Student Spotlight: Mark Tom

Mark Tom

Mark Tom
Major: Biology

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 include 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 have 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 in 2012 with his bachelor’s in Physiology. During the summer of 2011, he worked with Dr. David Hockenbery at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as an undergraduate intern. Their research involved the study of specific enzyme inhibitors that would target the enzymatic pathway of cancer metabolism, aerobic glycolysis, in hopes of seeking out a novel method of cancer therapy.

In 2012, Tom 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.

“Immunotherapy is an intricate therapy approach using a ‘cops and robbers’ analogy,” he said. “This is where we train the white blood cells (the cops) to kill the tumor cells (the robbers) by showing the whole white T-cell population (the police force) the tumor antigens (the mug shot) and taking the mask off the robbers so that the cops can do their job by taking the robbers off the street (cure cancer and bring the body back to its original healthy state). This approach is a much less toxic compared to chemo- and radiation therapy and has been performed successfully in a clinical trial with Dr. Phil Greenberg and Dr. Aude Chapuis.”

Tom also makes time to interact with patients and gain clinical exposure through shadowing physicians, serving as a volunteer in the Pacific Northwest's Level 1 trauma emergency department at Harborview Medical Center, attending survivorship panels through the center or sharing a meal with in-patients. He also is the co-author of “The Warburg Effect and Beyond: Metabolic Dependencies for Cancer Cells,” an article on cancer metabolism research.

In fall 2014, Tom will start his first year at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He also has enrolled for an additional training program known as the “Underserved Pathway” through his medical school, where he will learn how to practice medicine for underserved and vulnerable populations.

“My vision remains to open a clinic or join a pre-existing clinic in the developing world,” he said. “With the advances I personally witness every day in medical technology, I have taken an interest in bridging the two worlds of medicine – from Westernized, American medicine to more impoverished, high-need for healthcare countries. Personally, I feel a duty to provide quality healthcare to underserved populations and it remains my driving force to study and ultimately practice medicine to fulfill this duty.”

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.”

More about the Biology program