Spotlight on Students: Whitney Thomas

Thomas, WhitneyGraduating on Friday, May 18th at the GMS M.A./M.S. Commencement Ceremony, Whitney Thomas reflects on her two years as a MAMS student.

When did you first know you wanted to pursue science?

When I was in grade school, I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be an ambulance driver when I grew up.  Not the EMT in the back helping the patient on the way to the hospital; the actual ambulance driver.  When I entered high school, I started volunteering for the local rescue squad.  I think it was then that I knew I wanted to go to medical school.  At Bates College I majored in neuroscience, which exposed me to the unique interplay between mind and body, and had various shadowing experiences which solidified my decision to study medicine.

What brought you to BU?

After I graduated from Bates, I took two years off from school to work at the NIH in a lab that studied Pediatric Bipolar Disorder.  I heard about the MA in Medical Sciences program here at BUSM and thought it would be a great stepping stone back into academia and help prepare me for medical school.  I looked at some other similar Masters programs, but BU seemed to have the best one, and the best location.  I really enjoy living in Boston.

Can you tell me a little about the MAMS program you are in?

I am currently finishing up my second year and just completed my thesis.  The first year is class-driven and focused on academics, which I really enjoyed.  It gave me a realistic glimpse to what medical school will be like.  I have definitely gained confidence in my capability to succeed in medical school based on my success in this program.  The greatest adjustment for me in the MAMS program was the class size.  I remember on the first day of class in Bakst Auditorium, I suddenly felt very hot.  The room was filled with 200 people!  That was a huge difference from Bates, where the class size was much smaller.  Despite these large classes, however, MAMS and GMS create a small community, and if you put in the effort, you will realize that the professors do want to get to know the students.

What are your plans after completing the MAMS program?

I applied to medical school last year, and will be attending the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  Right now, I am considering primary care, specifically obstetrics and gynecology.  I really enjoyed the research I did for my thesis, but I am mostly interested in clinical medicine.  Eventually, as a practicing physician, I would hope to participate in research as it fits in with my practice.

You have helped to organize a Sarcoma Awareness event for this Friday.  Can you tell me a little about that?

In January 2012, the MAMS community lost a member to sarcoma.  As a member of the GMSSO, I helped organize an awareness talk in her honor to help raise money for sarcoma research.  Sarcoma is a type of cancer that originates in bone or connective tissue.  It is relatively uncommon and is very difficult to treat.  Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is performing innovative and interesting research on this cancer, and the speaker we invited is a member of the sarcoma team there.  Approximately 40 people attended the event.

Are you involved in other activities on campus?

I serve on a small committee as a liaison between the MAMS students and Dr. Gwynneth Offner, the director of the program.  We meet with her every month to discuss issues and ideas that my peers may have.  Additionally, I volunteer with the GMSSO for events such as orientation, commencement, Project Gratitude, and blood drives, and I tutor three first-year MAMS students in Physiology and Endocrinology.  Last summer I volunteered for the Outreach Van Project and enjoyed spending time with community members from East Boston who are in need of food and/or medical support.

What do you enjoy doing outside the walls of BU?

I like to stay active, whether I am hiking, biking, or riding one of my horses when I go home to Vermont.  I also enjoy baking, and I love going out to eat when I can.  Boston is such an exciting city, and I love to explore all the opportunities it provides.  Traveling is another fun hobby, and I visit my friends in different parts of the country whenever I can.  I also work part-time in retail.

What advice can you give other GMS students?

My two years went by so quickly.  It is important to take advantage of all the opportunities BU and the city of Boston have to offer, whether it be playing squash at FitRec or visiting a museum.  Also, the professors are very knowledgeable, not only about the subject they teach, but about medical school, and life in general.  Importantly, they are always willing to help, so don’t hesitate to contact them.  Finally, don’t forget to have fun and meet new people.  GMS provides a great community that you will want to participate in.

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