A group of four girls in a science lab experimenting

Graceland students who have gone through the pre-professional programs on the Lamoni campus have a history of success as they take the next steps in their career path.

I t has been said among the faculty of these programs that 100 percent of qualified students get into a continuing program, which seems to be true even through to the class of 2018.

These students — who major in biology, chemistry (with a biology minor) or a double-major in both — have many career options through continuing degree programs: Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctor of Dental Medicine, Doctor of Optometry, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine … to name a few.

These programs are very competitive, but Graceland graduates seem to have an edge.

Bob Pranaat ’06 attended Oregon Health Science University in Portland and is now in his residency in anesthesiology in Rochester, New York. When he asked the question “why me?” he was informed that his student-life experience made him stand out.

Science Department faculty Dan Pratt and Jeff Draves agree. They recognize the value that comes from broad experiences, which leads to well-rounded applicants, and they acknowledge that Graceland fosters an environment in which science majors — and all students — are not only allowed but encouraged to take part in a variety of activities.

“We work together as a campus to make those opportunities happen; that’s a big deal,” said Professor of Chemistry Jeff Draves, PhD.

It may seem counterintuitive, as Draves points out that many pre-professional students at institutions around the world give up a lot to concentrate on their coursework. But becoming a doctor — or a dentist, or an optometrist, or a veterinarian — often requires much more than knowledge in one’s particular field.

The people skills that come from student-leadership positions at Graceland can lead to a positive bedside manner, and playing a team sport during college can translate to great cooperation and trust among one’s surgical team.

The environment at Graceland provides much more than just individual experiences that prepare pre-professional students for their next steps, however. Professor of Chemistry Dan Pratt, PhD, explains that the students in these programs are more than classmates —  they’re friends.

“They’ve been in most classes together for four years, done activities together, played sports together, done house functions together … They’re a family, and they make me want to come to work every day,” said Pratt.

Draves agrees and notes, “Nothing in this building is easy,” referring to Resch Science and Technology Hall. “These students spend a lot of time struggling together, working together and trying to help each other out, and they do a really good job of that.”

Draves describes the mindset of the students as one from which they get better as individuals by pushing their classmates to be better. “It’s a competition of ‘how do I get better,’ not a competition of ‘how do I beat you?’” he explained. And it does, in fact, make them better.

Graceland pre-professional students do continue to beat out other students for spots in competitive programs, and many have gone on to make exceptional strides. It is clear that Graceland’s impact in the health care industry goes well beyond just nursing; graduates are using their Graceland experience to do so much more.


These science-based programs prepare students for the following career fields:

  • Chiropractic
  • Dentistry
  • Forensic Science
  • Medicine
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Veterinary Medicine

Doctors, dentists and vets, oh my!

These alumni have taken advantage of the strong foundation provided by their academic experiences to pursue careers in the health sciences.

BRETT JAGGER `04 | La Porte, Indiana | Major Biology

AT GRACELAND Speaker of the Senate, Agape House Senator, Treasurer, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band,

BEYOND GRACELAND Received MD from Indiana University and PhD from University of Cambridge/NIH; completed Internal Medicine Residency and Infectious Disease Fellowship at Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University in St. Louis; will begin July 1 as Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine.

PALOMA ORTIZ `05 MONTIJO | Guaynabo, Puerto Rico | Major Biology

AT GRACELAND Paloma House, Track and Field, Polynesian Club, International Club

BEYOND GRACELAND Received MS in Forensic Science with emphases in forensic pathology, forensic DNA and forensic entomology from Emporia State University; worked as Medical Legal Investigator and Forensic Pathologist Assistant with Shawnee County Coroner’s Office; currently working as Forensic Pathologist Assistant/Coroner’s Assistant for both Shawnee County Office and Frontier Forensics Midwest in Kansas City, Kansas.

TIM SILEGY, DDS, ’86 was a biology major at Graceland, who was also involved in theatre and football. Silegy is now an oral surgeon in Long Beach, California, and is certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. He was featured as

the first oral and maxillofacial surgeon on the popular show “Extreme Makeover” in 2005 when he performed corrective jaw surgery on a young patient.

In addition to his practice, Silegy teaches continuing education courses to health care professionals throughout the country and has even traveled to Latin America on medical missions to help the impoverished.

BROOKE JOHNSON `04 WRIGHT | Clive, Iowa | Major Biology

AT GRACELAND Solah House, Tennis, Softball, Intramural Sports

BEYOND GRACELAND Worked as Autopsy Technician; completed medical school at Des Moines University; completed emergency medicine residency in Columbus, Ohio; currently an Emergency Medicine Physician for UnityPoint in Des Moines (Methodist, Methodist West, Lutheran); Camp doctor for Spectacular

SARAH BALIK `11 | Cresco, Iowa | Major Biology

AT GRACELAND Sariah House President, Crescent, Honors Program, Choir, Indoor Track, Volleyball

BEYOND GRACELAND Accepted early into veterinary school at Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine; currently practices mixed-animal medicine in Northeast Iowa.


The projected employment growth in science and engineering occupations during the period 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

* Source: National Science Foundation