Potential dentists and veterinarians donned “business casual” midday Thursday to participate in the third-annual New England Health Professions Career Fair at the Omni New Haven Hotel.

Attracting undergraduates from 24 other colleges and over 75 health-related programs, the fair is the largest of its kind in the nation, Director of Health Professions Edward Miller said. Representatives from programs ranging in scope from M.D., Ph.D. and master’s degree programs to curricula in allopathic and osteopathic medicine attended the career fair.

The fair was part of a continuing effort by the health professions advisory board of Yale Undergraduate Career Services to present options in addition to attending medical school to students interested in health-related careers.

“Students who come from professionally-oriented families are most familiar with M.D. programs,” Miller said. “Our hope is [that] by exposing students to a variety of other things, like the best public health program in the country, they will chart an individualized path.”

Former Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, now the president of Duke University, was an impetus behind launching the fair three years ago. Though a health professions fair had been a priority for UCS, Miller said his office believed that many medical schools were not interested in recruiting.

But in 2001, Brodhead appointed Joni Huff as assistant director of the health professions advisory board and charged her with developing an annual health career fair. When they began, Huff and Miller had hoped to expose students to opportunities other than medical schools.

Starting this year, post-baccalaureate programs and representatives from various minority-based and military scholarship programs were invited to the fair.

“People think UCS caters only to pre-med, pre-law, consulting and investment banking,” said Huff, who will leave Yale Oct. 18 to become dean of admissions at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. “We know that only captures a percentage of students, and this is an attempt to support students who are exploring other options, regardless of what career that may be.”

After participating programs expressed interest in reaching a larger audience, UCS opened the event to students from colleges across New England. This year, approximately 90 percent of attendees were Yale students, but at least 10 Princeton students attended the fair, Miller said.

“It helps Yale students because those programs are that much more willing to come when they hear it’s a New England thing,” Miller said. “It’s still primarily for Yale students, and Yale students constitute the majority of people here. But reaching more people is also good impetus for expansion.”

Erin McArdle ’04, a first-year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who represented Vanderbilt at the fair, said she thinks Yale’s undergraduate career advising system is “more advantageous” than that of other schools.

“A lot of people don’t know how a M.D./Ph.D. [program] works,” McArdle said. “So this is a good venue to at least introduce them to the possibility, to incite them to research into it themselves.”