Student Spotlight: Mark Tom
Mark Tom knew he wanted to study medicine before attending college. And he knew College of DuPage was the right place to start.
“I wanted to develop the skills needed to succeed at a four-year university. These skills included balancing my schedule, managing stress and growing study habits,” Tom said. “I also learned I could attend COD with tuition breaks through the Honors program, assuming I maintained a 3.5 GPA.”
Tom did enter the Honors program and also managed to earn several scholarships: the Cancer Federation Scholarship, the Ruth G. Nechoda Scholarship and the COD Textbook Award. The scholarships and the Honors tuition incentive helped Tom with his expenses.
But Tom got more from COD than he ever imagined.
“COD has gone far beyond in assisting me to achieve my goal of becoming a doctor,” he said. “Where I lacked in motivation, professors inspired. When I had no money, scholarships and financial aid provided. Hands down, however, the best gift I received from the College is the confidence to transform my dreams into a reality.”
Tom continued his education at Seattle Pacific University as a Pre-Med Physiology major, from which he graduated cum laude with his bachelor’s in Physiology. He traveled to Puerto Cortes, Honduras, for work in the Pam Roach Medical Clinic through a ministry known as World Wide Heart to Heart. He also ran a soccer camp and soccer tournament for the Children’s Village.
While applying to medical school, Tom worked as a research technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in its Immunology Program. In 2015, he worked at a rural family practice, the Orcas Medical Center, on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands and completed an independent investigative inquiry and public health project. His project involved developing and implementing an evidence-based training program for volunteers in health promotion for community seniors at the Orcas Island Senior Center.
Tom is now in his third year at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He currently is on a surgery rotation in Kalispell, Montana, where he gets to first assist most cases.
“I helped with a pneumonectomy the other day and can’t lie, vascular surgery is pretty rad,” he said. “I’m also well on my way in the Underserved Pathway Track at my school, which essentially trains and prepares me to work with patients who come from a variety of underserved settings. I’ve learned from and have interacted with former refugees, migrant farm workers, the homeless population in Seattle, and patients of lower socioeconomic status or without access to health care. Through the program, I rotate as a volunteer at several free clinics in the Seattle area. My mentor in the program, a very talented child psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Storck, is a great inspiration to me and I must say he’s made a big impact on how I consider the mental well-being of my patients and choosing my words wisely in how I will communicate as a future physician.”
In 2015, he had an abstract accepted to the American Society of Hematology. Tom also joined the Oncology interest group and is currently an officer in the program.
“It remains a passion of mine to spend time and share meals with cancer in-patients receiving treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance,” he said. “I’m also in the Family Medicine Program at school and enjoy student outings and activities with them as well as my preceptorships with a handful of doctors in the program. I remain an active churchgoer and my wife and I enjoy volunteering at Aurora Commons, a homeless shelter near our home and, when my wife has night shift, I like to go on Search and Rescue with the Union Gospel Mission where we drive around in a big van at night providing warm drinks and clothing to Seattle’s homeless population.”
As far as the direction of his career in medicine, Tom is considering many options.
“I have a lot of interests and am still sorting out how I wish to make my impact and influence in the world and how I can achieve those goals,” he said. “I know I’ll work with the underserved in some capacity and I may shift my scientific research experience toward more of a public health lens, though clinical research is something I can do in a clinic or medical academic center. Teaching also seems a very attractive role, but one for the later end of my career as a doctor.”
Tom is grateful to College of DuPage for providing a springboard to his personal development as a student. In the future, he would like to create a scholarship fund similar to the ones he received.
“Many thanks to the College and its faculty for their continued support and encouragement, which has led me to where I am today,” he said. “I still remember my early college days at COD – especially the relationships with my then mentor Chris Petersen and many other professors in the Honors Program – and how it really laid a strong foundation for the work I do today. I am and will continue to be incredibly grateful.
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