Amazing Students

Alyssa Anderson

Senior Alyssa Anderson did not know she was going to become a medical doctor until she got to UGA. After she began volunteering as the check-in coordinator at Mercy Health Center, a local health clinic for people without medical insurance, she realized her calling in life. She is an Honors student who has traveled and studied in South America, and she even secured a backstage pass to Cirque du Soleil in Buenos Aires by doing a good deed for a stranger! Anderson is an instructor at UGA’s Challenge Course and a test preparation instructor for the Princeton Review. She enjoys both jobs because they allow her to do show her students that they can do more than they imagine. After graduation, Anderson hopes to attend medical school.

Hometown:

Peachtree City

High School:

McIntosh High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in biology with a minor in Spanish

Expected graduation:

Fall 2009

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I am an Honors Student, and I have a Charter Scholarship and a Peachtree City Running Club scholarship. Also, the the Honors International Travel Scholarship allowed me to travel to South America last summer. I’ve maintained the HOPE grant for four years and I have made Dean's List five times. Since Fall 2008, I have volunteered at Mercy Health Center as the check-in coordinator. And during the Summer 2006, I worked with the American Red Cross as a blood donor services intern.

Current Employment:

I have worked at the UGA Challenge Course since the summer of 2006. We lead groups in team building activities and to help individuals build their self confidence. We usually begin with low elements – games designed to gradually build self-awareness and strengthen trust in the other team members. We base the order of our planning and activity choices on the work done by psychologist B.W. Tuckman. Later in the day we set up high elements – challenges 40 feet in the trees using a harness and rope system. Participants may start by walking across a telephone pole. Later, they may jump straight off a pole to try to ring a bell. We usually finish off the day with the zip line. With about fifteen high elements and several dozen low elements we can easily tailor any day to a group’s needs. We really do have groups from all walks of life. The most important lessons I’ve learned are how to recognize and manage fear in its many forms, how to lead quietly and with humor—often a whispered encouragement or a joke are the most effective ways to change an entire dynamic.  The Course has also showed me that I can handle the stress of literally having someone else’s life in my hands. That knowledge gives me confidence that I will be able to handle similar pressures in medical situations. I was also recently hired by Princeton Review to teach students preparing for the MCAT verbal section. Verbal reasoning has always come naturally to me, and I’m excited to have the chance to teach such motivated students. Just as with the Challenge Course, the Princeton Review encourages its teachers to have a wry sense of humor and to push students far beyond what they perceive their abilities to be.

Family Ties to UGA:

My brother, Brent Anderson, received his bachelor’s from UGA degree in Real Estate in the class of 2000. One of my favorite memories at UGA was visiting him with my parents to go mountain biking at the Intramural fields.  Seeing how happy he was at UGA and the respect afforded to his degree were big factors in my decision to come here as well.

I chose to attend UGA because…

Honestly I didn’t even consider applying anywhere else. The Honors program is exceptional.  Aside from being nationally recognized,  The best part of UGA has really been the many options you just don’t get at smaller institutions— like classes on Latino culture, the ability to participate in undergraduate research, and a stellar outdoor recreation program. I’m glad that I was able to get an education with such diverse experiences and stay close to my family.  In fact, last week I took a friend’s little sister on a tour and all I could think is what fun she’ll have here over the next few years.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

My most fulfilling times in college have been off-campus at Mercy Health Center. We are a free clinic serving the uninsured. In everything we do at Mercy, we strive to be an example of Christian love. There’s a special sense of peace that permeates the building. You can really tell that our volunteers believe in our mission and want to be there. Working at Mercy is the key to my desire to be a doctor. If I hadn’t had that excellent model of service and met so many doctors who genuinely love what they are doing, I would never have considered studying medicine. At Mercy, I translate between people who speak and understand only Spanish and the medical providers. I also coordinate our check-in volunteers. Everyone makes fun of me because I say that I need to leave, and an hour later I’m still there. I’m convinced that this kind of satisfaction is only found in service. I hope all UGA students find that kind of fulfillment somewhere.

When I have free time, I like…

...to do goofy things with my friends. Sometimes that means ballroom dancing, sometimes it’s swimming in the river at the Botanical Gardens, sometimes it’s a road trip to go skiing, and sometimes it’s watching a meteor shower out back. There is so much to do in Athens. I don’t know how anyone gets bored.

The craziest thing I've done is…

...walking on hot coals. During my freshman year, the physics department brought a guest lecturer in to talk about and then demonstrate the thermodynamic principals of heat conduction. Then they had an area where you could walk five steps across a coal pit they had set up. I’d say about 100 people turned out and did it – including me! I got a small burn on my toe, but there were no serious injuries.

My favorite place to study is…

Two Story Coffee house gets two big thumbs up for the best study location in Athens. It has an inviting atmosphere, peaceful spaces and excellent coffee. This summer, I was on their back porch almost every day while I was studying for my MCAT.

My favorite professor is…

...Karl Espelie. He really cares about his students. Last semester at 10 p.m. on the last day of drop, he found me a seat in a class I’d been looking for during all of drop/add. I couldn’t believe that he was still working that late! Whenever I meet an upcoming pre-med student, I always send them to Dr. Espelie. No other professor has cared so much about my experience in college.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

...Dr. Paul Farmer. He splits his time between lecturing as an infectious disease clinician-anthropologist for Harvard Medical School and overseeing several hospitals he founded on four continents in some of the most underserved countries in the world. There he’s taken on chronic diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis that for social, economic and political reasons are often deemed impossible to treat. His persistence and desire to empower his patients has changed World Health Organization guidelines for how tuberculosis is treated in the Third World. With all of that, he still makes time for his family and to act as a physician – not just an administrator. In his books, he clearly has a vision of the tangle of forces that intertwine to affect the health of a region and a deep sense of empathy driving him. Dr. Farmer embodies one of my favorite quotes by John Wesley, “Set yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” It seems like so many people in their early twenties have a passion, but somewhere along the lines we get discouraged and settle for something much less. I considered myself doubly blessed whenever I meet someone tenacious enough to hang on to that passion until it comes into full blossom. Encounters with those people are especially encouraging as I confront my own challenges.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

...Dr. Paul Farmer. He splits his time between lecturing as an infectious disease clinician-anthropologist for Harvard Medical School and overseeing several hospitals he founded on four continents in some of the most underserved countries in the world. There he’s taken on chronic diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis that for social, economic and political reasons are often deemed impossible to treat. His persistence and desire to empower his patients has changed World Health Organization guidelines for how tuberculosis is treated in the Third World. With all of that, he still makes time for his family and to act as a physician – not just an administrator. In his books, he clearly has a vision of the tangle of forces that intertwine to affect the health of a region and a deep sense of empathy driving him. Dr. Farmer embodies one of my favorite quotes by John Wesley, “Set yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” It seems like so many people in their early twenties have a passion, but somewhere along the lines we get discouraged and settle for something much less. I considered myself doubly blessed whenever I meet someone tenacious enough to hang on to that passion until it comes into full blossom. Encounters with those people are especially encouraging as I confront my own challenges.

After graduation, I plan to…

...go to medical school. I’m still in the process of applying, but my first choice is the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.  They are extremely well respected, have a vision for the future, and most importantly MCG has a true emphasis on the development of the doctor-patient relationship.  It took me several years to figure out that medicine was something that I enjoy and something for which I’m willing to make sacrifices. Now that I’m on that path, my mother tells me I’m the happiest she’s ever seen me. I love the challenge; medicine requires a unique mix of empathy and enjoyment of intellectual pursuit. In the long run, I’d really like to work at a free clinic like Mercy Health Center. Our doctors have time to practice medicine excellently and they can pray with their patients. In fact, volunteering at Mercy is what inspired me to pursue medicine.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

...going backstage at Cirque Du Soleil in Buenos Aires. I’ve loved Cirque since I first saw a few of their performers with my mother at a conference, and I’ve been to three of their traveling shows. While I was studying abroad in Argentina last summer, I met a girl in line at a restaurant. She was having a hard time ordering so I taught her a few Spanish phrases. I asked her why she was visiting Buenos Aires if she didn’t speak Spanish. It turns out that she was the physical therapist for Cirque’s show, Alegria (which means joy in Spanish). We really hit it off, and she gave me backstage passes for myself and three friends. We even got to hang out with the performers after the show. It really was something special to meet so many former Olympic athletes who are traveling the world to perform. Life lesson: you can never predict the impact of even the smallest act of kindness.

Published Sunday,