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Allan Tunkel to temporarily serve as health careers advisor following George Vassilev’s departure

Health careers advising expands resources amid transition in leadership

<p>Tunkel previously served as the senior associate dean for medical education at the Warren Alpert Medical School.</p><p>Courtesy of Brown University</p>

Tunkel previously served as the senior associate dean for medical education at the Warren Alpert Medical School.

Courtesy of Brown University

Allan Tunkel was named the new health careers advisor expert in residence for the 2022-23 academic year, filling a vacancy left by the Aug. 3 departure of George Vassilev, former associate dean of the college for pre-professional advising.

Tunkel previously served as the senior associate dean for medical education at the Warren Alpert Medical School. The University will search for a more permanent successor to Vassilev while Tunkel serves in the position for the time being, according to Betsy Shimberg, senior associate dean of the College for co-curricular and experiential learning. 

Students and alumni gathered over Zoom in a meet-and-greet session on Thursday with Tunkel, where he discussed his background in both medicine and research and answered questions from current and future applicants to health profession schools.

“I've always enjoyed meeting with … and talking to students,” Tunkel said. “A lot of it is being available and having a lot of personal touch and one-on-one interaction with the students.”

Until May of this year, Tunkel oversaw the offices of Medical Education, Student Affairs, Admissions and Financial Aid, as well as the medical school administration and multiple master’s degree programs.

Prior to his position at Brown, Tunkel chaired the Department of Medicine at Monmouth Medical Center and served as the associate dean of admissions at the Drexel University College of Medicine, chairing the medical school’s admissions committee.

Tunkel spoke of his indirect pathway to medical school, having had a “mediocre” undergraduate record — including a D in organic chemistry — and entering a PhD program in experimental pathology before attending medical school.

“I would say I also know a lot about options if you don't get into medical school, and with some students it will be important to explore those options,” Tunkel said.

Afnan Nuruzzaman ’24, who is planning to apply to medical school during the 2023 admissions cycle, said he has a number of questions about MD/PhD programs. 

“I’m really happy that Dr. Tunkel is actually a physician-scientist because he probably knows more about that process,” Nuruzzaman said. 

Alongside Health Careers Advisor Kathy Toro-Ibanez and nine peer advisors, Tunkel will advise current and prospective health profession school applications, working with juniors, seniors and alumni. Karen Whittet, a career counselor at CareerLAB, advises freshmen and sophomores. 

Shimberg said that the University hopes to find a more permanent successor for Vassilev “as quickly as we can while still getting the best candidate.” 

“I fully expect that that person will be in place in time to be working with us on the committee letter process” for the next admissions cycle, she added, referring to the holistic letter of recommendation written by members of the University’s health career advising committee submitted alongside medical school applications. 

Community members will have the opportunity to share the qualities and characteristics they would like to see in the individuals considered for hire, according to Shimberg. 

“Some of the beefing up (of advising resources) was also in response to the BDH article that came out last spring where students were saying, ‘we need more advising,’” Shimberg said. “So we’re trying to put that in place.”

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