Duke program gives pre-med perspective

For many summer interns, “It’s a five o’clock world when the whistle blows, no one owns a piece of my time,” but the Vogues probably would have struggled to find the right words to describe the rigors faced by pre-med student Mona Sadeghpour.

As one of 12 students selected for the prestigious Daniel Hale Williams Scholars (DHWS) track of a program provided by the Duke Summer Biomedical Institute, Sadeghpour would break for dinner at 5:30 p.m., only to return for evening tutorials and seminars that lasted until 9 p.m. The next day in her week would be dawning at 6:45 a.m., bringing with it a schedule chockful of classes, seminars and appointments.

A junior biology major, Sadeghpour joined 99 fellow scholars from more than 27 schools, including renowned research institutions such as Columbia, Cornell and the University of Virginia. The students attended classes in cellular biology, physiology and ethics.

Yet the education extended beyond the classroom, placing the students at the feet of practicing physicians, so they could gain an appreciation for the practical applications of medicine.

“As a result of this fantastic opportunity, I was able to watch a cardiothoracic surgery,” Sadeghpour said, noting the added excitement of witnessing such an event. “I also had the chance to see a vaginal delivery of a baby,” she added.

The Duke program, which included concurrent scholarship tracks besides the DHWS program, also introduced its students to medical professionals via a seminar series called “So you want to be a doctor?” During these seminars, doctors of varying specialties would discuss their perspectives in medicine, allowing the students to ask questions, Sadeghpour said.

By summer’s end, Sadeghpour had impressed her instructors enough to receive two of three available “Top Scholar” awards – Cell Biology and Quantitative Topics classes.

“I tried my best to represent well for my school,” Sadeghpour said. “I may have given those Ivy Leagues something to think about when it comes to UTD.”

The completion of the program would satisfy required credits for her membership in Collegium V (CV), UTD’s honors college.

Having graduated locally from Plano Senior High School, Sadeghpour chose UTD, among other reasons, for its proximity to home.

Sadeghpour admitted that the program offered her a first look at living on her own in the real world. Yet its stringent claim on her time left her with little opportunity to feel homesick, she added, saying, “There wasn’t always enough time to eat and sleep.”

Sadeghpour’s acknowledgement of the time constraints, though, could hardly furrow her brow, as she beamed throughout while discussing the particulars of her experience. And her visible excitement met brisk nods of approval from CV Director Edward Harpham, who appeared equally enthused.

“This is an indication of the kind of quality undergraduate program that UTD has, that its students are able to compete for these programs with students that attend Ivy League universities,” Harpham said. “The next step would be (a UTD student) competing effectively for such programs as the Truman Fellows, Rhodes Scholars and Fulbright Scholars.”

Harpham noted that Sadeghpour’s participation and noteworthy performance in the program has helped to change others’ perceptions about UTD.

“We are not just a school of part-time students like we were 15 years ago,” Harpham said, adding that the efforts of Sadeghpour and other students that participate in such prestigious programs create opportunities for future students.

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