Emma Thompson ’17 Pursues Holistic Path to a Future in Medicine

Since she was a child, Emma Thompson ’17 knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. While the southern Mississippi native entered NC State as an engineering major, she took advantage of her freshman year to explore and refine her academic interests.

“I switched to a biochemistry major, which opened up a variety of electives—like anatomy and physiology and independent research—that aligned with my career interests,” said Thompson.

This shift in focus afforded her precisely the interdisciplinary opportunities she was seeking, such as study abroad.

“Switching to a biochemistry major allowed me the flexibility to add a health-centric minor and spend a semester studying socialized healthcare in Copenhagen, Denmark,” said Thompson. “Studying abroad was an amazing and unique experience; I had previously never been out of the country, so I will always be thankful for the Park program enabling me to go on an adventure and broaden my perspectives on global health and societies.”

(Learn more about Thompson’s study abroad experience by reading her blog.)

To further her goal of developing a holistic and contextualized understanding of healthcare, at the start of her junior year Thompson began interning with a local nonprofit organization that promotes health and wellness among low-income Raleigh residents.

“I know that I want to ultimately work in a research hospital that provides support to underserved communities,” said Thompson. “I have worked as a medical scribe at Urban Ministries’ Open Door Clinic in downtown Raleigh, and that has developed my interest in free clinic volunteer work as well. Not only would it be rewarding, but I think it’s a good way to stay in touch with the needs of the community.”

Thompson also conducts research as part of NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s Breen Genomics Lab. By contributing to the genomic and molecular characterization of canine hemangiosarcomas, she has gained technical skills and a critical understanding of the biomedical research process.

Upon completion of her undergraduate studies at NC State, Thompson aspires to pursue a five-year M.D./M.P.H. dual degree program. To date, she has been accepted into the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and has interviewed at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.

When she’s not busy with coursework and medical school applications, Thompson dedicates time to another cause close to her heart: adolescent literacy. As a high school student, she created a program called Women Influencing Lives through Literature (WILL) that uses literature as a tool for mentoring young women and encouraging them in their pursuit of healthy, purposeful lives.

Thompson proposed WILL as a Park Scholarships Civic Engagement Initiative for the 2015-16 academic year, and in this capacity collaborated with two members of the Park Class of 2018 to bring WILL to the Raleigh area. Together Thompson and her teammates developed a curriculum that allows for WILL’s expansion beyond its five-year partnership with Columbus Middle School in Mississippi to other cities and states. At present, Thompson is in the process of securing a WILL partnership with Raleigh’s Carroll Middle School.

For Thompson—whose first visit to North Carolina was for Park Scholarships Final Selection Activities back in 2013—the Park Scholarships program’s support has been a thread weaving together her varied interests and accomplishments.

“My greatest achievement so far has been getting into professional school. The Park Scholarship helped me through the process in innumerable ways from letting me attend a school where I fell in love with research to supporting my WILL literacy program,” said Thompson.

Story by Claire Slepecki