I grew up surrounded by medical professionals; the majority of adults in my life have worked in the medical field in some way. I think I acquired an affinity for science because of that. When I was still in elementary school, I asked my mother for her nursing books so that I could learn about the disease that was making my grandmother sick. I wanted to know why she was sick, what exactly was happening to her and how the doctors were going to try to make her better. That was the initial spark that started my thirst for biomedical knowledge.
Fast-forward to applying for college – I knew I wanted to go somewhere that could set me on a good path for medical school. My grandfather attended Ouachita, as did many of the doctors that I know. I looked into Ouachita as my first choice for college and started to do research on what this school offered that would be beneficial for that future. A quick search came up with the Biomedical Scholars Program here, and I was intrigued. The program was fairly new, young enough to not yet have a class graduate, but I liked the idea of giving myself a challenge.
Ouachita’s Biomedical Scholars Program is a three-year program and accepts a small number of applicants who will graduate with a BS degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in either physics or chemistry. The program opens doors for members to shadow local medical professionals and gives its students a focused path from the day they step onto campus.
I was nervous when I got here; I had signed up to try and get a very difficult four-year degree in three years. I thought to myself, “Allie, what are you getting yourself into?” I was in for a really difficult first year academically. Classes were harder than anything that I had ever taken before, and, in the beginning, I was so scared that I would be unable to balance my time between extracurricular activities, class, socialization and homework.
That wasn’t the case – I had a wonderful time my freshman year. I was able to camp with friends, spend weekends away and still managed to do well academically. This year, I joined Campus Ministries in a Tiger Tunes show, participated in Rush Week and went to performances. Yet, I still feel that I have ample time to focus on my studies.
Before classes began that freshman year, bio-med majors spend two weeks in “bootcamp,” shadowing local physicians in many different areas of the medical and dental fields. I personally got to shadow an internal medicine doctor, an OB/GYN, a dentist and other professionals. I loved shadowing; I got to learn so much about the day-to-day life of physicians, and it was so helpful to be able to narrow down what I do and don’t want to do with my life.
In the beginning, the “bio-meds” in my class spent the majority of our time together. We studied for exams together and did homework together, and all that time was full of inside jokes, potlucks and laughing until our stomachs hurt and had tears streaming down our faces. My favorite memory of our first semester was a camping trip during our first few weeks on campus. We piled nine people in a tent meant for four on a rainy autumn evening. We roasted s’mores and hot dogs over a fire that we built together, and we talked for hours, bonding through sweat, stories and snoring.
One thing that Ouachita’s Biomedical Scholars Program requires participants to do is to is to study abroad. My class spent a month of the summer after freshman year in Costa Rica. We had a huge amount of fun with one another, learning Spanish and exploring the Costa Rican rainforests and beaches. I will never forget all of the laughs and adventures we shared.
Applying for the Biomedical Scholars Program is the best thing that I could have done for my future – and for myself, as well. With these people, I have gained not only knowledge that is preparing me for medical school, but also confidence, lifelong friendships and joy.
By Allie Studdard, a senior biomedical sciences major from Benton, Ark.
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