Health Professions Advising Program

Brian J. McNelis, Ph.D., University Health Professions Advisor

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Santa Clara University Health Professions program goal is to advise, mentor, support and educate students for meaningful work in healthcare careers. We guide students in their preparation for a myriad of healthcare careers such as dentistry, allopathic and osteopathic medicine, physical therapy, optometry, pharmacy, and many more. To address the significant challenge in finding experience in healthcare settings, post-Covid, we are actively seeking partnerships with healthcare providers who want to host our incredible pre-health students in their clinics. 

We use national acceptance data to health professions programs and guide our students based on this information and best-practices established by our successful students who matriculate to top-tier health professions programs. Given this data, we promote all majors as pre-health majors; there is no “best major” to pursue any health profession. In addition, we set expectations and dispel myths using acceptance statistics and are able to provide individualized advising to our students based on their professional interests.

Within this program, the Health Professions Peer Advisors (HPPA) function to provide students with the additional peer support, guidance, and encouragement needed to tackle the challenges related to preparations for health careers. We have built a novel and robust advising system through this advising partnership. Our highly successful pre-health students experience and success is leveraged to benefit students at the early stages of their development at SCU.  In short, our pre-health students are getting it done and want to help other SCU students be successful as well.

All essential pre-health advising and communications are delivered through an advising “course,” delivered via our Health Professions Advising Camino page:

We have about 400 students enrolled in this advising course and this resource is being used extensively by our pre-health students with about 10,000 page views per month. We do extensive intake surveys sent to all SCU students to identify student’s professional interests and to have an accurate roster of pre-health students on campus. To ensure communications about programs and experience opportunities, we can reach all pre-health students using our email list from surveys and the Announcement feature in Camino. The Camino class can be viewed by anyone at the university.

Camino Modules:

  • Introduction to the Program
  • Advising Resources – Health Professions Advising and Peer Advising 
  • Curriculum Planning for Professional Goals and Academic Support
  • Health Career Exploration and Education
  • Experiential Opportunities – Volunteer and Clinical Opportunities; Clinical Research Experience
  • Testing Support and Best Practices - from SCU students’experiences and most successful practices/resources
  • Professional School Application Information and Support
  • Health Professions Conference and Informational Programming
  • Health Related Student Groups and Programming 
  • Certifications and Training 
  • Post-Graduation Experience and Programs

Advising Program – Structure and Services

Health Professions Advising:

Dr. McNelis advises students through Drahmann Center appointments:

Health Professions Peer Advising (HPPA):

There are 16 peer advisors who do peer advising (appointments made using Google Calendar appointment slots in our SCU Health Professions Peer Advising calendar)

Peer advisors provide a number of resources for students:

  • 1-on-1 appointments
  • Drop In advising
  • Workshops
  • Mentorship groups

Our peer advisors conduct a mentorship program for first-year pre-health students. We have matched up 6 or 7 students with two peer advisors for support and mentorship. In addition, each peer advisor is assigned to a workgroup, headed by six of Executive Board advisors, working on projects to advance the program in alumni outreach, community building, administration, direction and training of advisors, and additional experiences (clinical experiences, internships etc.).  Our E-board works to further develop and maintain these programs.  


Our advising team and Executive Board have worked hard to develop “quick guides,” one page documents which outline the key information for a variety of health professions. Our current quick guides include pre-medical, pre-PA, pre-pharmacy, pre-PT, and pre-optometry. The goal of these quick guides is to quickly and easily disseminate information to interested students regarding the variety of healthcare paths that exist.

Alumni Engagement

In order to extend our reach to all SCU pre-health students, including future and former students, we have created a LinkedIn group. This LinkedIn group is updated regularly with important announcements regarding the program. As we further develop our alumni network, we envision LinkedIn will serve as a platform for students to find clinical opportunities. The LinkedIn page can be accessed here:

In addition, we are working with the Alumni Office to access other tools, such as Bronco Exchange. We are planning programming for next year’s Grand Reunion and working to engage our alumni to help shape the educational and clinical goals of the program.