She Can Feel it in Her Bones

by Margaret Nilsson

Elizabeth Whitlock left in tears at the end of her first visit to Scripps. Invited for a James E. Scripps (JES) Scholars weekend, she had fallen in love with the place. A talk by Professor of Biology David Sadava convinced her that Scripps would be an ideal place to pursue her premed studies. The JES Scholarship was a big help, but she was still concerned about financing her education.

Later, back at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a residential public magnet school in Durham, North Carolina, Liz received a phone call from Patricia Goldsmith, Scripps’ dean of admission. In the cramped phone booth of her residence hall, she learned that she had been chosen for a New Generation Scholarship*—a scholarship that offers full tuition, room and board, a summer research stipend, and three trips home per year. This time the tears fell for a different reason.

As a Scripps student, Liz thrived in what she found was a supportive and stimulating environment. A biology major, she had opportunities on and off campus to prepare her for a career in medicine. Her adviser, Dr. Sadava, set her up with a summer job shadowing a doctor at the University of North Carolina Hospital. She witnessed trauma and burn surgeries as well as pediatric orthopedic surgeries. Growing up, Liz had enjoyed watching hip replacement surgery on TV; the real thing was better.

During her college years, Liz has also engaged in basic science research. She spent one summer doing genetics research related to hemophilia at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California. For her senior thesis, she studied the effects of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—a compound found in green tea—on small-cell lung cancer. “This cancer research is fabulously exciting,” Liz explains, as the inhibitory effects of EGCG on the cancer are promising and small-cell lung cancer is among the most deadly cancers.

While Scripps prepared her well for a medical career, Liz also values the fact that she hasn’t had “her head in a petri dish” for the past four years. She completed a music minor for “closure,” knowing that she wouldn’t be pursuing a career in piano. She enjoyed the change of pace of a ceramics class: “I made bowls that were all pretty and useful. It was so not science!”

During a semester in Scotland, she was able to meet the two people who had made her Scripps education possible—her New Generation Scholarship donors. Julie Lydon Cornell ’78 and her husband, Keith (HMC ’78), have happily served as Liz’s “long distance cheering squad,” and have followed her years at Scripps with as much interest as the Joint Science faculty.

Next step for Liz? Medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, that is, after a summer doing clinical research involving epidural spinal block procedures. Her specialization in medicine will be orthopedic surgery. She likes bones, and the tools used to repair them—saws, screws, hammers, plates. She likes the fact that orthopedics has quick, visible results.

“If you resurface a hip for an 80-year-old woman who hasn’t been able to walk without pain for years, she might be walking within a week, and she can probably look forward to many more years of normal activity. If you bolt together a shattered femur from a car accident victim, maybe he’ll be walking in a few days,” she explains. “She’ll be a great doc,” David Sadava says proudly of Liz, thinking back to the promising high school senior he met and encouraged to come to Scripps.