PBPH Success Stories: Congratulations to Dental, PA, PT, and other Fall Starts!

The Post Baccalaureate Premedical Program at Northwestern Health Sciences University helps students prepare for their next step in healthcare: medical school, dental school, PA school, and more.  

This fall, 39 PBPH alums are starting their next chapters. They came to NWHSU for different reasons. Some needed to complete pre-requisites and hadn’t ever taken college-level science before. For others, their GPA from undergrad wasn’t what it needed to be. Maybe they weren’t even quite sure which health career was right for them.  

Each of these students worked hard and put in the time, and this fall it’s all paying off. Congratulations to the class of 2026 (and 2025)—we’re excited to see what you accomplish! 

Here we’re listing Dental, Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, and other professional programs. You can also read about our MD and DO fall starts.

Dental School Class of 2026 

  • Muntadher Al-Jayashi, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry 
  • Taylor Brown, Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry 
  • McKenzy Buermann, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry 

McKenzy came to NWHSU after completing her undergrad in Biology and Chemistry at University of Minnesota Duluth and working as a dental assistant for three years. She wanted to retake a few courses, and complete additional prerequisites for dental school.  

“The most important way that this program helped me was by allowing me to develop new, more effective study methods that are better tailored around the rigor of dental school,” she shared.  McKenzy appreciated that the professors wanted her to succeed, and were always there to support her and provide additional resources.  

Working as a dental assistant cemented for McKenzy that dentistry was right for her.  “I was inspired by the impact that you can have on somebody’s life by giving them confidence in their smile. I am excited and determined to eliminate the preconceived fear that many patients experience when they go to the dentist by building strong relationships with patients as well as utilizing the most advanced technologies that emphasize patient comfort.” 

  • Kale Enget, Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Illinois 
  • Sydney Walsh, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry 

Physician Assistant School Class of 2025  

  • Zahra SharifMohamed, St. Scholastica College 
  • Rachel Sarracco, Rutgers University

Rachel studied Biology and Spanish as an undergrad, and obtained great experience working as a diabetes educator, a CNA, and a clinical research intern in HCMC’s emergency department. She also volunteered in many capacities, including as a Spanish interpreter.  

Her biggest challenge getting into PA school was her GPA. She had a daughter during her sophomore year of college. “I struggled to find my new identity as a mother and student, and this made it difficult to excel in my science coursework,” she explained.  

PBPH programs do not “erase” your undergraduate GPA, but through the program Rachel was able to show a strong upward trend and raise her cumulative CASPA GPA. “The PBPH program provided a supportive environment where I could retake necessary coursework to apply to PA school,” said Rachel. “I made many friends in the program. Having the camaraderie and community was very comforting.”  

Rachel applied to 26 programs, received seven interview invitations, attended three, and was accepted into two programs. She shares this because she’s passionate about helping other pre-PA students, especially those with lower GPAs. “I want them to know that it is absolutely possible to get into PA school with a lower GPA.” 

When applying, Rachel focused on her strengths, which she knows will serve her as a PA in the future. Her volunteer and work experience, Spanish language skills, and life experience will help her in her goal of practicing primary care with underserved members of the community. “I’m really looking forward to serving my community as a culturally competent, kind healthcare provider and future PA.”  

  • Sam Scherf, Augsburg University

Sam graduated from Carleton College with a BA in cinema and media studies. He attended NWHSU to complete science prerequisites while working as an EMT in the ER at Abbot Northwestern.  

Sam first applied for PA school during the pandemic, while he was working in the ER, which was difficult for his mental health. “Honestly, the biggest challenge was not giving up after not getting in the first cycle,” he shared. 

“If I can offer any advice to future applicants, it would be to focus on the bigger picture,” he shared. “Always take your mental health seriously, understand that mental fatigue is nothing to joke about, and take advantage of the social circle you have. Getting into any program is often an endurance test and sometimes you have to adjust course and consider your strategies for success.”

Sam lost several members of his family to trauma. He was there with them in a level one trauma center, and saw the care they received.  “It’s hard work to save lives, but even harder to let them go with dignity after trying so hard to restore their health,” he said. “It means a lot to be there for someone during such critical moments. Seeing that changed the way I think about medicine and life in general, and cemented my desire to work in trauma surgery.” 

Trauma can be such a sudden, and destabilizing force, completely altering the course of someone’s life. People can go from living a healthy, medically unremarkable life one moment, and be hanging on by a thread the next. I want to be there for those people at those times, apply my skill and knowledge, and do my all for them working with a team that’s fighting just as hard as I am for them. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than giving someone a second chance to live a full life. 

Sam considered becoming a surgeon, but being a PA gives him the kind of life he wants: leaving space to balance interests and passions and experience more of the world outside the hospital.  

Doctor of Physical Therapy School Class of 2025 

  • Jessica Eisenhauer, St. Catherine’s University 

Jess has a bachelor of science in kinesiology, and came to NWHSU after swearing she would never go back to school. During her freshman year of undergrad, her advisor already told her that her GPA was “not competitive for grad school.” Still, she wanted to work in healthcare, and moved from California to Minnesota to pursue opportunities. She ended up volunteering and then working at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. A friend told her about the PBPH program, and she decided to pursue it.  

Jess came to the PBPH program with a 2.8 GPA, and Dr. Deal, her advisor, was realistic with her from the start: 

He told me multiple times, ‘It can be done. I’ve seen it done. But you will have to work hard.’ So, I did. Through therapy and with the support of the unbelievable team of professors in the post-baccalaureate department, I completed 40 credits with a 3.9 average GPA.   

The biggest challenge for Jess was her own mind. She struggled with an eating disorder for 7 years, and needed to recover her mind as well as her GPA. “Looking back,” she shared, “this was the number one thing that prepared me for PT school.”  

Jess chose physical therapy for the privilege of helping people live better lives in their bodies. She looks forward to empowering people every day, and the PBPH program made it possible:  

What this program did for me was empower me to achieve my own potential. These professors work harder than any professor I have ever met because they believe in each student that walks through the door. They know that the student that comes in to redeem their GPA or change their career has a story that will make them work harder than anyone else in the room to achieve their dream. When someone believes in you like that, you change the way you see yourself and you work harder because you are now on a team. 

Other Healthcare Programs  

  • Kevin Khem, Nursing Anesthesia, Augusta University 
  •  Clare Deputat, Anesthesiology Assistant, South University Charleston 
  •  Rachel Zigler, Genetic Counseling, Augustana University 

Could you be our next success story? Learn more about the PBPH program