Rose-Hulman Alumna Finds Her Way to Practicing Medicine at Union Hospital

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
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Abigail Etters, a 2016 biochemistry major, credits her undergraduate years at Rose-Hulman with her seeking out the human side of medicine and making possible her career as a doctor.

Abigail Etters believes the secret to succeeding in medical school and being a physician is believing in yourself and the human connection. As a hospitalist at Union Hospital, Etters thrives in that human connection as she treats patients every day. It’s a fast-paced job that the 2016 biochemistry alumna describes as a giant puzzle. And according to Etters, her undergraduate years at Rose-Hulman led her to seek out the human side of medicine and made possible her career as a doctor. 

“Rose prepared me [for medical school and being a doctor] because it was a challenging environment, but it modeled the supportive way to get through something difficult,” said Etters. “Rose showed me that you don’t just quit something because it’s hard. You have the right friends, faculty and role models in place to set you up for getting through difficult things and pushing yourself. … It was that solid foundation that helped me get through medical school.” 

Hailing from the Southern California city of Oceanside, Etters was interested in Rose-Hulman for its reputation and STEM focus. When she toured the campus, she was immediately hooked and told her parents the school felt like home. When she arrived at Rose to start her undergraduate education, Etters was unsure if she would go into engineering or medicine. However, she was sure she needed to be academically challenged and felt Rose was the perfect mix of pushing students to their limits, but also very supportive. 

Etters was part of the inaugural class of Rose’s accelerated math physics (AMP) program. It was in AMP where she gravitated toward biology and chemistry. The more time she spent at Rose, the more she knew she wanted to work in a human application of what she was learning in the classroom. Etters chose a biochemistry major, with a minor in math and Spanish. 

During her first year at Rose, she joined the pre-med club, which got her thinking about medicine as a potential career path. By the end of her sophomore year, she knew she wanted to pursue being a doctor and became a volunteer at Union Hospital. 

Etters attended the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico, from 2016 to 2020. Las Cruces is much like Terre Haute, Etters believes. It’s a small town in size and a place where students learn medicine in a rural environment. The medical school training is four years and the curriculum and education for a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is the same as a Doctor of Medicine (MD). The only difference is Etters also learned osteopathic principles; primarily, that the body is looked at as a holistic way. 

“Osteopathic medicine lends itself well to family medicine because you look not only at the patient and medicine, but the patient as a person, in addition to their social system … it’s not just, ‘Here’s your diagnosis and pill’,” said Etters.

When it came time to select a residency training program, Etters remembered her time at Union Hospital.

“Residency is the hardest part of your medical education and is the peak of training,” said Etters. “I wanted to do my residency at a place I’m comfortable at and I knew Terre Haute. I loved the people and program there, and Union felt like a second home all over again.”

She matched at Union Hospital and returned to Terre Haute to begin her family medicine residency in 2020. After completing her residency, Etters was hired as a hospitalist at Union Hospital. This means she practices medicine in the hospital itself and sees patients who are admitted to any floor, including the cardiac unit, stroke unit and intensive care unit (ICU). She follows those patients, sees them daily, gets them admitted and prepares their discharges. Etters admits it’s a big job and very fast paced; but she enjoys the variety and being inside of a hospital. She also thrives on the human connection, which is a big part of working in a hospital setting.

“The hospital can be a very scary place for people who are not on the medical side of things,” said Etters. “I like to get to know people quickly and expedite helping them feel as comfortable as possible. That type of work is not for everybody, but that’s where I shine and where I feel fulfilled.”

Etters is now an attending physician in which she supervises and teaches medical students. During her time at Rose, Etters was a math grader and tutor in the Learning Center and a sophomore residence hall tutor during her senior year. She believes those experiences — of not only gaining information, but then giving it away — translated to medical school and her current role as an attending. 

When she’s not working, Etters enjoys reading, music and traveling. She regularly visits her family in Oceanside, and recently took a trip to Chicago to see the river dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day and watch the Chicago Symphony play. She is classically trained in the piano since age five and the harp since she was 10 years old. While she does not have time to perform publicly these days, she enjoys listening and hopes to visit many of the world’s famous symphonies in the years to come. Etters is also a member of the Indiana State Medical Association and attends the Young Physician Society monthly meetings. Through it all, Etters believes Rose-Hulman has been instrumental to where she is today. 

“When I graduated, I was given the Moench Distinguished Senior Commendation … that was a pivotal moment for me, that someone was believing in me even when I didn’t know how much potential I had at the time,” said Etters. “That has carried me to this point, and I have a lot of gratitude for Rose. Every department and person I interacted with influenced me in a positive way.”