Skip navigation

Experiences with veterans, kids, migrant workers shape future physicians

CMU’s third-year CMED students learn from the medically underserved

Contact: Curt Smith

​​​​​​Central Michigan University's College of Medicine has 272 students. Each one was specially selected, actually hand-picked, for admission, and each has an inspiring story to share.​

There's Abbie Christianson, of Maple Cit​​​y, who decided to teach medical Spanish to her classmates after working with migrants.

And Brett Pierce, of Frankenmuth, who has experienced the eclipse of history through the stories of World War II veterans — and the gurgles of our next generation's newborns.

Both Christianson and Pierce say that these service-learning experiences are critical to molding understanding, compassionate and qualified physicians.

Click below to learn more about them.

Abigail Christiansen, of Maple City, has wanted to be a physician since she was little. Her parents even bought her a Fisher Price doctor kit.

Today, she is a third-year medical student in Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine doing clinical rotations.

Christiansen spent her first two years of medical school volunteering at a clinic for migrant workers in Imlay City. Her first clinical rotation as a third-year student connected her with the migrant clinic in Belding.

“Two fellow medical students and I formed a group called Immersion to develop better ways to serve Spanish-speaking migrant workers and their families,” Christiansen said. “The language barrier and the nature of their transient work make it difficult for them to get continuity of quality care. We’ve developed a certificate program to teach our classmates basic medical Spanish to help break down the communication barrier.”

While in Belding, Christiansen spent evenings traveling to migrant worker camps to perform health screenings — your basic old-fashioned house call.

“The male workers were unable to leave their jobs during clinic hours, another complexity of serving this critically underserved population,” Christiansen said. “So we would visit their camps to deal with their health needs. They were very warm and welcoming, sharing stories from their native land in Mexico.”

Christiansen has aspirations to become a surgeon. She says the mission of the CMU College of Medicine, to train future physicians who will care for medically underserved populations in central and northern Michigan, is attractive to her.

“Because I am from a rural area, I was drawn to CMU’s program because I aligned with the mission,” Christiansen said. “Bringing physicians back to those areas and supporting the small communities in rural Michigan is so fundamental in providing health care to people who aren’t getting the help that they need.”

Brett Pierce, of Frankenmuth, is well on his way to becoming a doctor. Now in his third year at Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine, Pierce learns on the job, caring for a vast array of patients ranging from newborns to World War II veterans.

“I get to see patients who are in their upper 90s, and just a few minutes ago I was with a three-day-old baby,” Pierce said.

After two years of books, theory and lectures, Pierce’s first clinical assignment took him to the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Saginaw. He says being able to give back to those who sacrificed so much for their country has enhanced his medical education.

“I have so much respect for our veterans and active military men and women, so having the opportunity to work with them was very gratifying,” Pierce said. “Just being able to hear their stories about how their service impacted their health and their financial situation is really valuable for a medical student.”

During his clinical rotation at the VA Hospital, Pierce provided medical services ranging from urology and urgent care to psychiatry and primary care. He said his interaction with the veterans was like seeing history come to life.

“I had the opportunity to sit in on a former prisoner of war support group,” Pierce said. “Several of them were World War II vets — amazing men that someone from my generation rarely gets to learn from. One shared his story of parachuting behind enemy lines, getting captured at the Battle of the Bulge and escaping from Auschwitz. It was more of a human moment than a medical moment that I will never forget.”

Pierce’s current assignment is in Cass City where he focuses on family medicine and pediatrics. He appreciates the support he has received from medical professionals along the way as they help him learn by serving others.

“As medical students, we slow the process down,” Pierce said. “It takes so much longer for the doctor to take the time to teach us, and it takes us longer to do a physical exam and history. These communities have supported us not only with their time and effort but with their finances.”

Photo Associator

Article Photo Title

Photo Title required.

Photo for News Home

Select File
Use This One

Photo for News Feeds

Select File
Use This One