Alina Konnikova '11

Class Year



Vernon Hills, Illinois

Graduate Study and Areas of Study

University of Illinois Chicago

What made you decide to come to Lake Forest College?

I wanted to be really close to my family, and I actually lived at home. The ability to commute to Lake Forest saved a lot of money, but it also allowed me to be there for my family every single day. When I came to Lake Forest and talked to the professors and experienced the small class sizes, I could easily identify mentors, which was important for me in my college search.

How did Lake Forest College help prepare you for medical school?

Lake Forest College was instrumental in preparing me for medical school. In some of my science classes, there were no multiple-choice exams. Anybody can learn how to take a multiple-choice exam, but not everybody can write out an organic pathway or actually know how the electrons move, or be able to dissect the brain. When I did neuroanatomy in medical school, I actually knew all the material and didn’t really have to study because I already dissected the brain before. Those are opportunities that just are not there in big colleges. Also, in medical school, you have to identify mentors and it helps to have expectations of what your mentor-mentee relationship should be like. I did research for four years in a professor’s lab at Lake Forest College. That professor really challenged me and was always there for me as a mentor. Finding somebody that you will always be able to go to and ask questions is really important later in your career. Even when life gets really busy, I know that my mentor at Lake Forest College will be available when I reach out. I’m grateful for that relationship.

What does networking mean to you as a Lake Forest College alumna?

Networking is huge for any career you go into, and Lake Forest College gives you network opportunities. Now that I’m in Chicago for a cardiology fellowship, I would love to mentor anybody or have someone shadow me. Undergraduate students can get involved in clinical research to improve their resume, and we have the resources for that. There are plenty of opportunities out there: you just have to have the right network. Lake Forest College gives you that.

How does Lake Forest College prepare students for medical school?

In order to be a doctor, you need to be pretty well-rounded. Once you get to medical school, you will learn all the biology and the pharmacology, so your liberal arts education at Lake Forest College is useful in helping you think critically, remain open-minded, become culturally aware, and be challenged in ways that you didn’t think you could be. My sociology class on communication, for example, was beneficial in shaping the way I communicate with my patients.

How has Lake Forest College helped you pave your way in the medical field?

As a second-year resident, I received an outstanding medical student teaching award. That award is near and dear to my heart—not only because of the time I invest in teaching medical students, but also because those skills I used were really born at Lake Forest College.  As a third and fourth year college student, I TA’d a microbiology course and a neuroscience course. It was challenging to explain difficult concepts to every student and to figure out the specific approach that every student needs; however, it was a learning experience. Once you develop those skills at the College, you can apply them no matter what field you go into.