Andrea Hall was on a steady track toward a successful career as an engineer, yet a slowly evolving interest in health curbed the direction she was pursuing, leading her to shift her career aspirations to medicine. Drawing from her background in problem-solving, her impressive track record will set her up for a high impact career as a future physician-innovator.

Growing up with her father as an engineer, Andrea admired how much he enjoyed this career and the quality of life it provided for their family. Even in high school, she considered pursuing health as a future career, but after a high school class that exposed her to various options in engineering, she entered college at Arizona State University (ASU) with a declared major in mechanical engineering. Because mechanical engineering could be applied to a variety of fields, this decision allowed for a broad range of career opportunities, even the possibility of exploring her interest in health.

As an undergraduate at ASU, Andrea cultivated her interest in engineering, participating in summer internships and serving on the leadership team of Society of Women Engineers. She continued to explore her curiosity in health, however, and took a cancer biology class which provided Andrea with the opportunity to study the mechanics of cancer. For her senior capstone project, with medicine still on her mind, she convinced her teammates to work on a project that was health-related. Inspired by a friend’s grandfather receiving physical therapy treatments, they developed an at-home leg-strengthening device. Andrea was a member of the honors college, graduating as the Outstanding Graduate of Mechanical Engineering, essentially a valedictorian title for her major, awarded on the merits of her GPA, leadership and service during her time as a student.

Andrea Hall, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Andrea winning the Outstanding Graduate of Mechanical Engineering award.

After graduation, Andrea transitioned to Tucson, Arizona, where she served as a manufacturing engineer at Raytheon. While there, she led a team of engineers in discovering a damaged component built into one of the assemblies. Together, they determined the scope of the damage, and set forth to fix the problem. “While I really enjoyed the communications component and the investigative work, mechanical systems wasn’t where I wanted to do this. It was health,” said Andrea.

This discovery led Andrea to move back to the Phoenix area, where she would take post-baccalaureate classes in order to fulfill requirements to apply to medical school. Over the course of the following year, she worked toward her classes, and also engaged in research and volunteer opportunities to further develop her interests. Andrea volunteered in the trauma center at a local hospital, observing patient and doctor interactions for the first time, and as a tutor in the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Andrea also returned to a lab at ASU to perform breast cancer research. The team modeled breast cancer tumor micro environments, placing cancer cells on hydrogels, which would form tumor-like masses that would allow the researchers the ability to test the effectiveness of various treatments.

The time came for Andrea to pursue medical school. Andrea was intrigued by the engineering approach to medicine offered at Carle Illinois. “I’m drawn to the idea that education could be more focused around problem-solving, analyzing, and an engineering way of thinking,” Andrea said.

“I’m drawn to the idea that education could be more focused around problem-solving, analyzing, and an engineering way of thinking.”

Now that she’s here, Andrea has been challenged and energized by her time in the clinic. She cites her preceptor, Dr. Carpenter, as a highlight for her, specifically how she models attentiveness to her patients, and works hard to thoroughly explain medical concepts and earn their trust. Dr. Carpenter has also entrusted Andrea with additional responsibility in the clinic already, pushing Andrea to grow in her clinical skills while offering the support and encouragement to perfect them as she goes.

In fact, very early in Andrea’s medical education, she was entrusted to deliver the placenta during a live birth. While she was planning to drive to the clinic for a typical day’s work, she received a message from Dr. Carpenter asking her to go to meet her at the hospital instead. Andrea arrived at the hospital, eager to witness her first live birth. Toward the end of Andrea’s shift, labor began to slow, but she soon discovered it was worth the wait, citing the experience as more incredible than she could have imagined. “She didn’t ask me, she just said, “You’re going to deliver this placenta,”’ Andrea excitedly recalled. It was in October, just four months into medical school, causing Andrea to realize first-hand the impact of the early clinical experience at Carle Illinois.

Andrea Hall, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Andrea practicing her clinical skills with two of her classmates.

“Clinic has been a great learning experience. I just had no idea I’d have these opportunities.”

She values the opportunity to be in the clinic so early on, already applying her knowledge base from the classroom and stretching her abilities in a practical way. “Clinic has been a great learning experience. I just had no idea I’d have these opportunities. I thought I’d mainly be shadowing,” said Andrea. Andrea gets to apply wisdom from Dr. Carpenter, saying, “You have to perform hundreds of normals in order to spot the one abnormal.” As Andrea trains to become a physician, her future patients are lucky to have her early exposure to real-life patients so she can jump start her practice of Dr. Carpenter’s advice.

When asked what she’ll consider a success at the end of her career, she immediately cited the people she will impact, and the satisfaction of knowing that she tried her best. Today, she practices this effort, trying to positively impact everyone she comes into contact with – starting now in medical school, and in the future, the patients under her care. Every day in medical school, she’s working hard to this end.

Andrea recognizes the opportunity she has, and counts every day as meaningful in medical school. “It’ll happen when I’m studying, in my PBL, or in clinic, that I’ll randomly be so thankful that I’m here and just so happy that I’m getting to do what I really want to do. It’s such an amazing feeling,” Andrea said.

The generosity of people like you made it possible for Andrea and her classmates to attend Carle Illinois with scholarships.