Pre-Health Student and Graduate Profiles

Anthony (AJ) Videckis (ChE 2018)

Recent South Dakota Mines Graduate


AJ Videckis always knew he wanted to become a physician involved in developing artificial cartilage for people with arthritis and joint problems. He chose to attend South Dakota Mines to reach his goal. Videckis believes his engineering degree will help him in medical school, “Mines is academically rigorous and challenging. Chemical engineering has taught me to think critically and on my feet…you really have to apply yourself and make the most of your time.”

As he prepared for medical school and completed his degree, Videckis took full advantage of all that Mines has to offer. “I started participating in research during my freshman year in the Metallurgical Department under Dr. Grant Crawford, looking for ways to improve the surfaces of artificial joints and implants. I’ve spent three years researching titanium oxide nanotubes and how to optimize their design, structure, and adhesion strength.” He also participated in Student Association Senate and the South Dakota Mines chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), giving him leadership and networking opportunities.

While applying to medical school, Videckis reflected on his time at South Dakota Mines, “what I like most about Mines is it’s a small community and we’re one big family. You can connect on a personal level with people from all grades, and professors and advisors, and I think that’s what makes Mines stand out.”

Rebecca Ceremuga (ME 2017)

Medical Student


As an intern at Medtronic’s Renal Care Solutions, Rebecca Ceremuga helped develop a new cartridge for dialysis machines, the only alternative to an organ transplant for patients with kidney failure. Unlike traditional machines where the fluid that removes blood waste products is discarded after a single use, this cartridge recalibrates and recycles fluid. The greatest impact will be in China and India where purified water is scarce. 

Ceremuga then worked as a medical scribe for a local gynecologist who uses Medtronic devices. “I’ve seen the whole cycle, from the design and manufacture of a device at Medtronic to patients using it,” she says. While a student at Mines, she shadowed a range of doctors in neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedic medicine, and trauma. “I saw patients with seizures. I shadowed doctors during a brain surgery and an amputation.”

Now a medical student at the University of South Dakota, Ceremuga works toward her goal of being an orthopedic surgeon and sees a natural extension of her undergraduate major—mechanical engineering. “It’s like design work. Your body is a machine. As a surgeon, I could utilize mechanical engineering knowledge and apply a thorough understanding of medical devices to better care for my patients.”

Kirsten Kennedy, DDS (IE 2006, MS BME)



When starting college, Kirsten Kennedy considered careers in engineering and medicine but couldn’t decide, so she tested the waters in both fields. Kennedy went on medical mission trips abroad and majored in industrial engineering. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from South Dakota Mines, while she took more science courses and shadowed dentists during the program. To complete her master’s degree thesis, she collaborated with a metallurgical engineering student to develop dental implant coatings.

Kennedy attended dental school at the University of Minnesota and completed a general practice dentistry residency at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. She reports that Mines provides a good preparation for health careers, “dental work process and work flow have a lot of similarity to engineering. If you can make it through Mines you can make it through a health professions school, Mines students have great work ethic.”

Kennedy returned to Rapid City and now practices at Dedicated Dental Solutions. What does she enjoy most about being a dentist? “Patient interaction. You get a chance to have full interactions and follow patients over the course of their lives. You can also choose what you want to focus on.”

Tyler Bergstrom, MD (EE 2006)

General Surgeon


When you think of a general surgeon, an expertise in electrical engineering might not be the first skill that comes to mind. But the engineering education Tyler Bergstrom received at South Dakota Mines helped boost his success in both medical school and as a physician. “The focus in engineering is problem-solving, and that gives you an advantage in being able to think though complex disease processes or unexpected things in the operating room,” says Bergstrom.

In his second year at Mines he began volunteering at the local hospital and realized medicine was for him. “I really felt I wanted to help people directly. Seeing patients and how thankful they were following help from a doctor, that seemed like a very satisfying career.” Bergstrom took pre-med classes at Mines and completed his degree in electrical engineering. Following graduation, he attended the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and then completed his residency in general surgery at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

In 2016 he joined the surgery department at the Rapid City Medical Center. He is currently the only physician in the area who performs the “Whipple Procedure,” which can be used to remove part of the pancreas as a treatment for cancer or other ailments. Bergstrom says, “it’s a difficult surgery. I was glad to be able to offer this service to the community.”

Danielle (Englert) Doggett, MD (Chem, 1999)



Danielle (Englert) Doggett didn’t originally plan for a career in medicine. It took the advice of a professor at South Dakota Mines to open that door, “my anatomy/physiology professor, Dr. Milney, talked to me. Once I decided engineering was not for me, Dr. Milney encouraged me to look into medical school.” To prepare for medical school, she worked at the Children’s Home Society in Rapid City, shadowed a family practice physician for several weeks, and participated in a summer internship in a basic research lab at Texas Tech University.

Following graduation from Mines, Doggett attended the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, then completed a residency in neurology and a fellowship in movement disorders at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She says, “neurology is a fascinating field that has grown and changed so much in the past 10 years, and continues to have major medical advancements more than most specialties.” She directs the Deep Brain Stimulation program at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, a therapy that can have immediate, life-changing impacts for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

In her practice, Doggett says she likes to engage and get to know her patients on a personal level. “I try to listen more than talk. Patients appreciate so much when you treat them as individuals, and not as a diagnosis.”

Michael Koch, MD (MinE 1980)


Michael Koch enrolled at South Dakota Mines with a lot of career uncertainty. He considered mechanical engineering, chemistry, dentistry, and medicine. “I was not sure I was smart enough to become a physician, but decided I at least needed to give it a try during my last year at Mines.” He visited the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine where he learned that he should take additional science prerequisite courses and the MCAT in order to apply. After graduating from Mines, he spent a year completing the medical school course requirements and took the MCAT while he worked as a biology teaching assistant at another college. He applied to the University of South Dakota and was accepted. 

Koch attended medical school using the Health Professions Scholarship Program offered by the Air Force. Following medical school, he completed general surgery training at Kessler Air Force Base in Mississippi and served four years on active duty in the Air Force as an emergency medicine physician and flight surgeon. After military service, he returned to the University of South Dakota to complete a residency in pathology. Koch reports that South Dakota Mines prepared him well, “I developed work and study habits at Mines that were invaluable in medical school. I actually got better grades in medical school than I got at Mines. My medical school class had two other Mines graduates. I think all of us were very well prepared for the academic rigors of medical school.”

As a pathologist, Kock enjoys the challenge of making the correct diagnosis and using a variety of diagnostic tools to do so. He is a faculty member at the University of South Dakota and says, “my Pathology training also allows me to take a significant role in the education of medical students and residents. I really enjoy my interactions with medical students and the sense of accomplishment I get at each year's graduation.” He suggests important traits for good pathologists include, “having a good grasp of the pathogenesis of disease, a desire and knack for problem solving, enjoying diagnostic challenges, and having a discriminating eye for morphologic variation.”

South Dakota Mines students and medical careers run in the Koch family. His daughter was a chemistry major at Mines (2012) who went to medical school at the University of South Dakota along with three other Mines peers.

Monte Dirks, MD (MetE 1974)


Monte Dirks attended South Dakota Mines as metallurgical engineering major. He decided to pursue a career in medicine and took extra courses in biochemistry and biology to be eligible for medical school. While at Mines, he participated in ROTC and the South Dakota Mines chapter of Triangle Fraternity, preparing him for what would become a long service career.

Dirks was accepted to medical school at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and subsequently completed his residency in ophthalmology at Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. When asked which traits are helpful to being an ophthalmologist, Dirks reports, “a solid scientific background with an emphasis on clinic research. Special skills required are excellent vision and motor coordination.”

Dirks was an Army ophthalmologist for 30 years. “As an ophthalmologist, I have the ability to have significant impact on patients’ lives by restoring or enhancing their vision. I most enjoy interpersonal interaction with my patients.” After he left the Army, he became a successful partner at Black Hills Regional Eye Institute in Rapid City and recently retired.