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In case of emergency

After shadowing doctors and getting involved in research in a hospital emergency department, Katie Willfahrt prescribed her own path to medicine.  

As an incoming CBS freshman, Katie Willfahrt planned to study biology, go on to medical school and eventually practice as a doctor. But after shadowing a few physicians, she realized her preconceptions about the field weren’t quite in line with her personal predilections, so she decided to change course.

“I feed on interaction with people and building strong connections,” said Willfahrt. “I realized that I will get more of that as a P.A. than as an M.D.”

Wilfahrt, a biology major, is drawn to the physician’s assistant field for the interaction, but also the flexibility. “I think one of the biggest reasons I love the profession is how easy it is to switch specialties,” said Willfahrt. “I have a hard time committing to one career let alone one specialty for the rest of my life.” One thing is certain, she’s not afraid of working in a fast-paced medical setting.

Willfahrt already has some relevant experience to add to her resume. She is currently in the Research Associate Program in the emergency department at the Hennepin County Medical Center. In this role, she assists doctors in the collection of research data for numerous studies. One of her favorite studies includes comparing the blood protein levels between individuals with excited delirium to those with long-bone fractures who have yet to receive pain medication to see if there is any correlation between the two groups. 

Given her interest in emergency medicine, Willfahrt appreciates the unique opportunities that come with living in a large metro like the Twin Cities at a level-one trauma center. “Each day in the ED is different. I leave on a Wednesday night and come back Thursday morning, and things can be totally different,” she says. “There is rarely a dull moment and the things we get to see are unique to HCMC.”

While her plans may change, for now Wilfahrt plans on staying on the fast track for a while. “Right now, I’m really interested in emergency medicine,” says Willfahrt. “I’m hoping to begin my career in the ED (emergency department) working crazy hours and then gradually transition into cardiology after I’ve had a more well-rounded experience.” 

– Lance Janssen



How’d she do it?

Willfahrt found her way to the Research Associate Program at HCMC through a fellow CBS student. Here's her advice to CBS students looking for unique research opportunities: 

“Explore online and talk with fellow CBS undergraduates to find new and different ways to do research.”