LINCOLN UNIVERSITY — Three juniors—Brianna Blake, Timeka Thompson Jr., and Cameron Williams—are the first Lincoln University students to receive early acceptances to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The trio did so after spending seven weeks last summer in the first year of Pitt medical school’s two-year Summer Pre-medical Academic Enrichment Program (SPAEP). It included studying five diseases of importance to underserved communities—AIDS, hypertension, smoking-related illness, sickle cell anemia, and diabetes—visiting hospitals, and shadowing doctors.
Not all participants were granted early acceptances, but the Lincoln students earned that distinction. Provided they return this summer to Pitt to conduct research and maintain their stellar academic standing at Lincoln, the three will be able to enter Pitt’s medical school following their graduation from Lincoln next year.
“On the strength of their academic records, their extracurricular activities and their performance last summer at the University of Pittsburgh,” said Susan Safford, Ph.D., professor of biology and Lincoln’s pre-med advisor, “they’ve demonstrated what we’ve long known—that Lincoln students have the talent and capacity to enter first-rate medical schools and become outstanding doctors.”
Pittsburgh native Thompson, the daughter of a nurse and, was profoundly influenced by the lung cancer death of her grandmother, herself a licensed practical nurse, when Thompson was nine years old. She wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist and women’s health advocate. “Shadowing doctors last summer and engaging in community service has made me realize that what makes me happy is enhancing the quality and quality and longevity of people’s lives—which medical school will enable me to do,” the biology major said.
Blake, a biochemistry major from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., is influenced by the type 2 diabetes that her mother and many others she knows are battling. “Everyone around me has this disease but no one is able to cure or combat it,” she said.
Accordingly, Blake—who has researched honey bees’ immune systems in a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory and studied the microbial safety of canned olives in Morocco–intends to earn both her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Pitt. “I want to research the genetic expression of diabetes and how it effects the heightened risk of heart disease in Black women,” she said. “I think the Pitt program prepared me more than I could have ever imagined, as a sophomore, for medical school.”
Williams, a biology major, spent last year conducting tobacco smoke cancer research with Carla Gallagher, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry & physics. He has been inspired to pursue a medical career by his uncle, Kenneth Van Williams, DO (LU ’88), a family physician. Drawn by the lack of medical care and diversity he has seen in Baltimore, his home town, Williams hopes to return to practice medicine there.
“A lot of people in my neighborhood who’ve heard about my acceptance feel that it boosted our community,” he said, “and it gave kids I mentored when I was in high school a ray of hope that they can do anything they put their minds to.”
The trio still find it hard to believe they have already been accepted to medical school.
“I am the first person in my family to go to a four-year institution and the first to venture into the medical field,” said Blake. “I couldn’t have imagined this. It’s the biggest accomplishment ever for my family.”
Agreeing, Thompson said, “I will be the first doctor in my family. It’s surreal. I don’t think I will be able to accept it until I actually start.”
Added Williams, “It’s still so unreal to me, but it is truly a blessing to be able to say that I’ve been accepted into one of the country’s best medical schools.
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