After high school, Erick Marchessault of Cary, Illinois, attended community college, traveled around Europe, worked, and made films—even won an award. In the mix of this, he took an EMT course that sparked his interest in medical school.
He deliberately went looking for a small school to finish his undergraduate degree—and found Northland College. “I like the individual attention, being able to ask questions and interact with faculty,” he said.
He’s currently collaborating with Assistant Professor Geoffrey Vincent on a research project looking at the prevalence of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme in ticks. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is transmitted by wood ticks; Lyme is transmitted by deer ticks.
For his research, Marchessault collects wood and deer ticks every week at the Maxwell Nature Study Area, located a few miles south of campus.
In addition to trying to answer the question of how common it is for wood and deer ticks, he is also looking at smaller questions like whether ticks are closer to woody areas or further away.
“Ticks provide a way to meld medicine and natural resources,” Marchessault said. “It will be cool to go to medical conferences and talk about this research.”
Last year, Marchessault applied to the Robert Rue Parsonage Fund for Student Opportunities for financial assistance to attend the American Medical Student Association meeting in Washington DC. There, he learned suturing, placing an IV, and talked with pre-med and med students, as well as established doctors. “All of my questions got answered,” he said.
For instance, he was concerned whether his non-traditional college track would impact his chances for medical school. Short answer: it won’t.
Marchessault said he came here thinking he’d like to work in an urban emergency room but after shadowing Dr. Andy Matheus ’83 at Main Street Clinic last winter, he wants to practice in a rural area.
“I really liked the connection Dr. Matheus had with his patients and he treated each of them with individual attention,” Marchessault said. “I also like that he is an integral part of the community here.”
In the next year, he’ll be studying for and taking his MCATs. In the fall of 2021, he’ll start medical school.
He started a campus pre-professionals club for pre-med and pre-vet students. Marchessault said he envisions the club will focus around skills like CPR, study groups, and practice sessions for MCATs.
“Erick has a true passion for his education both in and out of the classroom, applying techniques and theories learned to his research,” Vincent said. “The research Erick is doing is valuable to the intrinsic nature of science, as well as to the practical application of monitoring vector diseases that impact us.”