Meet the Kaplan Experts: Chrystal Akor, Academic Director, Pre-Health Programs
by Chrystal Akor, Academic Director, Pre-Health Programs | November 15, 2021
The Kaplan Team is often cited as why schools stay with Kaplan, year after year. At Kaplan, there’s an expert at the heart of everything we do, whether it’s leading a class or developing innovative tools to help your students achieve their career goals. With our “Meet the Kaplan Experts” blog series, we introduce you to Kaplan’s extensive network of faculty, medical, and educational experts and delve into their diverse areas of expertise so that you can learn even more about your Kaplan team. This week, we're pleased to introduce you to Chrystal Akor, Academic Director, Pre-Health Programs.
Tell Us About Yourself
I was born and raised in West Virginia by two educators. My father was a college professor and my mother taught grade school. I studied Biology at Amherst College and completed my Pre-Med prerequisites. When I found Kaplan, I was working in a pathology lab during my gap year. I enjoyed what I was learning, but I was in a small lab and it was pretty quiet. Teaching allowed me to build connections with others, while challenging me to simplify difficult concepts.
What are your particular areas of expertise?
I’m an expert on building community in virtual learning spaces, crafting engaging science learning experiences, supporting top-performing teams, and planning memorable run-cations (vacations with a race thrown in.)
What is your most unique experience, hobby or personal quality?
I love to travel. I’m also a certified running coach. I combine these two interests by regularly combining my travels with races. I have run in 36 states with a goal of completing a race in all 50. I also ran my first international race at the Berlin Marathon in 2019.
Tell Us About Your Experience in Medical Education
How long have you worked for Kaplan Test Prep and what drew you to your current role?
I began at Kaplan in 2005 and all of my roles have been focused on the student experience in some way. As Academic Director, I work with our MCAT team, training team, and teachers on how we can continuously improve the student experience in and out of the classroom. We have an incredible team of MCAT experts in the classroom that know the exam in and out and have been successful taking it themselves. Our teachers are also very aware of what can make taking exams challenging and can provide tools for managing stress and balancing study time with other responsibilities.
Why is it so important for institutions to prepare students to “think like a doctor/future doctor?”
At some point, we all interact with doctors. We trust doctors to help us maintain our health and to help us navigate challenging illness or injury. Preparing diverse, empathetic medical professionals is integral to a healthy society. To me, thinking like a doctor encompasses being knowledgeable and being able to build meaningful connections with the patients you treat.
What innovations at Kaplan are you most excited about?
Studying for the MCAT can be overwhelming and we want students to help students maximize the time they have preparing for the exam instead of guessing what to do when. The schedule included in the MCAT resources allows students to set up their review around their test date and the hours they have dedicated to review each week. From there, they can easily look at the calendar and see what topics they’ll be reviewing each day. It’s clear and prescriptive with the ability to test out of the topics that a student already knows. This setup also empowers students to build a schedule that adapts to their goals.
What is the most important issue that professionals in your industry should be talking about today?
We need doctors from diverse backgrounds and experiences. There have been numerous studies on the importance of diversity in medicine. We need to continue to eliminate barriers that limit diversity in medicine.
If you could offer one piece of advice for students preparing for their MCAT test or medical school admissions, it would be:
Don’t just focus on what you don’t know; take some time each week to acknowledge how you’re improving. If you only focus on what you don’t know, you can lose track of how much progress you are making towards your goal.
I was born and raised in West Virginia by two educators. My father was a college professor and my mother taught grade school. I studied Biology at Amherst College and completed my Pre-Med prerequisites. When I found Kaplan, I was working in a pathology lab during my gap year. I enjoyed what I was learning, but I was in a small lab and it was pretty quiet. Teaching allowed me to build connections with others, while challenging me to simplify difficult concepts. I began at Kaplan in 2005 and all of my roles have been focused on the student experience in some way. As Academic Director, I work with our MCAT team, training team, and teachers on how we can continuously improve the student experience in and out of the classroom.