An Alumni-Inspired Education

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lauren Hock knew the Rush community well, even before stepping through the doors as an M1 student. As the daughter of former Rush nurse and College of Nursing alumna Monica Mastej Hock, BSN ’87/CON, Hock had a good sense of how she might fit in to the Rush family as she pursued her career as an ophthalmologist. But she had no idea how much other alumni would shape her medical education experience. 

The recipient of multiple Rush Medical College scholarships and grants, Hock felt the support of Rush alumni and friends right off the bat. After just her first year, she was chosen for the Rush Medical College Summer Research Fellowship program — funded by the Rush Medical College Alumni Association, among other donor and Rush contributions. For the rest of her medical school career, Hock would continue to benefit from the gracious support of the Rush community.

Meaningful Mentorship

Training in the diverse, urban environment she had aspired to work in, Hock admits her Rush experience was continuously enriched by the passion faculty and alumni have for their work, patients and the community — as well as mentoring the next generation of Rush physicians.

“I initially chose Rush not only because of its strong clinical experiences but how it emphasized the community service component I was looking for,” said Hock, who is scheduled to graduate in May 2017. “When I interviewed here, I felt like people and faculty were very appreciably invested in the community, and that institutionally, they were committed to engaging with the community — which is exactly the kind of people I wanted to learn from.”

When it came to her specialty, Jack Cohen, MD ’90, GME, associate professor of ophthalmology, served as Hock’s guide to the residency application process from day one. “He was the best cheerleader I could have asked for,” said Hock. “But he was also very realistic about what I needed to do in terms of scores and grades and checking classes to be competitive.”

Mike Savitt, MD ’87, assistant professor of ophthalmology and a member of the Rush Medical College Alumni Association Executive Council, is another alum and Rush faculty member who mentored Hock along the way. The two worked together at the Community Health Clinic’s student-run ophthalmology clinic, 20/20. “You could always tell how important Dr. Savitt felt his work was, both for our community and us students as future ophthalmologists,” said Hock. “He, along with all my mentors at Rush, had such unique and meaningful careers for us to learn from.”

The HOST With the Most

When it came time for Hock’s residency interviews, it became clear she wouldn’t be able to afford 17 hotel stays across the country — so Rush University’s HOST Program made it a little easier. As Hock traveled from city to city, Rush Medical College alumni volunteers residing in each location provided her overnight accommodations and travel assistance as well as insights into specific residency programs.

“Staying with alumni felt like a very natural continuation of the whole residency experience,” said Hock.

While interviewing at the University of Iowa — where she will start her residency this year —

Hock was treated to a warm and welcoming networking dinner party while staying with Joe Kowalski, MD ’10, in Iowa City.

“Without a doubt, my HOST experience in Iowa, and developing such a strong connection to people there before I even interviewed, definitely played into why I ranked it so highly in my residency options,” Hock added.

From San Francisco to Portland to Denver and St. Louis, Hock claims the HOST program allowed her to get a “flavor of what it’s like to be a physician all over the country.”

“A number of alumni have moved away and lost touch with some of their classmates,” said Hock. “But then, after hearing all the things that have changed at Rush, like the Tower or the partnership with County, they were so happy and excited, while reminiscing about the institution that helped shaped their own professional values.”  

The Power of Paying It Forward

As she prepares for the next step of her medical career, Hock admits that a strong, national alumni network is now more important than ever and undoubtedly paved the way for her success.

“Even just through my experience with Rush mentors and host families, I already feel like I have so many meaningful contacts,” said Hock. “And no matter where my career takes me, I know that I’m part of a powerful, welcoming alumni network that will someday allow me to give back to students like myself.”