Three 2023 Graduates Leaving Legacy of Community at KUEC
Three unusually talented and driven molecular biosciences majors are among the impressive and diverse group of undergrads collecting their diplomas May 13 at the KU Edwards Campus graduation ceremony. Austin Beahm, Griffin Schenk, and Abhay Ramachandran are headed to careers in medicine.
The trio formed a close bond and as they juggled a rigorous academic program, outside jobs, family commitments and applications to med school. Aiming to expand the camaraderie, they started two new student organizations.
Last year, Beahm, and Schenk co-founded the KUEC Pre-med Club to support other students through the intimidating application process. Ramachandran, a research advisor on the Pre-med Club executive board, started the Multi-Cultural Student Association (MSA). MSA members meet monthly to socialize and experience each other’s cultures.
“We founded the Pre-Med Club to provide relevant opportunities for students,” Schenk said. “Austin and I had been lucky to find opportunities for clinical experience, volunteering, and leadership, and we wanted to provide the same for other students.”
Through the club, they have coached students about what to expect during the application cycle.
“Our goal was to create a collaborative environment to help like-minded students on their journey of pursuing their medical educations,” Beahm added. “A good medical applicant must have strong academics, extracurriculars, research, volunteer experience, and clinical work experience. We provide resources and insight, as well as help to navigate the uncertainty associated with the pre-med experience.”
Both Ramachandran and Beahm have been admitted to med school at KU and Kansas City University, respectively. Schenk was not accepted the first time around, which is a common experience. He will take a gap year to work and do research, and then reapply in the next cycle.
“The fact that two of our members have already been accepted makes me think all the hard work we put into making this club has paid off,” he said. “I have no doubt the club will continue after we graduate.”
Each of these students took a unique path to KU’s molecular biosciences program, which has been renamed Applied Biological Sciences.
Beahm graduated from Andover High School in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he was ready to get serious about college. He received his associate degree in science from Johnson County Community College (JCCC) two years later.
He chose KU’s molecular biosciences degree for the flexibility it offered.
“KUEC was a great choice because I’ve built relationships with faculty and students, was able to give time and effort to my job, and my wife and daughter, and I’ve had the opportunity to pursue experiences that set me up for future success. Financially it made sense because I transferred an increased number of credits from JCCC, which allowed me to save money.”
Beahm is currently enrolled in 19 credit hours and is finishing up a self-paced calculus class before he starts medical school at Kansas City University. He is also a KU Honors student.
“The honors program allowed me to take a deeper dive into each of my courses, form valuable relationships with faculty, and distinguish my application for medical school. It showed medical schools that I am serious about my education and intellectually curious,” Beahm said.
“My story made me a stronger applicant. I am a nontraditional student, with a wife and a child, and I was a bartender/server for five years. The start of my collegiate experience was tumultuous. I dropped out of college twice and had five F’s on my transcript.
“After finding my passion for medicine, I turned my life around, retook those classes, and completely reconstructed the narrative of my life. Strong academics, leadership, volunteering, research, and clinical experiences have allowed me to continue to pursue my dreams of being a physician.”
Beahm said he chose medicine because all his experiences, failures, and successes drove his desire to make the greatest impact possible on those around him.
“My long-term goal in medicine is to become a surgeon and work in an academic institution where I can be a preceptor to medical students, teach resident physicians, and have ample time and resources for research, while continuing my practice doing operations and having clinic.”
Ramachandran attended Blue Valley North and is a graduate of the “Degree in 3” program which provides a path to a bachelor’s degree in three years post high school graduation.
“I went to JCCC and then KU Edwards to save money and graduate faster to go into medicine,” Ramachandran said. “The molecular biosciences sparked my interest because it encompasses cellular biology, pathology, immunology, and microbiology.”
When Ramachandran first came to KUEC, he found it hard to connect with other students. Despite his own busy schedule, he found time to start MSA.
“I wanted MSA to be a social hub where students from various cultures can interact and make connections, while also learning and educating themselves on the various cultures present in the KUEC student body,” he said. “It is not limited to any race, ethnicity or gender; anyone can attend and just have fun.”
In addition to his involvement in the Pre-Med Club and MSA, Ramachandran is also an active member of the Student Advisory Council (SAC).
“My involvement with SAC and Pre-med Club is intertwined with MSA. We are all friends who wanted to make a difference for students on campus.” he said.
Ramachandran is excited for the next phase of his journey as a KU medical student but also very grateful for the professors at KUEC who supported and encouraged him.
According to Ramachandran, Brendan Mattingly, program director for biological sciences, is one the best professors he has ever had.
“Dr. Mattingly teaches in a way that excited the students and makes them want to learn. His classes are engaging with banter and fun conversations, and he genuinely wants his students to succeed,” Ramachandran said. “He gave me valuable advice on writing my personal statement for medical school and life in general. He constantly supported me and all the other students going down the perilous pre-med path.”
Ramachandran believes “Degree in 3” gave him a more direct path to med school. But he is quick to point out there are many that take a gap year in between their graduation and subsequently applying to medical school.
“That path is perfectly reasonable and encouraged in the Pre-med Club,” he said. “We always tell our members to give yourself the time to put the best version of yourself on the med school application.”
Ramachandran’s long-term plan in medicine is something he is still contemplating, but he said, “I know I am on the path I will take for the rest of my life.”
Schenk graduated from Mill Valley High School in 2020. KU’s “Degree in 3” program drew him to the Edwards Campus. Having earned many AP credits, he spent one year getting his associate degree in general sciences and liberal arts at JCCC. Now he is graduating with his bachelor’s in molecular biosciences.
“I appreciate the smaller class size at KUEC and classes being later in the afternoon or evening, so I have more employment options.” Schenk said. He has been working part time as a medical assistant at Olathe Health in addition to his full course load as a member of KU’s Honors Program.
“The Honors Program has been instrumental in allowing me to explore how the biological concepts I am learning in class apply to the real world,” he said.
“I’ve delved into topics like the strange world of giant viruses, examining how our society responds to disease through investigating outbreaks, and the effects of vaccine equity initiatives on disease. The honors program has taught me to embrace new perspectives.”
Schenk will be reapplying to medical school soon but in the meantime will continue his research with at KUEC with Mattingly, while working at Olathe Health.
“I will also continue to volunteer with the Mill Valley Science Olympiad team as the assistant coach and biology mentor,” he added.
Schenk said he wants to be a doctor because it’s where all his passions meet.
“I want a career where there is always something new to learn. I want to help make other people's lives, and the world, just a little bit better and be someone people can look to for advice they can trust. And I want to be an educator. Becoming a physician is the best way I can achieve these goals.”
As these men go on to make their mark in the world of medicine, they’ve already made a difference for their fellow students at KUEC.