Dr. Langhorne is the Pre-Health advisor on campus, and is one of the most important people you should take time to meet with during your journey towards Medical School. With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Langhorne is a great resource here at Binghamton University. We discussed with him some important things that every Pre-Medical student at Binghamton should know!
How and why did you become a pre-health advisor here at Binghamton?
A: Initially it was accidental. My first wife had gotten a job here while I was finishing up my graduate program. I just moved here so I wasn’t really doing anything. My predecessor was pregnant and having some problems where she had to stop working and be on bed rest immediately. I was asked if I could fill in for her at that moment and for her maternity leave which was 6 months. So I said sure, because I didn’t have anything else that was pressing. They gave me all this paperwork and said that I had a week to read all of them. Once my predecessor was home and stabilized she told me what times I could call her to ask her questions, so I called her a lot, and did that for about a week. Then they put out an announcement in Pipe Dream that I existed. This started Spring Semester in 1983, 30 years ago. In the meantime her husband was an engineer with IBM when it had a big presence in the area, so after 9 months he got transferred to another IBM facility. So she left, and was not coming back. So, pretty much, they asked me if I wanted to stay, and I said sure. I liked what I was doing because I came from a smaller college so I always had face-to-face contact with my faculty, in class or just around. I started doing other things while I was here as well. I was Hinman Fellow for a few years, and I did some university committees, like the honesty committee. I got kind of entrenched, if you will, but liked what I was doing. When I got my PhD the department here said that I could start teaching. I initially filled in when people were on sabbatical. I went through and designed a couple of courses. I ended up teaching, which I still do, once every odd year. I was a coach for the fencing club. I spent about 15 years each for fencing and being a Hinman Fellow. So, besides advising I had opportunities to do other things, to grow and learn new things even though advising was my anchor. I was able to go out into different arenas and explore them. Then in the 90’s I started this Regional and National Advising Organization. After I had been going to conferences for about 10 years or so, they asked me to be secretary of the Regional Northeast group in 1993, so I went ahead and took that position and I was reelected for 2 or 3 terms. In 2000 they asked me to run for president, which I did, and won… I’ve been treasurer since 2008 of the National Board and my term expires in 2014. That’s kind of where we are now… I know this is a long-winded answer to your question.
What do you think the best and worst aspects of your job are?
A: The best? I like working with people individually. I mean, I can give presentations to large groups, but I get more intrinsic with smaller groups or individuals, and I especially like working with very high achievers. They’re easier to work with in some ways than people who are just kind of hanging out for 4 years. There’s a certain amount of energy that they generate that you pick up on, and I’ve always been working with a good set of colleagues over the years here, and with some of the other organizations I’ve taken part in, on and off campus. Least enjoyable things? That’s hard. Usually most days are fairly pleasant. There were a bunch of cuts in the mid-90’s. We got down to where there were very few people working here, but still a lot of students. We were limited with what you could do to help the students because there just weren’t enough people. So, for a while there I was doing general advising about 20-25% of the time, instead of just Pre-Health Advising. I did that for about 4 years, until 2005. When we got a new director, she initiated the hiring of some new advisors, so we got 3 new staff members within 6 months, and I was able to back off from general advising and focus on Pre-Health students. Then Michelle was hired, and we worked it out so that 25% of her time was Pre-Health; she works with the freshmen. So that was a time when we realized that we had to work with what we had.
In your opinion what is the biggest mistake that Pre-Health students make, and what would you advise them to do instead?
A: Don’t rush things too fast. Make sure you take time with the basics and that you want to do this. Don’t take three science courses first semester freshman year. You can always pick up the pace once you get the basics done. If you’re not 100% sure you want to apply to optometry, or dentistry schools don’t rush and apply, because halfway through your first year you might realize you hate it, and then you’ll owe them a bunch of money, and you’re going to have to rebuild yourself. It’ll be costly monetarily and psychologically. I’d rather see someone take a year off and shadow someone or work in that area to make sure they want to do it.
What do you think makes a personal statement stand out above those of other applicants?
A: Well that’s what everyone tries to do: to not sound like everyone else. It should be personalized in which the reader can visualize who’s saying it, and it doesn’t sound formulated and repeated. It has to have a certain element of individuality in it that makes it appear to be unique to the individual, whose application it belongs to. But, at the same time it needs to present expected information and that’s where you get into the formulaic, because there are certain things they want to know about everyone. There might be only certain types of ways you can convey that, so you have to incorporate personalization but at the same time include what you need to.
Can you describe what the credential file is and how it helps Binghamton University students?
A: It’s done at a lot of universities. One of our alumni who ended up working in admissions at a medical school helped design it. It’s been refined a few times since then, partly because technology changes, so it’s not what it looked like in ‘75 when he first designed it. It gives you this committee or composite approach and allows a lot of information to be assembled about the student, and present it to the schools in basically a package where the assembler knows what the schools are looking for and how to present the information. Ours works where you collect individual letters from faculty or other people. There is a document on the website that you can fill out and give to the faculty. So, you bring us a copy of the application so it is all standardized, and less for you to fill out. It all gets assembled and you’re put in a line. Basically you are date-stamped, and how you are put in the system depends on the date that you finish your file. So, after the first few weeks of summer break I don’t have appointments. I just write for most of the summer. I attach 3 to 4 of your letters, and if you gave additional letters, I will just take from those and quote it. The ones that are sent out are usually the ones required by your professional school. I make my judgment based on those that shed light on more than one dimension of them. I’ll talk about any awards that you may have won, and so forth, and any contact that we may have had.
How should Binghamton University students tackle which Post-Graduate schools they should apply to?
They should look at the statistics of where Binghamton Alumni have gotten into to see if there is a trend. Schools that take alumni are more familiar with us. It’s helpful when a younger student comes and applies and the school they are applying to has strong track record of Binghamton alumni, they have a better grasp on the grading system so they may be more flexible in certain areas. They can compare the incoming students to the graduating class and they track it back to where you went to your undergraduate schooling, your GPA, and your MCAT. So the places that we send our alumni to are interested in getting more Binghamton students. You should also pursue schools that you have an interest in. It’s worth exploring your options. You’re going to end up doing that anyway with the amount of schools you will apply to.
At the end of the interview, we asked if Dr. Langhorne had any last minute advice for pre-medical students at Binghamton University. He responded: Work hard and be sure you know what you’re aiming for so you end up where you want to be.