome, think of it as a process to help you clearly explain to the reader why you have chosen this field and demonstrate you have the passion, preparation, skills, and drive to succeed.
  • Extracurricular activities with an emphasis on those demonstrating leadership, community service, and relevance to your chosen field. Most schools strongly recommend clinical experiences, make sure you check each school's requirements and document your experiences.
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty, advisors, community members and health professions committee.
  • Professional schools may require personal interviews, on campus exercises, and secondary applications. Additional fees and travel may be required.
  • Timely and complete application. The application process is multifaceted, plan to devote a significant period of time to carefully complete a successful application. Incomplete or late applications are generally not successful.

How does the process work?

To receive a committee letter of evaluation, follow these steps:

  1. Contact Mary Kananen (mkk5@psu.edu), express your desire to have the committee write you a letter of evaluation and arrange for an advising meeting.
  2. Carefully research the application process for your profession of choice and specific requirements for each school to which you wish to apply. It is the student's responsibility to confirm that all required materials have been submitted for their applications.
  3. Using the forms provided, request letters of evaluation from 3-6 individuals. At least two letters must be from science faculty and one from a non-science faculty member. In addition, some programs require a reference letter from a professional in your field of study.
  4. Schedule and take your discipline standardized test ( MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.). See additional information on the Standardized Test page.
  5. Complete the application packet and submit completed packet to Mary Kananen, Coordinator of the Health Professions Committee, 150 Learning Resources Center.
  6. Schedule and attend a mock interview at the Penn State Altoona Career Services Office located in the Slep Student Center. This will also help you prepare for the professional school interviews.
  7. Interview with the Health Professions Committee Once the items listed in the following checklist are in your file (including at least 3 letters of recommendation), you can schedule your interview with the Preprofessional Evaluations Committee by contacting Mary Kananen at mkk5@psu.edu. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of the interview is for the committee to get to know you so we can write a more informed letter. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, your abilities, motivation, and why you are qualified to go to professional school. The interview also serves as a preparatory experience for your medical school interviews. Dress as you would for a professional school interview.
  8. After your interview, the committee will write a letter of evaluation and forward it to the appropriate locations. The student should complete the interview by the end of their junior year to ensure the letter is received in time for full consideration by the schools to which the student is applying. It may take several weeks after your interview for the letter to be completed. It is essential that you know the required due dates and schedule your interview early. Except under extraordinary circumstances, the committee will not interview students applying to medical schools after July. If you have any questions about your application, the process or other concerns please contact Mary Kananen mkk5@psu.edu, 814-949-5106, 150 Learning Resources Center.

Ms. Mary Kananen
Instructor in Biology
Office: 150 Learning Resources Center
Phone: 814-949-5106

Dr. James A. Winsor
Professor of Biology
Office: 109 Science Building
Phone: 814-949-5180

Dr. Richard Bell
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Office: 104 Science Building
Phone: 814-949-5172

Dr. Francis Mateycik
Assistant Professor of Physics
Office: 106 Science Building
Phone: 814-949-5177

Dr. Esther Siegfried
Instructor in Biology
Office: 103D Sheetz Family Health Center
Phone: 814-949-3329


Ms. Mary K. Kananen
Instructor in Biology
Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Office: 216 Hawthorn Building
Phone: 814-949-5106